War chest game is too dodgy for stupid

The resignation of hapless Liberal cabinet minister Harry Bloy is yesterday’s news, but there is a story that still needs to be told

The resignation of hapless Liberal cabinet minister Harry Bloy is quickly becoming yesterday’s news. However, there is a story that still needs to be told: a story about dodgy political fundraising practices and the unspoken expectations that underpin the largess of corporations and special interest groups.

To quickly recap: Bloy (Burnaby-Lougheed) was the minister of state for multiculturalism when he came into possession of an email that a Vancouver Province reporter had sent to the Ministry of Advanced Education.

The email was seeking government comment on Eminata Group founder Peter Chung. Eminata, a for-profit education provider, was being investigated. When the reporter went to Eminata for an interview, his email was waved in his face. Bloy had alerted his friends.

In Question Period in the legislature, NDP Leader Adrian Dix stripped the Bloy fiasco to its essentials: “The purpose could only have been to provide some protection for a political ally. It [the email] was passed on to the minister of state for multiculturalism because of the political links between the minister and the company in question.”

NDP MLA Michelle Mungall (Nelson-Creston) also delivered a gut check: “It is important that the public know how the Liberals conduct themselves when one of their donors is being investigated by the media.”

Premier Christy Clark’s response was pretty lame: “I want to put this in context … because what he did was not illegal, although it was wrong.”

Maybe that’s the issue. The way the Liberals (and the NDP before them) bleed war chest dollars out of the private sector and special interests groups is entirely legal.

Corporations and special interest groups are willing participants in this fleecing because they have agendas that often have public policy implications. They need to get up close and personal with the premier and cabinet. They need to know their calls will be answered. They need to be able to report back to their boards that they are first in line for favourable treatment.

And so they sign up for expensive golf tournaments with idiotic silent auctions, and they buy $1,200 tables at mindless political dinners featuring dry salmon and droning speeches they have heard ad nauseam.

With a wink, a pat on the back and a few well-chosen words of vague encouragement, the political power brokers let it be known that there is a bright light on the radar screen representing the donor’s vested interests.

On any given day, any given donor can become a partner to power … if the gift is worthy.

This game is also played by individual caucus members who are constantly selling tickets to constituency fundraisers usually attended by a cabinet minister or two as a drawing card.

In some cases, constituency organizers manipulate competing special interests groups with a heads-up that one particular group has bought a table and will get unfettered face time with a relevant minister unless the competing group also buys a table so it can claim a corresponding share of the minister’s attention.

The irony is that all this monetary fellowship seldom results in commensurate benefit. Corporate donors bleed gifts in $1,000 chunks while the party plans its next fundraiser.

Poor old Harry Bloy was the exception that proves the rule. He actually believed he had to help a corporate friend. He was simply too stupid to realize it would be a career-ending ethical breach. M

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