Let the sunshine in...

Later this month, the provincial New Democrats will introduce a private members' bill seeking to ban corporate and union contributions to political parties. But, as I've already discussed, such a ban may actually make it harder to find out who is influencing our politicians - since the individual relationships and donations that would replace them are more difficult to track and report on. Instead, the New Democrats would be better advised to introduce legislation that will make parties and their fundraising activities more transparent. For example, parties should be required to publicly disclose:

* the individuals and companies contracted to do work for them and the amount they're paid. For example, last year the New Democrats spent $323,735 on research and polling. So, if the party wins a majority in the legislature, it might be worth knowing who did that work if they start winning contracts from the government;

* further details surrounding their fundraising functions - such as which elected officials were there and who contributed at them. For example, on September 17, 2009, 12 organizations and 18 individuals paid $2,500 per ticket to attend a fundraiser put on by the Liberals' Richmond-Steveston riding association. So wouldn't you want to know the names behind the numbers at that seemingly intimate event?;

* which constituency associations are responsible for what donations. Most associations raise money on behalf of their party rather than themselves. That means those contributions are recorded as having been received by the party rather than an association. So we don't know how much money they're taking in and from whom; and

* their staffers, officials and senior campaign workers. Such names occasionally show up in the media or news releases. But since a complete list doesn't exist, there's no means of knowing how many government appointees, for example, are also Liberal constituency association presidents.

It's these kind of reforms that will guard against the public interest being compromised by private interests - not banning corporate and union donations.

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