It’s amazing what you get in your mailbox — and how transparently it tries to make you think you’ve won a prize (if you only order enough magazines) or, at least, make you think you have a serious chance.
Peel a sticker from one part of the mailout, stick it somewhere else and mail it back, and soon you start receiving even more targeted mail, suggesting that you’re now a privileged finalist — even if being a finalist means being one among perhaps tens of thousands of others. But the mail keeps coming, so it must work — on some level, we must still be collectively gullible enough to send back the postage-paid envelopes, to jump through the various hoops that we have to jump through in order to stay as part of the “in” gang. It’s also a staple of some religious fundraisers:
the urgent “personal” letter, talking about imminent dangers and the need for donations to deal with trumped-up crises.
It’s not surprising, then, to see that politicians can play the same hokey game — because, if it works, if the money keeps flowing, it doesn’t really matter what you say to your supporters.
Now, all parties use their own spin to try and raise funds, and a lot of it goes beyond even “buyer beware.”
But one of the most bizarre methods I’ve seen is a so-called “confidential memorandum” between Dimitri Soudas (until Sunday the executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada) and party chairman Irving R. Gerstein. The memorandum is so confidential that it’s been sent across Canada to every single “sustaining donor” in the Conservative fold.
It’s in the form of a letter to Gerstein, the first page stamped “CONFIDENTIAL COPY — SUSTAINING DONORS ONLY” in bright red letters.
“During the 90-plus days since I came aboard as the executive director of the Conservative Party,” Soudas wrote, “I have undertaken a comprehensive review of all Conservative Party operations. … I have been impressed by many things in my review — most especially the generosity and dedication of our sustaining donors. Prime Minister Harper has told me he is particularly grateful to each one …”
It’s probably not surprising that Soudas was so unctiously impressed with the donors — after all, the memo was written for their benefit.
And inclusion seems to be a big part of the memo: you’re such an important part of the party that you share in its internal memos. (Right: there’s also some great land for sale in Florida, just send a cheque.)
But to the meat of the whole thing: while Soudas says the Conservatives “triumphed” over the Liberals and NDP in fundraising in the last quarter, the party urgently needs more money — among other reasons, I guess, because of evil people like me.
“Because there’s so much anti-Conservative bias in the press and media, we have no choice but to deploy party resources to get the facts and truth out to the public about our success in creating 1,000,000 jobs, cutting 160 taxes and delivering budgets that aim to wipe out the deficit. Therefore, donations from our sustaining donors are absolutely essential in helping our daily outreach and communications efforts via mail, telephone, TV, radio, Internet, social media and more.”
“Irving, as you know, I recently wrote a personal letter to several of our best sustaining donors to introduce myself and request their support for Prime Minister Harper’s new Economic Action Plan 2014. I am so grateful that many responded. Our Conservative sustaining donors are the best!” (Here’s a question — how much buttering up can you do before the grease becomes blatantly obvious?)
The goal: to “ensure we don’t wake up on Oct. 20, 2015 with Justin Trudeau as prime minister.”
The ask? Well, apparently the party needs another $1.23 million in donations in the next 90 to 120 days to do things like “improve social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) plus engage websites, digital TV and other online communities to expand our grassroots outreach to deliver facts and truth about our superior Conservative policies and values.”
Well, how about those values? Because playing someone for a shill is still playing someone for a shill, no matter how much red ink you use to stamp “confidential” on it.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
news editor. He can be reached by email