Behind the File: Reconstructing #Paytoplay BC Liberals Style

slide1

The recent release of the “real-time” donations to the BC Liberal Party for 2016 on their website in PDF form has created some unique opportunities as the recently released data can be used in an attempt to identify the donors present at specific BC Liberals fundraising events and to attempt to identify the fundraising haul garnered at these events well in advance of when you normally would be able to so (once the full fiscal year filings have been submitted to Elections BC).  As such, the analysis of this data can be attempted well in advance of the upcoming election and I must thank the BC Liberals braintrust for that opportunity.

Examining the names, amounts, and dates of donations and cross-referencing this data with the known big money fundraising events that took place in 2016, one can use the data provided in order to attempt to reconstruct who was at certain fundraising events and how much money was donated at each of these events.   A simple compiled search by date provides one with the amounts donated on that date and identifies the specific people and corporations that more than likely would have been present at any of the specific fundraising events that took place last year.  Of all the possible cash for access events from the past year sponsored by the BC Liberal party that I could have choosen to examine, I choose to focus on the BC Liberals Annual Interior Leaders Golf Invitational Tournament that took place at Predator Ridge Golf Course on September 22, 2016.

welcome

For those that may not be familiar with the event, the Interior Leaders Golf Invitational event is billed as one of the biggest fundraisers for the year for the BC Liberals. The big money price structure for attending the event is presented below.

CrRvKXbUIAAIxDV.jpg-large

As you can see, for a mere $4,000, your foursome would receive a round of golf, dinner, a $400 voucher for accommodation at Predator Ridge and, wait for it, the opportunity to have a BC Liberal MLA be your caddie.  Yes you read that right.  In BC you can literally “pay-to-play” and have a BC Liberal MLA even carry your bags (this is nothing new I must say as this event has been taking place since at least 2014).

CrHN8E5UEAAatB8
Actual unaltered image from original website (I kid you not).

I chose to focus on this specific date and this particular tournament for two reasons: First, it represents possibly the most egregious and outrageous of the “pay-to-play”/access buying fundraising events sponsored by the BC Liberals in 2016, especially given that the BC Liberals knowingly choose to go ahead once again with the event despite vocal protestations of those wanting to ban the influence of big money in B.C. politics, polling that suggest that 86% of British Columbians want to ban big money from BC politics, and the movement in other jurisdictions to ban these types of big money events.  Secondly, it kind of made sense to focus on that specific event as I had already written an extensive tongue-in-cheek blog post about the event previously.

A few caveats regarding the data presented below and its interpretation:

First, it is possible that the resulting data provided by the “date only” search possibly includes people and corporations who just randomly happened to have donated to the BC Liberal party on September 22, 2016 or had their donation processed on September 22, 2016 and as such, there may be many represented in the table below that were not actually physically at the golf tournament itself.  In some cases, this is entirely possible, while in other cases, I’m pretty sure that those individuals were at the golf tournament given their ties to some of the major sponsors (I’ll come back to this point later on).  Secondly, it should be noted that only daily donation totals are provided in the data set provided by the BC Liberal party.  As such, there are no breakdowns of the amounts donated.  Accordingly, a $10,000 donation on that date could represent a single hole sponsorship or two $5,000 hole sponsorships, donations as a result of successful bids on the accompanying silent auction (side note: are those auction items a taxable benefit that should be declared if the money used to purchase them is tax deductible as a political donation?), etc.  Hard to tell really so I will just try to guess at what the amounts could have been for.  Anyway enough of the caveats and on to the data itself.  Below is a table containing the top 16 (those over $1,000) of the 161 donations reported on September 22, 2016 listed in descending dollar amount order.  The entire list in descending order is presented at the bottom of this post.

A quick review of the data suggests a number of things:

First, despite the perception that corporations are lining up and falling over themselves to ante $50,000 up to be a top sponsor at these types of events, this does not appear to be the case as it does not appear that there were any takers for the title sponsor roll despite it being offered.  There were only five exactly $50,000 donations to the party (see below) and all of these took place well (many months) before the golf tournament date so it is unlikely that any of them represent top sponsor donations for the tournament.

