Money is the lifeblood of politics. It's a mighty rare politician who can succeed without it.
You don't have to spend the most to succeed but you do need to have enough — and spend enough — to win.
In the last municipal election, Naheed Nenshi spent over $400,000 and won. Ric McIver spent over $1 million and lost.
You can argue that Nenshi raised the accountability bar on the money issue.
While the province ordered up modest gains in the financial rules three years ago for the municipal arena (it truly was the last wild wild west of politics), Nenshi propelled it forward with his voluntary disclosure of donations.
What was groundbreaking in the last council election is now pretty much the norm.
Breaking down the numbers
A look at Nenshi's first donations list for this campaign does tell us a few things.
Obviously lots of people like him enough to give him a few of their hard-earned dollars — 1,241 donations under $100 have come in so far. That group makes up almost 76 per cent of the 1,635 donations he has received.
In addition, 43 people and companies have donated anywhere from $2,501 to $5,000. Big or small donors, they're all Nenshi supporters and they're all important.
But in fuelling their guy's campaign, the biggest donors — who make up just 2.6 per cent of his total contributors — are carrying more of the load in the money game. But there are a few ways of looking at that.
As no one knows the specific donations yet, let's pretend all donors actually gave the maximum in their categories.
So although some in the $100 or less category gave $10 or $20 or $50, let's assume they gave the max — that's $124,100 coming from the smallest donors. If the big fish each gave the max, that would be $215,000 coming from those in the $2501 to $5000 category.
Look at it another way. Let's pretend the donors all gave the minimum in their categories. If the small contributors each gave $1, that's just $1,241. If the big money folks chipped in their minimum at $2501, that's $107,543.
And if we pretend donors gave the mid-sized donation in their category. So if the little guys gave $50, that's $62,050. If the big money contributors gave $3,750, that's $302,350 coming from them.
Big fish = big cash
We don't know his current war chest total, as his campaign has not disclosed it, but the number will come out.
Whichever scenario outlined here you pick, it's obvious the 43 big fish — who make up the smallest group of Nenshi contributors — are paying the freight.
Now, this isn't wrong or illegal or even unusual. It doesn't necessarily mean the big donors get their calls returned first (or at all).
It does mean that there's more than one way of looking at a set of numbers.
So yes, Nenshi does have a pool of people contributing to his campaign and most do give less than $100, but his ability to get people of wealth to reach into their pockets is also important.
As former premier Ralph Klein used to say when asked about his party's extensive list of political donors, "We have a lot of friends."
Nenshi clearly has a lot of friends and apparently, in some cases, the right ones.