Inside Politics

Oak Ridges Markham Watch: About that "piddly" $22,000 fundraiser ...

In an interview with the Hill Times, veteran lobbyist Tim Powers seemed distinctly underwhelmed by the controversy swirling around those now contentious contributions that Conservative MP Paul Calandra's riding association collected from individuals involved in a bid for last spring: 

"I think you have to be pretty naïve that any politician in any party is going to act inappropriately because somebody had a piddly little fundraiser for them where the maximum any individual could give was $1,000 ... You can't even buy a good big screen TV for $1,000 so how are you going to buy a politician? I mean, I think we're unfair to politicians sometimes when we talk about these things and think they're cheaper than a big screen TV."

Which is a fair point, of course. That said, however, rather than just look at the $1,000 figure in isolation, it's important to consider the context: In this case, that means examining just how much the $22,000 reportedly raised at that fundraiser -- at least $5,000 of which was collected from individuals associated with the WorldBeat bid -- may have boosted the coffers of the riding association in question.

Courtesy of Elections Canada, here's a breakdown of contributions to the Oak Ridges Markham Conservative Association from 2007 to 2010:

Year Total of contributions received over $200 Number of contributors Total received from donors giving less than $200 Number of contributors Total
2007 $4,423.00 8 $6,232.00 67 $10,655.00
2008 $21,869.50 36 $13,249.00 136 $35,118.50
2009 $23,609.00 61 $22,519.00 220 $46,128.00
2010 $10,025.00 27 $16,315.00 162 $26,340.00

As you can see from the above table, the most recent numbers are not available, as the riding has not yet filed its report for 2011, and this year's totals, which would include the fundraiser in question, aren't due until next year. 

Still, it's clear that, barring a surge in donations over the last two years, $22,000 could very well represent a sizeable chunk of the total intake for the year -- more than 40 percent of money raised in 2009, which currently stands as the association's most successful year to date, and as much as three quarters of the total haul in 2010. 

As for the $5,000 in individual contributions, it's worth noting that in 2010, the Oak Ridges Markham Conservative Association managed to round up just 27 people who were willing to donate more than $200 per person, for a a combined total of $10,025, with no single contributor giving more than $600.  

There's also an annual cap on donations to riding associations, which means that each of those $1,000 donors is severely limited in what further donations they can make this year, which could, in theory, curtail fundraising efforts within neighbouring Conservative ridings, at least on a short term basis. There is, after all, no rule that prevents a donor from giving money outside his or her home riding, which is how particularly generous patrons often find themselves on the VIP invite list for all big ticket party events taking place within driving distance. 

Taking all that into account, it seems foolhardy to dismiss entirely the potential impact that even a modest handful of $1,000 cheques -- or, indeed, a sudden change of heart that results in the money being sent back -- could have on the bottom line of the Oak Ridges Markham Conservative Association. 

In any case, we'll have to wait for the annual reports to show up in the Elections Canada database to find out. 

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