50-k-donations

Second, it appears that there could only have been one possible Crystal Sponsorship (from Encana) and only one possible Platinum Sponsorship (from a Patricia Trottier, who appears to be the spouse of former Encana CEO Gwyn Morgan) at the event (assuming that they actually paid for the sponsorship rather than just making a straight up donation of course).  That Calgary-based Oil and Gas giant Encana (and related folk) likely represent the largest singular source of donor money at the event should surprise no one as Encana has been a major contributor to the BC Liberals for years and with no restrictions on out of Province or Out of Country donations, it is all entirely legal and on the up and up in BC Liberals #NotRealWorld.

encana_flag_legislature
Source: Vancouver Observer

From there it is quite difficult to establish with any certainty who paid for what as while the $10,000 donations made by Canadian Forest Products Limited, Chevron Canada Limited, Interfor, London Drugs Limited, McElhanny Consulting Services Limited, Terminal Forest Products, and West Fraser Mills Limited while all noted on that day, could possibily represent putting hole sponsorships (@$10,000), multiple hole sponsorships (@$5,000 a crack), regular foursomes (@4,000), or sign sponsorships (@1,000) or some combination thereof potentially with some cash donations possibly being involved as well.  Or as noted previously entirely random donations on that date (I do have to accept that possibility).

It is interesting to note that the listed $4,000 fee for a foursome (including having an BC Liberals MLA as a caddie no less) does not appear in any of the donations listed on September 22, 2016.  One could assume that either they had no takers for this guilded pay- to-play opportunity (highly, highly unlikely) or that the fee was somehow raised to total $4,500 on the tournament date or that the donors were asked to also donate the room values that went along with the fees (more likely given the $4,500 donations from Imperial Metals Corporation (of Mount Polley fame), Neptune Bulk Terminals, Pretium Resources Limited, and Raymond James Limited) or that it was some how topped up to make it $4,500 rather than $4,000 as listed.  I suppose it is also possible that the foursome fees could have been subsumed within some of the larger donation amounts rather than being for specific holes, etc. or that the $4,000 fees were processed on other dates. Can’t really say for sure.

What immediately struck me when looking at the larger donations listed above on this particular date was what appears to be a significant representation (or over representation if you will) of major forestry industry players who appear to have been possibly present at this particular event.  Was there a concerted, conscious, and coordinated effort by major Forest Industry Players to schmooze and/or lobby the BC Liberals at this specific event on this specific day?  Who knows?  Maybe.  At the very least that is certainly a possibility. Or did they all just randomly donate to the BC Liberals that day? Dunno.

So in total, the BC Liberals took in on September 22, 2016 (whether all at the golf tournament or not) a total of $144,975.99 or a total of less than approximately 1.2% of the entire yearly fundraising total for 2016.  Interestingly, this amount doesn’t even really rate when you plot donations by date (see chart below and the table below that).  In fact, the donations on September 22, 2016 come in a modest 28th out of the total 88 donation days reported.

total-donations-by-date-to-bc-liberals

Still, while ~$144,000 is not a bad haul for a single day, but as can be seen from the chart above and the table below, it certainly does not appear to represent one of their biggest fundraising dates or events of the year unlike what the BC Liberals appear to suggest.  They certainly could quite easily have gotten away bowing to public pressure and cancelling the event without affecting their bottom line in any shape or form but that just wouldn’t be the BC Liberals way would it?

A few other interesting things to note, one of the biggest single fundraising day of the year was February 28, 2016 where a cool $1,648,565.00 was raised.  This likely coincides with general year end tax year related donations, followed by December 31, 2016 which I would again suggest represents the final push for use it or lose it 2016 political tax credits.  (Edit: Bob Mackin in his thebreaker.news site has just written an excellent article suggesting that the spike in donation in late February is related to a private dinner held on February 26 at the Wall Centre which was attended by a number of well-heeled party donors including a number of major players in the real estate industry).

date-order-values-cropped

All this of course just lends further credence that indeed we are living in the “Wild West of Politics” as the recent New York Times written by Dan Levan said, an article that Rich Coleman described as being “laughable”

laughable

describing a topic that noted BC Liberals apologist Don Fast said that no one but “no jobs” lefties cares about.

no-job-lefties

Sorry Mr. Coleman (Minister of Natural Gas Development, Minister Responsible for Housing, Deputy Premier, and Minister Responsible for General Chortling) and Mr. Fast.  Having your government called out for corruption and being open to influence peddling is not laughable, especially when the author is demonstrably correct.  As Mr. Levin suggests, this type of pay-to-play access would be illegal in most other jurisdictions within Canada and the United States.  But the BC Liberals disagree.  I guess it is true that those closest to corruption can’t see it.

