Sunday, February 20, 2011

Who Funds Canada's Environmentalists?

Where does the Ottawa lobbyist Rick Smith gets the money to hire a team of activists to wage an over-funded campaign against the federal environment minister Peter Kent? Ezra Levant looks into it, in his Toronto Sun column:
A long-time Ottawa lobbyist named Rick Smith is boasting he will make unsolicited phone calls to 50,000 homes in Kent's neighbourhood, because Kent said Canadian oil is more ethical than oil from OPEC countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran. Smith's paid staff won't just be making phone calls. They say they'll be "on the ground" in Thornhill for months.

Many observers expect an election to be called next month. Kent, and his Liberal and New Democrat competitors, have to recruit volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls -- it's the only way to stay within their legal budget.

Not Smith's paid army. He won't have to stay within a spending limit, or disclose who gave him money, or what he's spending it on.
Because no fewer than six high-priced U.S. donors give money to Smith's lobby firm. The Mott Foundation from Flint, Mich., is one of them. Its website says an average donation from them is $100,000.

Even if Kent were able to raise that much money, it would be illegal for him to spend it.
He promised big prizes -- including an iPad and iTunes gift certificates. When you need to give away prizes to people to write letters, that’s not grassroots support. That's Astroturf.

Imagine the outrage if Kent offered iPads -- starting at $549 each -- for people to write supportive letters to the editor. It wouldn't just look tricky. It would look desperate. Who has to buy support?
There is a law that prohibits this kind of lobbying during the election campaign. But up until then, such actions are apparently legal. However if Smith and his team actually start annoying the people in Kent's riding with unsolicited phone calls, without an election having even been called, that could actually result in a completely different shift in public opinion, than the one those lobbyists look forward for.

No comments: