Liberal leadership race has no rules on spending, donations

James McLeod
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With the Liberal leadership race in full swing and getting close to its climax, the money is flying.

The five Liberal leadership candidates — Dwight Ball, Cathy Bennett, Danny Dumeresque, Jim Bennett, and Paul Antle — pose with Labrador Liberal MP Yvonne Jones during Wednesday’s open forum in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Regulations of the campaign set out by the Liberal party have no rules of any kind when it comes to donations or spending limits, which means each of the five contenders can take as much as they can get, and spend as much as they want.

Candidates are buying TV, radio, and print advertising, along with automated “robocalls,” ads on social media and flyers sent out to households across the province.

Dwight Ball and Paul Antle both say they’ve spent about $100,000 on the campaign so far — probably a little bit more. Cathy Bennett told The Telegram she’s probably spent a little less than $100,000 — not counting the $20,000 entry fee that each candidate had to pay to get in the race.

All five candidates promised that when the race is over, they’ll disclose how much they spent in total.

But only Danny Dumaresque would commit to provide a list of the people who donated to his campaign after it was over.

The other four candidates said they accepted donations from people on the understanding that the names would not be made public, so they’d have to check with donors before disclosing anything.

All five candidates told The Tele­gram that it would have been better if there were some sort of rules governing spending and donations.

“As a former chairman of the stand­ing committee on election financing, I do believe there’s an appropriate measure of spending that should take place in all election contests, similar to what we’ve decided to do in provincial elections,” Dumaresque said.

“I think we should look at it as a party. That being said, I accept the rules of this particular contest, and while I’m surprised at the level of spending that I can see, I don’t have any issue with it.”

Antle went a step further, saying he would change the law to bring in spending limits.

“When I become premier, I’ll change the rules to make sure that all leadership contests will be conducted under the Elections Act,” he said. “We should have some guidelines that are legislated and not just at the whim of the political party. It creates equity and balance and access to the process for all people that are interested in running.”

But it’s the issue of political donations where the five candidates have very different perspectives.

Cathy Bennett, for example, said she decided to come up with some rules for herself and her campaign, given that the party didn’t set up rules for all the candidates.

She said her campaign won’t accept any single donation larger than $10,000, and she doesn’t want to know who’s giving her the money.

“As the candidate, one of the other policies is that I don’t want to be aware of the list. I don’t want to know who the donors are,” she said. “So, our chair of our fundraising and our CFO have that information. At the end of the campaign I’m given the total, but I’m not given the names, because I want to be removed from that.”

Bennett said because of this, she couldn’t even say if anybody had given anything close to the $10,000 maximum.

She would, however, reveal one big donor to her campaign: herself. Bennett said at the get-go, she put $50,000 into the campaign personally, and another $50,000 contribution from the companies she owns.

Jim Bennett, meanwhile, wouldn’t say who he’s getting donations from, or how much he’s getting. He said he thinks there should have been limits and rules put in place before the start of the campaign, but he won’t impose any special rules for himself.

“It’s voluntarily putting yourself at a competitive disadvantage, when the party really should have made those rules,” he said. “Cheques show up. What am I supposed to do, send them back and say ‘no thanks’ because I think I’m going to disclose it? The disclosure issue never came up until now. Nobody has even suggested that it was remotely possible.”

Ball had a third approach. He said he won’t give the names of the people who donated to him, but he will release the individual amounts of each donation.

He said he’s also spending a lot of his own money on the campaign, and the donations that are coming in are all so small that nobody would think any of them are enough money that he could be beholden to any private donor.

“I could see why people could think that, but I think when you see the amounts — I will disclose the individual amounts so you will see that there were no large amounts of money that would’ve been given by any big donors,” he said. “The sums of money that we’re talking about right now are not large sums of money.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

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Recent comments

  • Harry
    September 23, 2013 - 05:51

    Liberals , your going about its the wrong way, if you wanted to form the next government. Because right now the pcs still can knock you out of the running.

  • Scott
    September 22, 2013 - 10:56

    Hole in the wall gang, Not much to choose from..LOL...After all its the liberals

  • saelcove
    September 22, 2013 - 10:00

    Well if bennett win were are all out of work

  • Denise
    September 22, 2013 - 08:10


  • Fred
    September 22, 2013 - 07:26

    When Antle becomes Premier ? When cows fly LALaaaaaaaaa

  • Dianne
    September 21, 2013 - 17:24

    Mr McLeod, There more and important things you should be writing about, then the false liberal leadership race. Do article on the people of the province who are losing their home. going hunger and cold, I'm talking about people who work all their life, just to lose everything though dishonesty politician,trying to tell the people we are there for you, when everyone know it not true,

  • Sara
    September 21, 2013 - 15:37

    I've seen Paul Antle's media buy aloneThere is no way his spending is anywhere near 100K. Double at least. I'm not registered to vote myself but we certainly don't need more dishonesty.

  • same ol same ol; for Fiberal party NL
    September 21, 2013 - 12:16

    elections act; NL fiberal party got their own constitution; but I guess they are not good at managing finances especially their own; god help NL if they got their hands back into public purse; they drove debt from 5 Bil to over 12 Bil; in 12 years; under wells tobin grimes; with hue and cry of we had no money; except for themselves buying womens underwear and expensive ART and WINE from nova scotia; while cutting special needs funding in schools; spending over 100,000 to win this race; I guess why Dwight ball is all in; if he loses I cant see him running in 2015 as second fiddle to Bennett or Antle; then humber valley flips back PC; ball only won in 2011 by 200 votes or so; all these people running now taking away from monies that could have been donated raised to help cut down their almost 1 million in party debt; now just money raised and liberal especially when others people money is at stake

  • Ambrose
    September 21, 2013 - 09:22

    As a long time supporter of the liberal party, I can recalls so many thing, even when Joey was in power. And the dirty tricks that was play on people, For me all that when out the window on July 5/2013. I will never vote for another Liberal as long as I live, Today politician are very dishonest with the people its all about control. Even in joey day, they had their limits are far they would go.

  • Pauline
    September 21, 2013 - 09:06

    Now the people of our province know why , the liberal did what they did on july 5/2013, The one they said no too, was to honest for the liberal...LOL..Keep up the good work PCS

    • Ben
      September 22, 2013 - 10:10

      What happened on July 5/13 ?