Well there’s my kick at the can.  Other events could be given the same treatment so I encourage others to take up a different event and see what results you get.

Technical Note: For those interested, here is a link to download a Microsoft Excel sheet which appears to include all of the donations listed in the original PDF published by the BC Liberal Party.  It is in a much easier form to manipulate and search rather than the original PDF distributed by the BC Liberal party.  I do not and can not in any way vouch for the absolute accuracy of the file or the data presented here or above but will say that my by hand search for the donations on September 22, 2016 produced the exact same results as the Excel file linked.  I created the file after stumbling across a comma delineated data set on the net and then manipulating the data a bit as there were commas in the original donor field that made the first stabs at importing the data problematic.  Have at it.

test-of-small-print
Donations to the BC Liberal Party Recorded on September 22, 2016

It should be noted that the total amount of donations that I get from the linked Excel file is $12,157,771.52 which is quite a bit less than the ~$12.3m reported in various media accounts and the total of $12,474,088.00 that you get when adding the values presented by the BC Liberals on their website.

2016-values

I don’t know what that exactly means other than there seems to be a discrepancy of ~$316,316.00 with the BC Liberals seemingly over reporting their 2016 contributions by this amount. And why this differs from the media accounts and where they got that ~$12.3 figure originally I don’t know.

Lastly I will leave you with this, a list of the largest single donations to the BC Liberals $10,000 and above in 2016 in descending order.  Have a scan through the list.  These are the big money people and corporations who call the shots in the Province B.C.  Not you or I.

10-k-plus

 

Which BC Liberal MLA would you choose to be your caddie?

Header

For those who may be unaware, the BC Liberals are holding their annual BC Interior Leaders Golf Invitational at the Predator Ridge Golf Course in Vernon on September 22, 2016.  This event represents one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the BC Liberals and a quick review of the sponsorship opportunities and the fee structure for the event reveals the real reason why the BC Liberals are so reluctant to ban big money from BC politics: they quite clearly are the largest benefactors of it (and the subsequent perception of them being influenced by that big money).  Despite the vocal protestations of those wanting to ban the influence of big money in B.C. politics, polling that suggest that 86% of British Columbians want to ban big money from BC politics, and the movement in other jurisdictions to ban these types of big money events, the BC Liberals are nevertheless shamelessly moving ahead with this event.  Of the various packages available including the top package of $50,000, one particular package caught my eye (see below).

CrRvKXbUIAAIxDV.jpg-large

For a mere $4,000, your foursome would receive a round of golf, dinner, a $400 voucher for accommodation at Predator Ridge and, wait for it, the opportunity to have a BC Liberal MLA be your caddie.  Yes you read that right.  In BC you can literally “pay to play” and have a BC Liberal MLA even carry your bags.

CrHN8E5UEAAatB8

That got me thinking.  Which BC Liberal MLA would be the best choice to be your caddie and why?  I’ve listed a few of my suggested selections below (in no particular order) with a certain number of caveats (both good and bad) to keep in mind for each of those selections.  Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments area below if I’ve left out your favourite BC Liberal MLA or if you have a different/better reason as to why any of the BC Liberal MLAs identified would be the best selection as your caddie and I will try to incorporate them.

Mike Bernier (Peace River South) – A largely problematic selection as he would more than likely take most of your golf clubs and balls away and then give them back to you one by one and then expect you to be thankful for it.  Select at own risk.

Peter Fastbender (Surrey-Fleetwood) – A good selection due to his “acumen for accuracy” concerning numbers (see his prior ridiculous statement that the Evergreen Line is on time and on budget).  He would definitely be an asset in “helping” you with your score and subsequently straight face defending your score afterwards.

John Yap (Richmond-Steveston) – Best bet for getting a Quick Win in the tournament and therefore getting your foursome to the buffet first.  Would also be helpful in reaching out to any ethnic foursomes that you might encounter while out on the course.

Michelle Stilwell (Parksville-Qualicum) – Would be good at getting others to acknowledge your golf handicap but would be seemingly largely unsympathetic to the plight of others on the course who might also have golf handicaps.

