This Campaign Fund Racket

GEORGE M. MURRAY November 1 1931

This Campaign Fund Racket

GEORGE M. MURRAY November 1 1931

This Campaign Fund Racket

A campaign manager explains why there must be Money in Politics


HUGE campaign funds have become the usual thing in Canadian elections because of the growing tendency of the average citizen to shirk from bearing a share of the burden of creating and maintaining decent government.

If all the facts were brought out, I think it could be proved that the average Canadian voter is indirectly responsible for the Beauharnois campaign fund scandal. If $1,000,000 or more went to party war chests from the coffers of the power corporation which depended upon the cooperation of Dominion and Provincial Governments for its success, the money was undoubtedly used to whip up the interest of the average voter in the policies for conduct of public affairs championed by party leaders of the day.

Many of those who have condemned Senator Andrew Hayden for having accepted $900,000 at one time from Beauharnois, ostensibly for the use of the National Liberal party, forget that Senator Hayden, as head of an organizing committee for that party, had on his hands the organization of 245 electoral ridings throughout the Dominion for the election of 1930. A similar task confronted Major-General A. D. McRae, Conservative organizer.

If Senator Hayden, from the Beauharnois contribution of $900,000, deposited the money to his account and issued a cheque to each Liberal organizer in those 245 constituencies, then each organization would have exactly $3,673.45 upon which to run thp campaign. In other words, as elections are run today, each candidate would barely have enough money to defray the legitimate cost of his campaign. In many of the ridings he would require at least twice as much.

Many a self-satisfied voter who condemns Senator Hayden, Senator W. L. McDougald, Senator Raymond and

others of the political organizers who had to do with Beauharnois campaign contributions would be forced to confess that in the last election he did not give a five-cent piece to any political organization, did not even lend his motor car on election day to help his candidate, or did not so much as attend a public meeting to cheer on the man he believed was upholding right and honor in the constituency. Indeed, many of those who roundly condemn the present party system and express lack of confidence in present day leaders, were so taken up with their own affairs that they did not find time to vote on election day.

In rare instances do citizens come forward to support candidates by giving a few dollars toward election expenses or a few evenings’ work in carrying along routine organization. There are cases where men have contributed the use of a motor car on election day. But there are many more cases of people who have sent a motor car and driver and the next day mailed in a bill for services at the usual taxicab rates. There are not a few instances where persons have contributed privately on the express understanding that a brother, son, sister or some other near relative should get a comfortable Government job in the event of the party being returned to power.

Examination of the activities of many of the so-called political clubs will reveal that membership is usually made up of individuals who pay one dollar a year or thereabouts into the treasury. The sum is at once used up in secretarial expenses and entertainment. Of course an exception must be made in the case of some of the United Farmer groups in the West, where very often election campaign expenses are borne wholly by members of the local associations in the various ridings.

Because of the apathy of the average voter so far as public affairs are concerned, the campaign fund business has grown to the dimensions of a racket of the first order. The cost of

getting into Parliament is usually so high that the average man of modest means, no matter how great his ability, how noble his ideals or how genuine his patriotism, simply refuses to make himself a sacrifice. The country is therefore deprived of the services of many citizens who are best qualified for careers of public service. '

Typical Election Budget

TET ME present some facts bearing upon a recent election contest in a rural community where an upstanding young man sought election to the Provincial Legislature. When it is remembered that there are forty-six other ridings in that province, you can estimate that a provincial general election there must cost someone a great deal of money.

In the campaign in this rural riding, the campaign manager told me that more than $4,000 was spent, every penny legitimately. Here are some of the items which he gave me:

Rent of twenty-eight halls in the district at $10. . . $280

Printing dodgers for meetings at $5 each hall...... 140

Hiring lads to distribute literature............... 140

Transportation of speakers to twenty-eight

meetings.................................. 140

Cost of music for larger meetings................ 50

Printing street banners for each meeting.......... 200

Radio costs for weekly broadcast................ 200

Newspaper advertising for meetings.............. 500


“In this list I have included only the items deemed absolutely necessary,” the campaign manager told me. “Of the amount $1,650 you can see that not a cent is wasted.

“A candidate in that riding must spend $2,000 before he can barely get his cause before the public,” he went on. “If he is a poor man financially, he must leave his place in the

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office, factory or at the farm, and lose his time during the campaign of two months.

“During that period,” the campaign manager asked, “how is he to dress himself respectably for the platform? Who is going to pay his hotel bills? Who is to drive him from town to town and from meeting to meeting? Add to the $1,650 you have there a few more figures:

Employing man in candidate's job at $5

a day.............................$ 300

New suit, overcoat, etc................ 200

Cost of motor car for campaign, oil, gas . 300

Hotel room and board of candidate while

away from home................... 300


“There you have another $1,100 to be added,” went on the manager, “and again I say that not a penny is wasted. It isn’t right that a young man should have to put up the money himself, mortgage his home and deprive his wife and family of barest necessities in order that he may sit in the Legislature.”

