Thursday, August 10, 2006

Political Fundraising Regulations Too Extreme?

Others have raised the issue elsewhere, in the blogosphere, in newspapers, even by committees struck specifically to discuss this: are the regulations on political fundraising at the federal level too restrictive?

I am quite supportive of the notion that political parties ought to be beholden to no one individual or small group of individuals. I am similarly supportive of the idea that no firms ought to be able to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to political parties, thus buying their support. I am similarly supportive of political parties being forced to attract the support of a wide range of individuals. I do not, however, believe that any of these require that individuals only be able to donate $1,000 per year to political parties.

I do not believe that a $5,000 limit on fundraising gives an individuals undue influence over government. Look at the fundraising the current leadership campaign. Campaigns have turned to new fundraising techniques, including Dion's $100 dollar challenge, Ignatieff's Liberal helpings, Brison's web-a-thon, and more. All have taken to attracting a broader base of support, and all have started looking to larger numbers of smaller donors. This is evidence that the Canadian political process is already moving in the right direction; we don't have to tighten the noose even further.

Nor am I categorically opposed to corporate donations. Insofar as we believe that corporations have interests that merit expression, and insofar as we believe that corporate interests should have a role in the political process, then we ought to allow corporate donations.

Traditionally, there has been much opposition to the idea that corporations ought to be involved in the political process, and I believe that this stems much more from corporations controlling the political process than simply being involved therein.

The average corporation has much greater means than does the average individual to influence the political process, and for that reason, an absence of restrictions on donations for all parties would almost certainly mean that corporate interests would prevail over individuals' interests.

I do not believe, however, that it can be justified that corporations cannot donate the same amount as individuals. $5,000 per year from one firm will not be able to buy the support of a political party, nor will $5,000 per year from each of 20 firms in a given industry.

Corporate donations must be heavily regulated to ensure that holding companies as well as subsidiary firms do not both provide $5,000; similarly, there must be criteria which firms must meet, so that it is ensured that corporations are not created simply for the purpose of funneling money into political parties.

The current lack of corporate donations of any kind, however, is just another factor contributing to the difficulties of fundraising. Volpe's transgressions, heinous though I may find them, would not have occured in a slightly more relaxed fundraising environment. Indeed, if rules remain as strict as they are, we can only expect more individuals trying to find ways to skirt around the rules. That is certainly worse for Canadian democracy than is a minor liberalization of fundraising regulations.


Post a Comment

<< Home