Monday, February 9, 2009

Calgary Campaign Finance Reform...Why Now Mayor Bronconnier?

In a story that just keeps popping up over and over since the 2007 Civic Election, Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier has once again brought up campaign financing reform issues in the news. Some may remember that this was a big issue following the last election and it seemed that most of the Alderman, and especially the Mayor were going to make this a priority. We are now at the midway point of the term and still....nothing has changed.

Remember Alnoor Kassam's attempt to "buy" the mayors seat in the last election? He spent $1MM dollars of his OWN money ( as he had little to no fundraising or donations ) and was able to match Bronconnier's sizable war chest. I am sure that this gave Dave a bit of a scare, as he likely figured that he had enough donations to run away with the election. With the 2010 election just around the corner, I think that Bronco wants to re-open this debate as a means to limit his potential opponents ( ie. RIC MCIVER) ability to fund raise under the same rules he was able to. Bronco already has over $300,000 in a campaign surplus fund that will be waiting for him in 2010.

Bronconnier has re-opened the debate and wants to add some new changes for Mayoral candidates including donation limits. I wonder if the mayor would have been open to these changes in previous campaigns, when he received some very generous donations...? (check them out here. ) I like the $19K donation from BFI ( a garbage removal company)...and the $18K donation from Intergul Cidex, a home builder. While I understand that fundraising is a necessity in politics, these are massive donations! Wow...and no tax receipt for these either.

With the mayor lacking in leadership and creative ideas, perhaps Bronconnier should look to Ald. Ric McIver's ideas on this. I applaud Alderman McIver for taking it a step further and calling out the Mayor to add some real teeth to his nice soundbite.

The Better Calgary Campaign has outlined some great ideas for Campaign Finance Reform, as follows:

1. Limits on contributions. The amount is up for debate, but $1,000 or $1,500 per donor is a good start.

2. Limits on spending. Fifty cents per resident is fair and reasonable. It allows for an effective campaign to be run, without getting into a money war.

3. Campaign surpluses given to the city, or donated to charity. Yes, if they are donated, the candidate will get a major tax receipt, but it's better than allowing them to simply keep the money.

4. Immediate disclosure of donations -- within five business days of the donation, they should be posted on the candidate's website.

5. Donations only in election years. Otherwise, incumbents can have three unfettered years of fundraising, leading to the question of whether donors are supporting a future election or rewarding current performance.

6. There should be a real estate registry highlighting all of a candidate's holdings.

This seems pretty realistic to me? While some items can be tweaked, the ideas are generally sound.

If the Mayor wants to be really "Transparent" and fair...perhaps he will do the following:

1) Follow Ald. Ric McIver's leadership and work to gets this issue dealt with.

2) Donate your $300,000 surplus to charity NOW. And start fundraising under the NEW Rules, in advance of the 2010 election.

Sorry Bronco, you cannot have it both ways.

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