The $400K gamble

Runner-up Paul Antle paid $274K out of his own pocket during Liberal leadership race

James McLeod
Published on December 2, 2013
Liberal leadership hopeful Paul Antle and his wife, Renee Marquis Antle, sit amid supporters at the Nov. 17 Liberal leadership convention in St. John’s. Antle placed second to Dwight Ball with 41 per cent of the vote to Ball’s 59 per cent. — File photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Paul Antle spent $438,000 on his run for Liberal leadership campaign, and the majority of that money came out of his own pocket.

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Liberal leadership race ended and Antle has been wrapping up his campaign finances; he raised $163,650 from donors, and paid $274,426 out of his own money during the 4 1/2 month campaign.

“It really did exceed where I thought it would be when we started,” Antle told The Telegram. “I thought it would cost maybe $200,00-250,000 when we started. We came in at $438,000 — which is a lot higher than I thought it would be.”

Antle was the runner-up in the Liberal leadership campaign. On the final ballot, he got 41 per cent of the vote, compared to Dwight Ball who won with 59 per cent.

The biggest chunk of money raised by Antle during the campaign came from corporate donations. He received 43 donations from corporations and 33 donations from individual people.

Eight different corporations gave $10,000 donations to Antle, another company gave  $7,500 and four companies gave $5,000 donations to the campaign.

The biggest donation that came from an individual was $5,000.

Antle provided a list of the amounts and the dates that he received the cash, but he wouldn’t identify his donors. He said when people gave him the money, they didn’t know their names would be disclosed, and he has to respect that confidentiality.

“I have gone back to some of the corporate donors and asked them, and they said no,” he said. “They said there was no requirement for disclosure, there was no tax receipt, and it’s over, so we’d just prefer to remain anonymous.”

Looking back on how things went, Antle said that some big changes need to be made when it comes to the money side of the Liberal leadership campaign.

“The party could have put in place some spending limits, just to level the playing field for everybody,” he said.

At this point, Antle said he thinks that the government really needs to make party leadership campaigns part of the Elections Act, and institute a system similar to the rules that apply to a general election campaign.


Tax receipts should be issued

Antle said tax receipts should be issued to donors, spending limits should be enshrined in law and all donations over a certain threshold should be publicly disclosed.

“That creates a very level playing field for candidates, and it also provides a level of disclosure to the public,” he said.

“It’s a much more intense process, but it certainly takes away that perception that a political official is having to give favour because someone gave a large donation.”

When the Liberal party drew up its rules for the leadership it didn’t include any guidelines whatsoever about money. That made for a big-spending race where each of the three frontrunners spent hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Unlike a general election or a party donation, nobody who gave money to any of the campaigns got a tax receipt. Antle said he firmly believes that people putting their money up to encourage the political process should get a tax benefit for it.


Awkward situations

The system has made for an awkward situation where politicians have taken thousands in donations, but the public doesn’t know who that money is coming from.

Ball has said he’s still pulling together his campaign finance numbers, and he’ll release the dollar figures similar to what Antle did, but he won’t commit to releasing the names of the people who gave money to his campaign.

Ball has said the amounts of money he raised from individuals are so small that nobody will think he’s beholden to anyone.

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