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BRIAN KIERAN: NDP accused of ‘low-down shakedown’

On the campaign trail NDP Leader Adrian Dix has been doing a passable doppelganger of a long suffering Ghandi who will speak no evil.

On the campaign trail NDP Leader Adrian Dix has been doing a passable doppelganger of a long suffering Ghandi who will speak no evil. Meanwhile, his backroom bag lady has been waging a fundraising campaign that has the familiar whiff of political extortion.

I’m referring to a plea for campaign cash sent to various businesses by the party’s provincial secretary Jan O’Brien. The businesses in question are ones on record as having donated to the Liberals recently.

The letters remind each corporate recipient how much that particular free enterprise has given the Liberals in past campaigns and it goes on to suggest that a $5,000 donation to the NDP will even the score.

“It is our hope that you will adopt a balanced approach to your support in the lead up to the election in May . . . to show your commitment to a balanced approach to government,” the fundraising pitch states.

The Liberals — already bleeding like stuck pigs — are squealing with outrage at this brazen raid on their corporate barnyard. Premier Christy Clark has accused the NDP of compiling an “enemies list.” Finance Minister Mike de Jong calls it “a low-down shakedown ... a pressure tactic by the NDP to virtually blackmail businesses across B.C.”

There is no question the business pitch implies that post-election NDP goodwill will come at a price. The offending passage asks corporate donors to demonstrate their “commitment to a balanced approach to government.” It would not have been quite so blatant had the letter referred to a balanced approach to campaign funding.

However, the line implies that a donation today will pay dividends after the election. If O’Brien was being honest, she would have said: “Donate to secure our commitment to a favourable approach to your business when we are government.”

For the Liberals, the unfortunate truth is that the NDP’s mitts have been in Howe Street’s deep pockets for some time now. Financial statements submitted to Elections BC show that corporate donations to the Liberals have fallen from $5.9 million in 2010 to $4.9 million in 2012. Where did that money go? Across the street. Corporate donations to the NDP have risen from $170,000 in 2010 to $1 million in 2012.

It is also a fact that some savvy corporations have been splitting their political donations between the two parties for some time, albeit not 50/50. And, I remember well the 1990s when the NDP was in power and business leaders gleefully threw good money after bad for a chance to rub elbows with then-premier Glen Clark at the bun toss de jour.

What makes this pitch particularly distasteful is the fact that Dix and his higher purpose people have vowed to outlaw corporate and trade union donations when they become government. Clearly, they did not want to set a fine example prematurely.

I have absolutely no sympathy for the outraged Liberals. As a government relations consultant in the early days of Gordon Campbell’s regime I witnessed my clients being constantly harassed for financial support. I have to tell you there was only one acceptable response to those funding requests: “The cheque is in the mail.” With every request there was an expectation of enhanced access to the corridors of power. That quid pro quo rarely came to pass.

So, suck it up you free enterprise whiners; what goes around comes around. M