Saturday, July 01, 2006

Curiouser and curiouser 

Ah ha!
So this is how the Conservatives expected to get around the political contribution limits in their own Accountability Act -- they would just declare that their party wasn't making a profit, and keep on pulling the dollars in.
The more Harper insists he is right about the convention registration fee issue, the more it appears that this wasn't an accidental error:
The Conservative party's legal counsel, Paul Lepsoe, said that since "time immemorial" delegate fees have only been considered donations when a convention turns a profit. "If there is a portion that is a contribution, in other words that exceeds the cost of the event, that portion constitutes a political contribution for which a receipt should be issued," he told The Canadian Press earlier this week. "That's longstanding practice that everyone follows, including the Conservative party."
Well, first of all, he is just wrong. As CP points out:
it wasn't a longstanding practice for the NDP, Liberals or the predecessors of the Conservative party . . . the common practice they followed was to disclose convention fees paid by their members as political donations. "I'm absolutely positive we always gave out political receipts, minus the amount paid for meals, but everything else was always treated as a political donation," said Bruck Easton, former president of the Progressive Conservative party who later ran unsuccessfully as a Liberal. "That was quite frankly an important part of getting people to our convention."

And second, profitability has nothing to do with it -- or, at least, it never did before:
. . . the Conservative argument that they didn't need to disclose the fees because the convention didn't make a profit doesn't hold water. "If you carried that logic forward, you could argue that if you made a contribution to a political party and the party was in the hole for the year in question, it wouldn't necessarily need to report all the donations that were the difference from being in the hole and not in the hole," said Seidle. "The important thing is there is money in, and a service out . . . it's a kind of income and expense issue."
The ineptitude of the hastily-written, partisan-based Accountability Actis also coming into focus:
. . . University of Windsor Professor Heather MacIvor said she was stunned to hear the party's explanation on failing to disclose the fees. MacIvor recently wrote a critique of the government's new financing laws, part of its much vaunted Federal Accountability Act.
'Wait a minute folks, you're trying to say you're cleaning up politics and you brought in this seriously draconian tightening of the contribution rules, and now we find out you didn't disclose a few million dollars of contributions, which every other political party in this country has treated as a contribution for the purpose of the contribution rules?' MacIvor said. 'That's not on.'
Well, darn it -- so much for that plan, eh?

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