The Wall Street Journal breaks down the troubles with "campaign organizers" ACORN
We'll be the first to admit that US politics is messy business, made all the more scintillating by the amount of effort devoted to gotcha! journalism. But there has been an odour of scandal around the ACORN group that it would be hard for anyone to ignore, let alone eager reporters.
Last year, then Vision Vancouver mayoral candidate received a LOT of help from his American friends. We remind our readers that Gregor Robertson only became a permanent resident of the city he now leads about five years ago. For years before that, Gregor after leaving the North Shore, roamed around the Gulf Islands and the Fraser Valley, he got sprayed in the face with pesticides in the South Pacific, and was raised and attended college in the USA where he met his wife Amy.
I can just see it now...a hot new CBC TV series – My American Mayor – a laugh out loud romp about how a group of Yanks subvert BC's laws to elect one of their own to high office. Sorry, I digress.
Gregor Robertson's key supporter is Joel Solomon (hailing from Tennessee), who along with corporate heir Carol Newell (New York state), has raised the financial support to bolster Robertson's corporate and political careers. We've written about Gregor's (California/Hawaii) step-dad Gordon Russell and that the Robertson home is held by a corporation with Russell and Amy Robertson as the sole directors. Then there is of course the mysterious, deep-pocketed Drummond Pike of the Tides Foundation, and he and Gregor's mutual friend Wade Rathke, founder of ACORN and sometimes Robertson campaigner. This only scratches the surface of American involvement in Robertson's campaign.
ACORN is in the soup again because of some kind of sting operation by a Republican-supporting filmmaker involving a pimp and a prostitute, and pledges by the campaign organization to aid them in getting young prostitutes a place to do business. For some reliable coverage on the matter, check out Politico.com.
In a new development, City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth is proposing that we shut off the taps of foreign funding for our election campaigns. She has submitted a resolution to the UBCM to ban foreign donations in civic campaigns.
I have to say I'm more than a little impressed today by Councillor Woodsworth. While I've not been terribly excited by her work at Council over the years, I would stand shoulder to shoulder with her on this issue. If she achieves getting foreign donations banned in our BC municipal elections, it may be the crowning achievement of her political career.
Kennedy Stewart is equally enthusiastic. In an interview with the Georgia Straight's Carlito Pablo he says,
“When you have $6 million spent in the last civic election here in Vancouver for part-time council positions that pay $50,000 a year—that is, more money spent in the local election per person than federal- or provincial-level [elections]—there’s something wrong"
Stewart recalled that at least two Americans supported Robertson’s campaign to be the mayoral candidate of Vision Vancouver. These were Gary Hirshberg, chair of the New Hampshire–based organic-yogurt producer Stonyfield Farm, and Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. The two each gave amounts ranging from $1,000 to $4,999.
“They actually spent money to influence our politics here north of the border, and that’s not allowed in any jurisdiction,” Stewart said about Robertson’s U.S. donors. “The Americans don’t even allow it.”
Stewart describes Woodsworth's motion as the "most important" proposal coming to this year's UBCM meeting, taking place this weekend. I sincerely hope that the motion is passed, and that the Provincial government updates the BC Local Elections Act, which has no provisions to prevent this clear abuse of our democracy.
While there is no easy way to prevent the kind of chicanery that ACORN is accused of committing, we must be seen to be preserving our system of governance from abuse by outside interests. Woodsworth has done a very good thing.