Monday, October 09, 2006

Nondisclosure is a Betrayal of the Public's Trust

I have just had my fears about who is behind the Ted Morton Campaign confirmed. Today's Globe and Mail story has the telling quote that donor information is just too strategic to let people know about. Here is what a Morton campaign organizer is reported to have said:

“It's a strategic thing. That gives too much away,” Sam Armstrong, a campaign organizer for leadership hopeful Ted Morton, explained when asked why his camp has decided that it won't disclose names of contributors.

Obviously we will not get to know the Morton donors and ignorance is not bliss...especially in this case. My instincts tell me he is afraid to reveal his donors because they are an array of extremists groups that would scare us away from him. Remember how "scary" Harper was in the 2004 election when the religious far right was visible and vocal in supporting him? They kept quiet in the 2006 election and Harper was less scary. Harper became the temporary PM but his revival of the CPC anti social agenda and recent mean spriited grant cutting is starting to scare us all over again.

To be fair, Morton is not the only concern. I think we citizens have cause for concern about every candidate and the facts about their campaign contributors. Since there are no rules it is a chance for some candidates to raise the ethical bar of disclosure and challange the others to do the same.

We have to wonder if Dinning has too much money ($3m estimated and not denied) and is it collected from a few powerful forces so that he can effectively buy the leadership. Here is what the G&M says about Dinning's donors:

"He has said his campaign will voluntarily follow provincial election rules, and disclose all donors after the election. Mr. Dinning's campaign also will not accept anonymous donations or money from any individual or corporation that totals more than $30,000."

That $30K plus level of anonymity does not reassure me. So for a kicker of $29,999.99 I can stay off the radar screen. Can my kids and numbered companies under my control do the same thing? Too Volpe-esque for my liking. Just because you can do something clever to support Jim does not mean you ought to do it. That reliance on elites is the nature of the uncertainty about how Dinning will govern - for the benefit of the anonymous elites or the rest of us schmucks.

Oberg is already over the ethical line - just not the legal line - with his cozy "long term relationship" with certain trade union bosses and their top down membership "giveaway" tactics. That says everything we need to know about how he will govern. Top down, special deals for friends of long term relationships and what ever means that are available but only to the ends that Oberg personally identifies. Kind of like George W Bush don't you think? I can't help but wonder who will be the "Alberta Haliburton" - overcharging us for infrastructure projects with an exclusive inside "bidding" track in an Oberg government.

Norris' disclosure underscored fears of is he his "own" man or is he an "owned" by the 100 or so "clients" cum donors who are "buying" Norris' "consulting services." Who will he be "working for" as Premier - us or them? We citizens should not have to be asking ourselves that question! Again doing something indirectly you can't do directly shows a penchant for situational ethics - a real shortcoming and brings into question about how he would govern.

Others are very late into the game like Stelmach and Hancock because they played by the rules and timing that Premier Klein set out. That respect for the Party and the Klein leadership has hurt them and now they have to play catch up in the campaign fund raising function. That is no excuse however for not disclosing donors!

Others are either vanity candidates or issues based with no intention of winning just positioning or proselytizing. Who supports them dollar-wise is of less interest but the duty to disclosure demands are still the same.

Disclosure is more than information. It goes to the very character of the candidates. I think those who deny to disclose, display disrespect for the duty to disclose by being obtuse about it or those who are simply too naive about the consequences all need to feared as leadership hopefuls.
Nondisclosue is not justified as just clever politics and acceptable because it is simply playing by the nonexistant "rules." It is a betrayal of the public's trust and ought to be enough to disqualify anyone as a serious candidate worthy of such high office.