The Duchess of Dunbar is deluged with donors’ dollars.
Christy Clark and her BC Liberals raked-in a whopping $5.2 million during the first four months of 2017, according to an exclusive analysis by theBreaker.
That, after grossing $13.1 million last year.
A compilation of the party’s unaudited 2017 reports through the third week of April shows 10,159 donations of all amounts. In 2016, the party reported receiving 10,390 donations of $250 and up. Both the total dollar amount and the number of donations right before the election are jaw-dropping, according to IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis.
Political financing has been a central issue of the 2017 campaign, which ends with the May 9 election day. Travis published the definitive e-book on B.C.’s cash for access and pay to play political culture, “May I Take Your Order, Please?” He said the money raised by the Liberals in the last four months is almost as much as the entire $5.27 million the party raised in 2016.
“It’s not entirely comparable but demonstrates very clearly they are on a mad press to keep raising cash,” Travis told theBreaker.
The top six single donations so far this year are all from corporations: Goldcorp Inc. ($100,000), The Pacific Investment Corp. Ltd. ($50,000), Polygon Homes Ltd. ($40,000), West Fraser Mills ($37,500), Concord Pacific Developments Corp. ($30,000) and Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP ($27,000).
Travis said the party continues to rely on a small group of big donors. “If you look at unique donors that have given more than $10,000, this year, we’re looking at 74 corporations that have provided $1.5 million.”
The Liberals say they release unaudited information in “real time,” but actually they publish their PDF lists in intervals of 10 days to two weeks.
The NDP and Greens say they will release their donors’ lists in accordance with Elections BC deadlines. Both parties have promised to ban corporate and union donations if they take power, but the Liberals have only committed to striking a non-binding, expert advisory panel should they win.
B.C. has no legal limits to the size or source of political donations. The RCMP is investigating illegal donations made by lobbyists who didn’t disclose their clients. The Liberals have returned nearly $250,000 in illegal donations.
The Liberal disclosures analyzed by theBreaker include names, amounts and apparent dates of payment processing, but the releases do not indicate whether the donations were connected to an event. Half the $13.1 million raised in 2016 came from events, many of which featured special appearances by Premier Christy Clark and cabinet ministers.
By comparison, the NDP raised $6.2 million and the Greens $757,268.
The Liberals are on the cusp of unleashing an unprecedented advertising barrage on the last weekend of the 2017 campaign, but they won’t be able to spend all of their money before May 9. That is because Elections BC set a $4.88 million per party limit during the 28-day writ period. Candidates in each of the 87 ridings can’t spend more than $77,674.62 each . Despite that, Travis said there is a forward-looking, method to the Clark Liberals’ money madness.
“This is a strategy to make sure they have one campaign in the bank in the event that they lose and the NDP decides to do campaign finance reform as they promised or they make the call on their own,” Travis said. “If they suddenly decided to have a conversion on the road to Damascus and after being re-elected and bring in the ban well guess what, they’ve got the next election in the kitty and they’ve left the NDP with one hell of an election debt still to pay off.”
The danger, Travis said, is that the Liberals are “writing incredible IOUs” while they keep collecting the lucre. Donors will inevitably demand attention, if not favours.
“They’re writing IOUs to their favourite gang, Rennie Marketing, Dueck GM, casinos, Wesbild Holdings, Peter Armstrong/Great Canadian Railtour, New Car Dealers Association. All of the pals are right here on the list.”
The Liberal campaign has included attack ads calling the NDP hypocrites for taking $670,000 in donations from the United Steelworkers. The Liberals called that a record single-year donation in B.C., but that honour belongs to developer Rob MacDonald, who gave $960,000 to the NPA before the 2011 Vancouver civic election. (There may have been bigger civic donations in non-election years, when municipal parties are not required to publicly report their donations).
Coincidentally, MacDonald is also a BC Liberal donor who gave $18,600 in the first four months of 2017. The spin doctor behind the Liberals is Don Millar, who also works on campaigns for Vision Vancouver. Mayor Gregor Robertson’s party attacked the NPA for MacDonald’s big money contributions. Both the BC Liberals and Vision Vancouver are coalitions that include federal Liberals and they shared the same bagman, real estate marketer Bob Rennie.
Travis calls the Liberal attack ad a “diversionary tactic” because the Liberals raised more money from 10 major donors between 2005 and 2016 than the NDP did from labour unions.
“The numbers say you’re bringing in more money than any political party in Canada at the provincial level, you’re bringing in more money in than you need as compared to Alberta and Quebec,” Travis said. “This has gotten to the point where it’s not really about providing a good political operation that’s sustainable, it’s about ensuring you can always beat up your opponents in every election campaign because you can outspend them and you can outspend them between elections by running a perpetual campaign.”
In his book, Travis revealed that the top 177 donors to the Liberals over the last five years got $3.5 billion in supplier payments and $74.4 million in government transfers.