The NDP and the major conservative parties in Alberta are in a horse-race for fundraising this year, with donations to the conservative block surging in the last three months.

But some of the biggest fundraising efforts are happening just outside the parties themselves, with hundreds of thousands of dollars going to the province's controversial political action committees (PAC).

From July to September of this year:

  • The NDP raised about $440,000
  • The UCP raised about $398,000
  • The Wildrose raised about $121,000
  • The PC Party raised $24,000
  • The Alberta Advantage Fund, a PAC, raised $635,700

Year-to-date, the NDP and the conservative parties are almost at par in their fundraising efforts, with $1.36-million raised by the NDP and $1.4-million raised by the conservative parties combined.

The Alberta Advantage Fund, which is linked to Jason Kenney, pulled in several individual donations of $50,000 in the third quarter of this year. It has raised more than $800,000 throughout 2017.

Last fall, the NDP introduced new rules to get "big money" out of Alberta politics by capping political fundraising and spending through The Fair Elections Financing Act. The bill bans union and corporate donations to political parties, and sets a $4,000 limit on individual donations.

But Liberal leader David Khan said the money raised by political action committees, also called political third party advertisers, shows those rules aren't entirely effective.

"They've left the back doors of the barn wide open and there's all this money circumventing the restrictions on political fundraising, which were important to be brought in," Khan said on Thursday.

"But all of this money is coming in from out of province or out of country and corrupting our political system."

David Khan

Liberal Party leader David Khan has been an outspoken critic of third-party political advertisers. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

Loose rules for PACs

There are no donation limits for third party political advertisers outside an election period, nor is there a spending cap.

Outside of an election period, donations can come from anywhere in the country or the world — the NDP on Thursday accused the Alberta Advantage Fund of accepting money from companies headquartered outside of Alberta.

It's also not immediately clear who, or what, each PAC supports. The Elections Alberta website lists 10 third-party political advertisers. The Alberta Advantage Fund has, by far, posted the highest numbers in contributions among the PACs.

The Alberta Federation of Labour is listed as a political third-party advertiser that raised about $13,000 in the third quarter of this year, and $500,000 throughout the year.

"It's shocking that all of this money is circumventing political financing laws and the laws that govern political parties. And is being used for political goals and to affect political change without any oversight," Khan said.

This summer, Democratic Renewal Minister Christina Gray said the NDP government was looking at options to regulate political action committees.