Items so far given apparently did not include money for the real machinery of the campaign. Your candidate may make his speeches, meet the voters, but who is to get out the vote on election day? Who is to see that all names are on the voters’ list, particularly names of persons friendly to the candidate? The average voter is too careless of his responsibilities to see personally that his name is on the lists of electors.

Keeping Voters’ Lists Clean

IT TAKES time to canvass rural districts and to keep voters’ lists up to date. Someone has to do this, and that someone is the party organizer. Supposing the dead wood is not cleared from the voters’ list; by this is meant names of persons dead or removed from the riding—it would then be possible for a crooked opposition to import pluggers to work on election day. It is a matter of record that in certain notorious elections throughout Canada names of persons long in the cemeteries were voted.

To keep lists clean and up to date requires much clerical work. In the riding here mentioned, $500 was apportioned to this er.d of the campaign.

In that riding, days before the election, the campaign committee had a complete record of all men and women who were lively to vote Liberal, Conservative, Labor or Independent. Having such a complete record, the task of getting out the right vote was simplified. The committee brought out all their admitted friends early on the date of voting. When all the faithful had been voted, the rest of the day was given over to getting out voters likely to be friendly.

“You may add another $500 for transportation costs on election day,” said the man who managed the campaign. “We had a few cars at each polling division, some of them volunteered. We preferred to have paid cars because the men you pay will go about as you direct them, while the volunteers waste too much time and will not obey orders.

“Adding the $500 for transportation, the campaign in that one riding had cost $3,750!

“And remember this,” said my informant, “I did not purchase one bottle of liquor or one campaign cigar. I have not used a penny to corrupt a single voter. I have spent no money for fixing ballot boxes, plugging, juggling the voters’ lists, or doing any of the evil things which old-time campaigners have done in the past.

“Here are a few items which must be met after I have spent $3,750. I shall pay for new tires for a motor car owned by a brother of the candidate. I had to do this to enable that weak-kneed individual to get out and work for us. '

“Nearly every one of his nearest friends, including the candidate’s pastor, had to have some repair work done on their cars before they could help out much.

“I had to bail out the wayward son of a certain family. He was arrested for being drunk, and I have a suspicion that the liquor came from our opposition. I helped the boy out in order to make our man strong with a certain community. The boy jumped his bail.

“I had to give a church organization $25 bonus for their hall. We wanted it for a meeting the night the ladies' aid had set aside for a tea meeting in aid of the starving children of interior China.

“My long distance telephone bill was well over $100, to say nothing of cost of telegrams arranging speakers for meetings.

“There was an old printers’ account of $500 which had to be paid. This had been run up by the candidate at a previous election and the printer, owner of a weekly paper, threatened to denounce us if we didn’t come through.”

Cost of Hangers-on

WE IIAD overrun the $4,000 limit set,” said the politician, “and costs continued to pile up. Hangers-on add to the expense of elections. There is, for example, the fellow who calls you out behind the garage and whispers to you that he can for $100 deliver 200 votes of employees at a certain mill. If you are wise you jolly him along, give him about $25 on account, and wish him well. If you turn him down, he will do you dirt. If he gets the money, you will never see him again before election and he will keep the money in his pocket.

“Take the single item of mailing circulars to voters,” he continued. “Supposing there are 5,000 voters on the list and you wish to send a letter to each voter. The stamps alone will set you back $150. The envelopes and printed matter may run you into ten cents each, depending on the style and quantity of material going into each letter. There is another $500 gone to help the cause of a candidate who may be a very worthy man. In this instance you have not paid a small army of persons employed to fold the material for the circular letter, to stuff it in and gum the flap of the envelope. You have not paid another contingent for copying the names and addresses from the voters’ list and innocently writing in pen and ink the name of the voter and his address on each envelope ; pen and ink, because if it’s typed or mimeographed, after one glance the ratepayers receiving it may toss the entire package into the wastepaper basket.

“In election campaigns there is a tendency on the part of everyone having anything to do with the campaign—regardless of party stripe—to work the campaign fund for all it’s worth. Men and women who would be scrupulously honest in everyday transactions will endeavor to secure by fair means or foul as much as possible from a political campaign committee.”

