This year, Stephane Dion is again using Stornoway to reward members of the Laurier Club for paying their dues to the party. If you’re a loyal Liberal and have maxed out your annual donation at $1100, you can hob-nob it with fellow Liberals of equal or greater means at the residence currently on loan to Dion by the Canadian taxpayer. Not a Liberal donor but just a chump who pays their taxes? Sorry, this party is for VIP Liberals only.
Last year I noted, “It’s not illegal to use government property in this way as a perk for top donors to a political party per se, but is it ethical?”
I still have the same question.
Here is the story from Canwest about the event,
Liberal leader Stéphane Dion is hosting several hundred of the party’s well-heeled donors tonight at an exclusive garden party in his official residence, Stornoway. Between 400 and 500 members of the Laurier Club, membership that comes only with an annual donation of $1,100 to the Liberal party, are expected to gather under a sprawling backyard tent as part of Mr. Dion’s garden-party events this year, an aide confirmed.
Laurier Club members did not have to donate to the party to attend the event in their honour, press aide Mark Dunn said.
An entrance fee would have been handy, in light of Mr. Dion’s outstanding debt from his 2006 leadership campaign, but contrary to political financing rules. In 2006, Parliament passed the Harper government’s public accountability act in 2006, lowering the ceiling on individual donations from $5,000 to $1,100.
Since news about apparent Liberal links to the SHAMBA space first broke here last week, Canwest has written about the story and included a denial and excuse from former Liberal leadership contestant Gerard Kennedy,
Kennedy, however, says the fundraising venue was completely paid for in a transaction with GlobAlive Communications Corp, a telecommunications company that started the Shamba foundation.
He said the invitation incorrectly identified the venue as the charitable foundation, creating the confusion.
Kennedy said the only connection with the SHAMBA foundation was that the space has become associated with the charity because the group uses it.
He said GlobAlive rents its spaces – including that site – commercially to both charities and private users.
“It certainly smells like a desperate kind of attempt by the Conservatives,” Kennedy told Canwest News Service on Sunday night.
Desperation? I imagine that conservatives like myself, and indeed, I’m certain that most everyday non-Liberal-membership-card-holding Canadians, are concerned about the equal application of the rules concerning partisan fundraising so that it is done above board. Kennedy, as Globalive’s PR people did when they called on Friday, blamed erroneous Facebook promotion of the event. Later, the official registration form for the SHAMBA/Kennedy event surfaced making the excuse harder to believe.
Today, the Conservative Party put out the following release linking SHAMBA to another potential partisan Liberal fundraiser involving Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2008
CONSERVATIVES SUBMIT NEW INFORMATION TO CRA ABOUT SHAMBA-LIBERAL TIES
Liberals must come clean about fundraising practices
OTTAWA – The Conservative Party today asked the Canada Revenue Agency’s charities directorate to investigate another potential partisan Liberal fundraiser held at the SHAMBA Foundation in downtown Toronto. SHAMBA is headed by Anthony Lacavera, a prominent Liberal donor who has contributed in excess of $4,700 to Liberal Gerard Kennedy over the past 2 years.
Conservatives have learned that on August 16, 2007, the SHAMBA Foundation hosted a $500 per person fundraiser for the Ontario Liberal Party. The fundraiser featured an appearance by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, registered charities such as SHAMBA are not permitted to directly or indirectly involve themselves in partisan political activities.
“A registered charity cannot be created for a political purpose and cannot be involved in partisan political activities. A political activity is considered partisan if it involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, a political party or candidate for public office.” (http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/charities/operating/activities/other-e.html#pol)
This new information about partisan Liberal fundraising at SHAMBA comes on the heels of information released June 1, 2008 which revealed that SHAMBA recently hosted a $250 per person fundraiser for federal Liberal intergovernmental affairs critic Gerard Kennedy. According to documents posted on the Liberal Party’s website, the Kennedy fundraiser was identified as a “Political Ideals Celebration” and the registration form for the event was co-branded with Liberal Party and SHAMBA Foundation brand identities.
Conservatives have already written to both Elections Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate the Kennedy fundraiser.
Given the SHAMBA Foundation’s raison d’etre is to provide charities with no-cost event space and negotiated rates on food and beverage, Conservatives want to ensure that Kennedy did not violate Elections Canada’s rules by receiving an illegal non-monetary contribution from the Foundation.
