This latest round of pearl-clutching over political fundraising is reaching its fever pitch in a most tiresome way possible, and I’m losing all patience with it. Determined to try and label it “cash-for-access” in order to tie the story in with the gross lack of fundraising rules that existed in Ontario, and the very dubious practices of the government there of having ministers essentially asking for donations from companies lobbying them, what’s going on at the federal level is nothing like that at all. However, bored journalists are drawing lines on between people who are attending or organizing fundraisers and lobbying activities, despite everything being reported and above board, are going “Look! Look! Smell test!” But I’m having a really, really hard time buying this. Likewise with opposition parties going “Sure, it’s in the rules, but Trudeau’s letters said that nobody should have the appearance of conflict of interest and this has the appearance!” No, it actually doesn’t. Just because you say it does, it doesn’t mean that there’s a problem.
I’m trying very hard not to come off as some kind of an apologist, but for the love of all the gods on Olympus, we have a really, really clean fundraising system with clear rules, and it shouldn’t bear repeating (and yet here we are) that you can’t buy influence for $1500. You just can’t. Sure, you might get to meet a minister, but what is that going to get you? You think they’re going to engineer a special loophole in the law for your company because you donated $1500 to their party – registered through Elections Canada, and the lobbying registry? Honestly? And it’s not like there aren’t a hundred other consultations that you could offer your suggestions to a minster or their staff with, because as we know, this government loves to consult. And further to that, are we actively trying to insist that no minister should ever fundraise because, well, “smell test” or “appearance.” Give me a break.
Meanwhile, we get inundated with everyone giving their “solution” to this, whether it’s returning the per-vote subsidy as Susan Delacourt suggests here, or if it’s Duff Conacher howling in the corner that we should adopt the Quebec donor limits of $100 (ignoring that limits that are too low means that money starts getting funnelled in other ways). But maybe, just maybe, we should all take a deep breath and realise that the more we get hysterical about this perfectly above-board fundraising in a clean and quite transparent system, it’s that we’re turning it into some zero-sum game. If we keep inventing scandal, shouting “smell test!” and “appearance!” when no, a reasonable and rational look at the situation shows that there isn’t actually a problem, we’re going to wind up giving excuses for parties to start hiding these activities. To paraphrase Rick Anderson on last night’s Power & Politics, there’s only a perception problem around this fundraising because people are throwing mud. It’s time to stop throwing mud and be grown-ups about it. This isn’t cash-for-access. $1500 is not buying influence. Stop lighting your hair on fire.
— (((Jamie Carroll))) (@jec79) October 26, 2016