Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Is Buying Political Access Becoming an Epidemic?

I was interested to read this National Post story this morning. It seems this “buying access to politicians” becoming an epidemic? If it is not to pay off campaign debts, it is to fund a think tank, this time the Fraser Institute, a registered charity. Interesting that the political types are backing off, partly I expect due to the $11,000 per delegate price that has been put on the politician’s heads is a sobering influence.

What if the Fraser Institute simply set up an open conference with delegate registration fees and asked these powerful people to speak? That would be buying access too but not likely on an invitation only big ticket “unique excursion” basis.

Buying access happens all the time at charity fundraising events in the form of people bidding on donated fishing trips, golf games and dinners in “auctions.” The attraction of these events are the fact a politician has agreed to “donate their time” to be in attendance. The proceeds do not go to political purposes but to the benefit of the sponsoring charity or institution. Those events are usually very public and easy to see who “bought” the time BUT it is still someone buying access to powerful people.

I wonder if this kind of buying and selling of access via charity donations will become part of the scope of the new Lobbyist and Contractor Registry? That legislation is Premier Stelmach’s flagship legislation as Bill 1 in February? It might not be a bad idea in terms of integrity and transparency.