“A non-monetary contribution is the commercial value of a service or of property or the use of property or money, with the exception of volunteer labour, provided without charge or at less than commercial value.” The Elections Canada Handbook for Leadership Contestants, Their Financial Agents, and Auditors http://www.elections.ca/pol/lea/EC20194_c2_e.pdf) (Page 15)
To date, neither SHAMBA, nor the Kennedy campaign, have disclosed:
· The original contract for the event;
· The “commercial rates” supposedly paid for use of the SHAMBA space as well as the food and beverage sold/consumed at the event; or
· Any information that could assure Canadians that terms of the contract for the event were not altered after the appropriateness of the fundraiser was questioned on the was questioned by blogger Stephen Taylor on May 28, 2008. (https://www.stephentaylor.ca/2008/05/does-the-shamba-foundation-risk-losing-its-charitable-status/)
“We need answers from both Liberal candidate Gerard Kennedy and Liberal donor Anthony Lacavera about their partisan Liberal fundraising,” said Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro.
– 30 –
For further information please contact (613) 755-2000
When Globalive’s PR people called me on Friday, I noted the firm’s name and offered to post it to give them credit for doing their job (cleaning up a mess). They said that it wasn’t necessary and that I could just say that Globalive’s PR people contacted me. However, I didn’t put it together at the time but Narrative – a company owned by Bensimon Byrne – made the call of behalf of Globalive/SHAMBA. Bensimon Byrne was the firm contracted to make Liberal Party attack ads during the 2004 and 2006 campaign. The ads (especially the aircraft carrier/teenage girl abortion/disintegrating flag spot) was a particularly – “desperate kind of attempt” – as Gerard Kennedy might say.
When a political fundraiser titled Political Ideals Celebration is held on space that is the raison d’être of a charitable organization and it is billed in this way, alarm bells go off. Did the head of the SHAMBA foundation give permission for the organization’s branding to be used along side that of the Liberal Party, of Gerard Kennedy? Presumably, the head of SHAMBA would have seen the registration form. Being the head of a charitable organization, did he make attempts to change the branding of the event?
Asked about the amount of money Globalive invested in Shamba, Lacavera described it as “sizable” and reluctantly put it “well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” adding that it would likely cost “tens of thousands of dollars” to rent out a similar venue for an event.
If Kennedy paid fair market value for the space, did it cost him “tens of thousands of dollars”?
Over an eight month campaign for the leadership of our party in 2006, in the second biggest country in the world, I spent a little over $2million dollars. Barack Obama spends that amount on his national campaign every day! So I feel – as do all the leadership candidates – that we gave the party and the country a great race, at a very competitive price.
We raised the money on the old rules limiting donations to $5400.00. Now we’re repaying debt following the new rules, which limit contributions to $1100. So it hasn’t been easy, but we’re getting there.
I’ve held fund-raisers across the country and I’m incredibly grateful to all the generous people who contributed sums large and small to enable me to pay off my debt, and to the campaign workers and suppliers who put their faith in me as a candidate. I’ve also raised money for Liberal candidates and MP’s right across the country, as have the other leadership candidates.
My debt started at about $800,000. On June 3, when Elections Canada requires all of the leadership candidates to file returns, I will be reporting the significant progress that I have made with your help. I don’t quite know where I’ll be on that day – some contributions are still in the pipeline or are being processed by the party – but I will not be fully paid off by the deadline. I am within striking distance and expect to pay off the debt completely by the end of the summer.
So, dear friends, if you have not given your maximum of $1100 and still have a generous thought towards me or the other candidates, think of contributing online. Any amount large and small would be appreciated, and remember that you are helping us to keep our promises to all the people who put their faith in us and the party.
The email ends with a couple of links to his donation page.
What will be the consequences for Michael Ignatieff?
Will Elections Canada provide special treatment for Liberals that run afoul of its rules?
If so, what are the broader consequences for the Conservative Party’s argument that the government body is biased against them?
How much does Ignatieff owe?
Does this indicate that the Conservatives are better at raising money from their membership than the Liberals are? Why are Liberal members disengaged? Why aren’t Liberals giving?