Last week, Fast Forward Weekly ran a story about when mayoral hopeful Naheed Nenshi would release his list of campaign donors.
The day he declared his mayoralty intention on May 27th, Nenshi said he would “immediately” unveil his donors on a weekly basis — yet, so far, nothing, which is what we noted in the story.
And last week, team Nenshi shot back, saying it was always his intention to release a list of donors on nomination day, September 20.
When Nenshi called me, he said it was “murky” campaign legislation that the province recently passed that prompted him to hold off from announcing his campaign donors.
“The advice I got from the volunteer lawyers on my team… the implication is that if I got hit by a bus today and I never made it to nomination day, then my last dying wish would be give the donors back their money because we never ran,” he said. “But if we disclose, it’s not entirely clear whether the donors’ money is then deemed to be held in trust for the campaign which means you can’t give it back because the new rules around the surplus are such that you have to donate the surplus.”
Fellow mayoral candidate, MLA and lawyer Kent Hehr, who was the first of the mayoralty candidates to release his donor list last week, says that explanation “sounds to me more like a crock than anything.”
“I don’t get the logic here…. What money back?” says Hehr. “If the guy has spent everything on T-shirts, slogans, stickers on the campaign, what money would he have to give back?”
Hehr’s squad of campaign lawyers went through the provincial rules governing municipal campaign financing and came up with an entirely different conclusion. “Not once have they expressed any reason or rationale to me why I wouldn’t be able to disclose my donors,” says Hehr.
Donors part with their dollars with the understanding that candidates will spend their money on whatever is needed to win the race. Expecting a refund is unheard of, says Hehr. “My donors have no expectation of receiving any money back and I think that’s pretty clear to me and actually anyone who gives to a political campaign, that money is not given back,” he says.
There are three reasons why candidates hesitate to disclose their donors, says Hehr.
“One, you got a whole bunch of n’er do wells that have contributed to your campaign and you don’t want the public to know. Second is, you have a whole bunch of business interests who are trying to use you as a pawn and you don’t want to disclose. Or third, you have no money and you don’t want people to know you have no money.”
So, in this case, is it A, B or C?