Christy Clark (Westside-Kelowna) – Would turn up for the tee time photos and then slip off and go caddie for another foursome if it meant more money for her and it was a bigger priority.  On the other hand, she does have expensive photographers tailing her around so you would be able to get some good (but expensive) photos of your foursome out of it (at least at the tee off anyway).

Rich Coleman (Fort Langley-Aldergrove) – Has a tendency to tell anyone on the course having legitimate difficulties to stop whining.  Comes across as largely unsympathetic and might be a bit difficult to be around.  Be wary.

Mike de Jong (Abbotsford West) – Excellent at cherry picking the scores on a few holes and then extrapolating that score across 18 holes (as demonstrated here).

Todd Stone (Kamloops-South Thompson) – Would be very adept at driving a golf cart (although clearly at speed).  Might want to install a commemorative plaque on the golf course using workers from another golf course halfway through your round (which would be kind of awkward and a waste of time and money as he clearly had nothing to do with the construction of the golf course in the first place).

Linda Reimer (Port Moody-Coquitlam) – Wouldn’t do or say anything offensive either way and would not be noticeable. Would have to check with the party brass before doing or saying anything.  Would be rather ineffective and definitely wouldn’t advocate for your team should there be any kind of a disagreement with party/course officials.  Be honest.  You didn’t actually know that she was an MLA right?  If I could actually find a link to something significant that this backbencher actually did in her entire term in office I would post it but I can’t.  You try.  And yes that is a challenge.

Suzanne Anton (Vancouver-Fraserview) – Would be able to change the rules of the golf game at any time so that whatever you did, it would be perfectly legal by the time you finished your round.

Bill Bennett (Kootenay East) – Has tendency to cuss and call other foursomes out on the course “turds”.  Might be a bit offensive but nevertheless somewhat entertaining on the course.

Ralph Sultan (West Vancouver-Capilano) – Might need some prodding to make sure he is awake during the proceedings.

Richard Lee (Burnaby North)Wouldn’t work in the best interests of your foursome and might be recalled to the clubhouse once you are out on the course.  Would be one of his last actions as an MLA so might be worth picking him to give him a glimpse of his life after politics.

Mary Polak (Langley) – Would ignore the obvious pollutants leaking profusely from your golf cart into the nearby lake despite being alerted numerous times to it. Avoid at all costs.

Moira Stilwell (Vancouver-Langara) – You could ask her but she would more than likely decline gracefully as she actually has some integrity.

Others worth considering if the BC Liberal MLA of your choice is unavailable:

Pat Pimm (Peace River North) – Former BC Liberals cabinet minister and current persona non grata with the BC Liberals.  A good selection (if he’s not in court that day that is).  Likely would be prudent to wait to hear from the special prosecutor before actually picking him.  As that could be next year at this rate, would be probably best to pick someone else.

Joan Isaacs (BC Liberals Candidate for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain) – Would likely ask Joey Keithley how to caddie first so she can fumble around and look for the instructions on how to caddie from the party brass.  Part of a losing foursome last year and likely to have the same fate again so best to avoid picking her.

Laura Miller (BC Liberal Party) – Could be useful in arranging for the scorecards to be mysteriously wiped clean at the end of the round (allegedly).

Randy Rinaldo (Former BC Liberals candidate for Burnaby-Lougheed) – Could be particularly useful if the slow foursome in front of you is comprised of gypsies or poor people.  Might be somewhat offensive to any females in your foursome though.  You could always select him anyway and then replace him midway on the course after initially vigorously defending him and trying to downplay his obvious offensive behaviour.  Wouldn’t be the first time.

Gordon Wilson (LNG-Buy B.C. Advocate) –  That is, if anyone can actually find him as he seems to be largely AWOL these days.  Seems a bit unstable (see recent rant) so might be worth a pass.

Judy Tyabji (Former BC Liberals MLA and Bestselling Author) – Would write the most flattering description of your golf round ever.  It would be mostly uncritical and largely full of embellishments and propaganda though and would soon be forgotten and so hardly worth the effort.

Any other suggestions?

Edit: Since the publishing of this piece, the powers that be have deleted many of the pages that are referenced above.  But like all things on the internet, screenshots and internet archives live forever.  If anyone wants screenshots, just let me know.