A candidate for Provincial or Dominion honors is usually chosen at a party convention. In some ridings the honor of winning out at the nominating convention is not to be regarded lightly. There is usually keen competition. That means at once that someone is putting up money. If a man is persuaded by friends and neighbors that he is Provincial or Federal material, he must scheme some way of getting himself favorably before the party convention. That means days of visiting delegates, attending district meetings and lining up the faithful. Often the party convention is the most difficult hurdle in the race for Parliamentary honors. I am told that some candidates have spent as much capturing the primary convention as they did later in being elected.

Many readers will say that $4,000 is a large sum to spend on a provincial riding. Let us agree for the moment that in the riding referred to we have been extravagant with our expenditures. Let us reduce the figure one half; better, let us reduce it to one quarter. Let us say that the cost was merely $1,000.

What young man can afford to take $1,000

and spend it upon a political campaign? Is it fair to ask a young farmer to place a mortgage on his farm for $1,000 to raise money to enable him to go up and down the roads seeking election support?

Is it fair, on the other hand, to bar that young man, if he has proper qualifications, from entering public life because he has not $1,000 to pay election expenses?

Big Town Politics

TF ELECTIONS are expensive in rural

districts, they are doubly so in the great cities. A large city auditorium will cost from $250 to $500 for a single meeting. When a Prime Minister, a leader of the Opposition or a Cabinet Minister speaks, the rule is to give him the most dignified hall in the city. I have seen as much as $1,500 paid for a hall, two-thirds of which went to buy out a theatrical performance billed for the same night as the political meeting at that hall.

Nor is $500 the total expense of hiring a large city auditorium. The meeting must be advertised, and this will cost at least $500. Nothing hurts a campaign like a poorly attended rally in a large hall. Organizers, therefore, strain every sinew to make their important meeting a success. Newspaper space is bought, billboards are used, even street railway and radio advertising is resorted to. A brass band is often hired the night of the meeting to play through the streets behind banners announcing the great

Another item in connection with a city meeting is decoration of the auditorium. Flags must be displayed; portraits, banners and party slogans strung about on the walls. These all help to create the right atmosphere for a rousing speech from the great man. This alone may cost $500.

Hiring an orchestra to play patriotic airs while the public is assembling at the hall may cost $100. Hiring ushers will go to another $100. And if the speeches are to be broadcast, the radio bill is heavy.

And here is another little item which sometimes gets into the expense sheet— hiring of handclappers to be placed at strategic points of vantage in the body of the hall. You may laugh outright at this, but hired handclappers have been known to turn the tide of battle at a major meeting. Especially is the hired applause valuable when opposition hecklers get into the hall. When the heckler puts across embarrassing questions, the well-trained worker from his place in the body of the hall may arise and denounce the heckler, shout “Put him out” or “Sit down” or some other appropriate exclamation.

Some Genial Liars

IN A well-organized political campaign I have seen workers paid to go about the city engaging here and there in conversations with citizens who have nothing else to do but listen. Supposing the worker is a Conservative and washes to help the Conservative candidate, he will pick up an argument and, in winding up his side of the conversation, he will say with a very righteous air;

“Well, I'm a Liberal. Have voted Grit all my life, but this time I'm going to vote for the Conservatives on personal grounds only. He’s such a fine man and such an honest . . .” A dozen men going about a city unloading such propaganda in hotel lobbies, on the rear of street cars or on the street corners do valuable work. Funds must be provided for these men and someone must put up the money.

There is another source of expense which was added to elections when women got the vote—the political tea. To get closer to the women vote, an astute organizer will arrange with the wife of a prominent lawyer in the party, or any woman of high social standing, to give a tea probably in behalf of some women’s political club. To the swell house, women of all classes and conditions are invited. The only qualification is that their names are on the voters’ list. There is music and there is tea, sandwiches and cakes. When things are in full swing, cued by his campaign manager the candidate and his

wife, if he has one, make their appearance. The candidate explains that “He has just dropped in,” shakes hands all round and goes. The cost of this little play for the women’s vote will run as high as $350, and it is often well worth it.

Talk At $40 a Minute

"pOR the first time in Canadian history,

party leaders in the last election used a coast-to-coast radio hook-up on several occasions. Few citizens realized that when either Mr. Bennett or Mr. King were growing eloquent before the microphone at Ottawa or elsewhere, the cost to either the Conservative or Liberal campaign committees was in the neighborhood of $2,500 an hour. Who pays for this service to the Canadian people? Hard pressed organizers had to find the money so that the average citizen might have the fullest possible opportunity of casting an intelligent vote on election day. Would the average radio listener be prepared to pay a portion of the cost of such a broadcast? He would probably be very angry if the cost of such campaign items were added directly to his income tax.

While the big guns of the party use the national hook-up. candidates in each of the ridings use radio freely during the campaign. They pay usually $50 per hour for the privilege of making pre-election pledges before a microphone.

