Five men wanted to be mayor. Two left politics. Two more declared their donors. One took a pass.
It's been seven months and six days since Gregor Robertson, with the help of $180,000 in donations, won the Vision mayoral nomination last June. A week before the November 15th election, mere hours after NPA candidate Peter Ladner released his own nomination campaign donors list on the NPA website, Robertson released his.
Missed in all the campaign rhetoric and furor regarding the Olympic Village scandal over that week was that Vision Council candidate Raymond Louie failed to release his mayoral nomination campaign donors list despite a promise to do so.
For months during their time in opposition Louie and his Vision council colleagues dined out on the matter of campaign donations. In particular the arrows were aimed at Mayor Sam Sullivan, who while promising to disclose if he was a candidate in the 2008 election, took his donors list with him after getting knocked off by Ladner.
It all came to a head at City Council in late 2007 during a debate on campaign finance disclosure. At the meeting Councillor Louie made the case for "continuous campaign disclosure" and "forcing" candidates to reveal their donors. You can hear Louie in his own words (email subscribers may listen here):
Council was addressed at the same meeting on campaign financing by NDP party worker bee Neil Monckton, who put the argument forward for campaign finance reform on behalf of his ThinkCity public policy group. Interestingly, Monckton just 2 months later was enlisted to manage Louie's Vision mayoral nomination campaign. Louie benefited from Monckton's NDP connections during that campaign, by getting access to Monckton's NDP-friendly supporter lists for phone-banking and robocall (automated) messages endorsing his candidacy.
In his Council statement Louie says:
...in terms of getting legislative change...so that we can in fact force people...to get information into the public's hands...And that's why we've moved again continuous public disclosure of all donations. Vision Vancouver has done that...and we've challenged other parties to do that as well although it's not required.
Louie is correct that Vision did take extra steps to declare their donors in 2007, although they weren't as vocal about the fact they were required by law to provide a supplemental record to the City about who paid their $200,000 debt from the 2005 campaign. They used the mid-term disclosure to try to prove they didn't receive the bulk of their funding from labour unions. Where they did get the cash to pay off Vision's campaign debt is a whole other story for later. Note, at the time Vision were still stinging from the revelation that their biggest financial backer during the 2005 campaign had been convicted for promoting illegal gambling.
Vision Vancouver went further when during a March 2008 meeting their board of directors approved strict disclosure guidelines for all candidates, requiring full financial disclosure within 30 days of the selection of candidates. Presumably the declarations were to the party's board and not the public. That date would have been July 15, 2008 in the case of Louie's mayoral nomination challenge.
It's a credit to Robertson and Ladner that they fully declared before the November 15th election as promised. The fact that Raymond Louie missed the deadline of declaring before Election Day, and has been silent on the matter since leaves us wondering who paid for his campaign, and why after so much rhetoric he still won't tell anyone.