Daphne Bramham: Money, politics, and the price of influence

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Evaluation: Cash is the lifeblood of politics, making The Checklist of the most important donors — not coverage books — a marketing campaign’s most treasured doc

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In political life, nothing is extra vital than The Checklist — not the crimson, blue, orange or inexperienced coverage books, and, perhaps, not even the candidates.

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Cash is the lifeblood of politics as a result of being aggressive means elevating tens of millions of {dollars}, even in civic elections.

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Wanting having candidates and campaigns totally funded by taxpayers — a system that has its personal ugly warts and flaws — it’s one in all democracy’s obligatory evils.

However what is completed in occasion backrooms to get that cash is commonly on the root of residents’ cynicism about politicians and democracy itself. That’s particularly so when there seems to be a disconnect between what the politicians say and who they lean on for money.

There are primarily two donor lists, as was evident final week after Stanley Q. Woodvine’s discovery of a discarded Ahead Collectively spreadsheet. That spreadsheet is The Checklist.

One other longer donor listing launched by Kennedy Stewart’s occasion in July tells one story of how, over three years, 2,473 people donated a median of $175 every to lift $1.14 million.

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It looked like widespread assist despite the fact that Stewart himself was the biggest single donor.

However one developer I spoke to laughed concerning the common donation of $175: “No self-respecting developer would donate so little.”

He’s proper.

Names on the donor listing had been organized in alphabetical order by first names somewhat than surnames. Sorting them by surnames reveals that builders and their households gave many instances greater than the common, and normally the utmost allowable quantity, which this yr is $1,250 per particular person.

Members of the De Cotiis household (who personal the Onni Group) gave $24,441; the Aquilinis donated $13,723; the Pappajohns (Jameson Growth), $10,966; and the Bosa, Bonnis and Rennie households gave near $10,000.

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The Checklist tells nonetheless one other story about 37 patriarchs and growth firm executives. In keeping with the spreadsheet, these “captains” have already delivered $270,842, and are being tapped for $783,500 extra.

In the event that they meet the targets set for them, they’ll have delivered greater than what the occasion is allowed to spend through the official marketing campaign.

Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks on Vancouver Plan at City Hall in Vancouver, BC., July 5, 2022.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks on Vancouver Plan at Metropolis Corridor in Vancouver, BC., July 5, 2022. Photograph by Arlen Redekop /PNG

It started Saturday, triggering spending limits for every candidate. For Stewart and Ahead Collectively’s candidates, that quantities to only beneath $955,000.

Vancouver’s mayoral candidates can spend as much as $231,767, whereas the restrict for council and park board candidates is $120,491. Ahead Collectively has no candidates working for park board.

If $1 million looks like some huge cash, it’s — in relation to making an attempt to lift it.

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But it surely’s not in relation to spending it when you think about the price of renting a marketing campaign workplace, shopping for promoting, printing indicators, constructing web sites, and paying for the litres of espresso and dozens of doughnuts to gas volunteers.

Little doubt that’s a key cause why Stewart, who ran efficiently as an Impartial in 2018, spent most of his 4 years in workplace constructing a celebration. If $1 million for a celebration doesn’t go far to draw consideration in a closely populated subject of rivals, it’s virtually not possible for unaffiliated candidates to do a lot in any respect inside their spending limits.

The bounds mirror what was spent 30 years in the past when Gordon Worth was a Non-Partisan Affiliation councillor from 1986 to 2002. And, as he identified, that was when a greenback went additional and there have been no fundraising limits.

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The techniques are not any totally different, both — though they might not have been known as “captains” as they’re on Ahead Collectively’s spreadsheet.

Then, as now, “captains” like Harmony Pacific’s Terry Hui are requested to lean on pals, staff, contractors and others to make the utmost particular person donation.

These “captains” additionally proceed the custom of spreading the wealth round, particularly since one in all this marketing campaign’s ironies is that the majority “progressive” events are extra pro-development than these on the “proper”.

Vancouver mayoral candidates (from left) Colleen Hardwick, Mark Marissen, Ken Sim and Kennedy Stewart were invited to a debate hosted by a coalition of neighbourhood groups on Monday, Sept.15.
Vancouver mayoral candidates (from left) Colleen Hardwick, Mark Marissen, Ken Sim and Kennedy Stewart had been invited to a debate hosted by a coalition of neighbourhood teams on Monday, Sept.15. Photograph by PNG information

Ahead Collectively guarantees to approve 220,000 housing items. OneCity guarantees five-storey condominium buildings even in “unique” areas.

So why wouldn’t builders assist get them elected?

OneCity says that it solely accepts donations from people (together with builders) whose values align with its dedication to affordability and fairness.

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Earlier this month, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) acquired three cheques in an envelope from Harmony Pacific. The coalition, which is working candidates for council, park and faculty boards, refused the cash and requested Elections B.C. to research.

It’s a principled stand, however that may value on the polls.

COPE has solely as soon as held the bulk on council, in 2002, led by then-mayor, and now-senator, Larry Campbell, who left the coalition earlier than the subsequent election to type the developer-friendly Imaginative and prescient Vancouver.

(TEAM additionally refuses to just accept builders’ donations on precept.)

Other than The Checklist of high donors, events have longer lists which are the treasure map for small donations, however extra importantly for votes.

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Many events, together with the B.C. NDP and Ahead Collectively, use software program comparable to Nation Builder to gather private information on and profile everybody who expresses curiosity. It allows them to focus on particular adverts and messages.

Shedding these lists or permitting them to fall into rivals’ palms is a severe situation. Park board candidate Liam Menard realized that Friday when the Inexperienced Social gathering withdrew its endorsement of him for “unauthorized dealing with” and an unspecified misuse of the information.

For voters and supporters, it could have come as a shock to learn the way dependent Ahead Collectively is on builders’ cash. And it stays to be seen whether or not Stewart, a political scientist, has provide you with a profitable technique, and for whom.

It’s one other irony of civic elections that whereas spending limits degree the entry charge for candidates, it has decreased the value of affect to chump change.

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CORRECTION: An earlier model of this column incorrectly said that OneCity helps Kennedy Stewart for mayor. The column has been up to date. 

dbramham@postmedia.com


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