Monday, May 23, 2011

The Liberal Fundraising and the Per Vote Subsidy

Some Liberal bloggers have made the argument that the per vote subsidy allowed the Liberals to put fundraising reform on the back burner and Harper's decision to end the per vote subsidy will push the Liberals into at last changing the way the Liberals go about fundraising. Thus, Harper's decision may turn out to be a good thing. I find argument akin to someone saying that if they blind themselves, their sense of hearing will become more acute and thus they will be better off. It is a bad argument. It is also based on two false premises.

One, there is no magic fundraising formal. The Conservatives are better at fundraising than the Liberals are not because they are better at pestering their base for donations but because more people believe in the Conservatives than do the Liberals. It is that simple and that complex. Two, the notion that the Liberals were ignoring the fundraising issue because they were getting enough money from the per vote subsidy to compete is absurd. The Conservatives ran anti Ignatieff and Dion ads outside of the writ time and the Liberals were not able to respond in kind.

Finally, regardless of what is good for the Liberal party the decision to end the per vote subsidy is bad policy. There are two reasons defending the per vote subsidy. The first is obvious. Making the political parties more beholden to those with money is a bad idea. However the Conservatives have partially neutralized this argument by limiting the amount any individual can contribute and by forbidding corporations and unions from making contributions. The second is less obvious and needs to be repeatedly explained to the public and to pundits alike. The more emphasis placed on fundraising, the less time politicians have to spend dealing with issues and serving the community. The extreme case is what is happening in the US. Bill Clinton lamented that an ever increasing amount of time was occupied by fundraising and by the end of second term it occupied most of his time and the time of most senators. That was more than 10 years ago. Things are 100 times worse now. We want our politicians believing that politically it is more advantageous for them to spend time representing their ridings and hearing the concerns of their constituents than it is giving speeches at series of $100 dollar a plate fundraising dinners.

We also want to see people be nominated by virtue of what talents they have and not by virtue of what kind of wealthy friends are in their Rolodex.

In order to insure that the politicians are spending more time serving the community and less time fundraising their is another subsidy that should end. Indeed, Canada has long subsidized political parties by making political contributions tax deductible and the amount of money being subsidized by the Canadian tax payer is equal to the amount given out to the political party as part of the per vote subsidy. If we are going to eliminate a subsidy, it should be this one.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

mostly agree, except for the part about it simply being a matter of the Libs having fewer supporters. Arguably,even if they had identical no's of voters, the CPC would bring in more funds, for at least 2 reasons:

1) Lib supporters are more inclined to big gov., and less to 'rugged individualism,' and are less wont to donate to things they believe that gov't should be supporting

2) the CPC gets most of its money by appealing to hot button issues which trade on people's biases & fears... which the LPC rightly finds distasteful & is loathe to do, and which would backfire among its more centrist supporters, anyway. (there was a column about this a little while ago; can't remember by whom. Silver?)

Koby said...

There is no question that Conservatives push hot button issues more than Liberals and this has especially been true since 2006. Moreover, when the Liberals have pushed hot botton issues they have couched it as part of some larger issue. Indeed, just look at the way in which the Liberals framed the SSM issue. As Martin put it, you can not cherry pick charter rights; you take the good with bad. In other words, SSM was the just the price for having other rights guaranteed. SSM was the straight man's burden to bear. The Liberals took an issue where history was clearly on their side and turned it into a defense of the status quo (viz., a defense of the charter).

This approach has been a huge mistake and adherence to such an approach going forward will kill the party. The Liberals have to seek out controversy. They have to become the party of change. This is the only way to build up their fundraising numbers and it is the only way to start building a base of loyal supporters.

Tom said...

One of the major reasons Ignatief was made leader was to improve fundraising, in fact LPC was trumpeting just a few months ago about how well they were doing with fundraising.
What went wrong?
Did those contributers suddenly dry upIf not somebody should be finding why donations suddenly dried up.

Volkov said...

You're wrong the the reasons why the Conservatives are better at fundraising; they have been masters of the small donations grabs since the Reform days, when all that party had was Grandma who sent them $10 a month. Reform grew out on this base while the Libs and PCs grabbed theirs from the large donors. When the fundraising restrictions came in in the 2000's, the Libs couldn't keep up/thought large donors would make up the shortfall/Chretien fucked Martin over, the newly merged Conservatives did have a successful, almost magic formula for donations that worked so well under the new regime.

So, there is a formula - it's very effective. Not really about ideology at al, lol, the Dems do the same thing the Cons do.

The Rat said...

Look, using the Clinton quote is disingenuous. There are no spending restrictions in the the US so, yeah, they have to raise hundreds of millions. We have spending limits. If the Libs can't raise $18 million in 4 years from your base then you don't deserve to spend that much.

On the "hot button" issue, I give to the CPC because I care about gun control, or should I say I am disgusted by the Liberals fear mongering at my my expense. Call that a hot button but what it really is is a citizen donating towards policy he believes in. You'd think with the green shift and other enviro policies the Liberals would have been swimming in the money. I guess what it says that you weren't is that Canadians didn't agree and those few that did couldn't be bothered to open their wallets. That seems awfully democratic to me.

Koby said...

"they have been masters of the small donations grabs since the Reform days, when all that party had was Grandma who sent them $10 a month."

Yes and the reason they have been masters of small donations is that they champion issues. Grandma sends them $10 a month is because the party supports the issues she cares about. The Liberals champion nothing and so no one gives a rat's ass about them yet alone willing to give them money.

"There are no spending restrictions in the the US so, yeah, they have to raise hundreds of millions."

There is no spending restrictions outside of the election time either. Moreover, the restrictions against corporate and union donations make it harder to raise money here and so the party's have spend more time doing it. All that being said, just because the situation is better than it is in the States does not mean there is nothing to worry about it.

"You'd think with the green shift and other enviro policies the Liberals would have been swimming in the money."

I do not care what Canadians told polling companies about climate change. While the public might accept what the scientists are saying about climate change, they neither have the ability to understand the science nor the policies designed to reduce carbon emissions. Moreover, no one I mean no one is ever going to be excited over a tax shift or cap in trade system. Making the central plank of his platform something that did not offer a single tangible benefit Canadians just went to show how hopeless Dion was as a politician and why he needed to be ushered out the door as soon as possible.

When I say the Liberals need to court controversy I mean the Liberals need to tackle issues such as the war on drugs, euthanasia and prostitution.

" One of the major reasons Ignatief was made leader was to improve fundraising, in fact LPC was trumpeting just a few months ago about how well they were doing with fundraising.
What went wrong?
Did those contributers suddenly dry upIf not somebody should be finding why donations suddenly dried up."

I think the Liberals did well after they started to release some policies but this was relatively late in the game. By and large their fundraising numbers were as dismal under Ignatieff as they were under Dion and no wonder. It is far from clear what the Liberals stand for.