Our grandfathers walked through the woods many miles to hear Alexander Mackenzie or Sir John A. Macdonald. Sir Oliver Mowat or Sir George Cartier. But nowadays we insist upon having the voices of the leaders brought to us at our firesides.

If the people insist upon such service, then it should be perfectly fair that before, after and during the party speech, the announcer should boldly broadcast a few words along the following lines.

“Unseen friends, you are now listening to the Right Honorable John Henry Jones, leader of the—party, who is speaking to you from Ottawa. This speech comes to you through the courtesy of the Canadian Contracting Company, of Quebec—Build that new home now.”

Perhaps Mr. Bennett paid out of his pocket a large portion of the expenses of the Conservative campaign which resulted in making him Prime Minister of Canada. Splendid as this may be, where is a man of modest means, and perhaps ability, equal to that of the Premier and of equally unquestioned integrity and patriotism, to look for the means of getting his message over to the people who do the voting?

Suppose you have a constituency like John A. Fraser’s, Conservative M.P. for the Cariboo in British Columbia. This riding extends from the Nicola Valley in Southern British Columbia over 1,000 miles due north. It embraces the entire Peace River Block and its 3,000.000 acres or more. To visit every part of the Cariboo would take a man every day for a year. How does Mr. Fraser do it? To get from Merritt to Dawson Creek, one would require to cross the Selkirks and Rocky Mountains, travel nearly the full length of the Province of Alberta and then turn back toward the mountains 1,000 miles north of Merritt. It would require an airplane, dog team, river boat, and special train to get a candidate around Cariboo in the course of the usual campaign period-

Mr. Fraser happens to be a prosperous merchant at Quesnel, B.C., and may be able to spend large sums on his campaign. How could a poor labor man get about such a riding? How could an impoverished candidate of any party, without having the help of a full campaign chest?

It is the same in the North Vancouver

riding or the Skeena riding. Here you are on the sea coast. Many of your voters are away on islands, engaged in fishing or logging. To get about, a candidate needs a boat, and a stout boat at that.

General A. D. McRae, Conservative organizer in the last Dominion election, used a private yacht to get about in his first campaign in Vancouver North. Being a wealthy man, he could afford such conveniences without aid from any central fund. To match him, G. G. McGeer, K.C., his young Liberal opponent, was compelled to charter a tugboat, which must have cost at least $100 a day in addition to hire of crew.

Eliminating Old Methods


at first hand the operation of a system which was devised to keep a party free from the manipulations of campaign fund collectors. In the Peace River riding, a provincial nominating convention was being held by the United Farmers of Alberta. When the farmers in the hall, representing some sixty local U. F. A. groups, had decided upon Hugh Allen as their candidate, the question of funds came up.

“I move,” said one delegate, “that we assess every one of our 2,500 members one dollar each to create a fund for the election, and that the money be paid at once.”

There was a seconder and the motion carried. Another motion provided for another assessment at one dollar per head to be made when the candidate began his campaign. That would have given them $5,000 of a war chest, hardly enough to take care of the barest expense in a constituency almost as large as all of Western Ontario.

"They will have no expense for halls,” the candidate told me after the convention. “We meet at schoolhouses or at our own halls. The U. F. A. tries to keep busy between elections and we own a community hall in nearly every important centre. We also have our own system of putting out literature. We own our own mimeographing machines for printing letters and circulars. We plan to have our own printing presses so as to reduce costs. Moreover, through our own official journals we keep up the fight between elections. In that way our membership is kept well informed on matters of public interest.”

Imagine the Liberals of a riding like North Oxford getting together and agreeing to assess themselves so much per head in order to make up a campaign fund for their candidate! Imagine the Conservatives of Three Rivers giving from one to three dollars each toward the cost of the recent byelection! Imagine the so-called labor supporters of Angus Maclnnis, M.P. for Vancouver South, putting up a campaign fund collected as Hugh Allen’s supporters did at Peace River !

Major Political Scandals

V\ THILE Beauharnois has attracted at* » tention because of the magnitude of contributions to party funds, the system of financing political groups in the manner revealed last month at Ottawa is as old as the Dominion itself.

Manitoba, in the early years of this century, experienced one political scandal after another. Guaranteeing of railway promoters’ bonds gave rise to frequent charges, in and out of the Legislature, of wrong-doing in high places.

Charges of graft in connection with public works were repeatedly made until finally a millionaire contractor in the city of Winnipeg was arrested in connection with contracts carried out by his company in the

building of the Provincial Parliament Buildings and a Premier was made defendant in a famous lawsuit.

The last Government in Saskatchewan went out of office in a cloud of charges made in connection with highway construction. In Alberta, railway promotion has been the source of numerous scandals. The collapse of the old Rutherford Government came on the heels of charges of political corruption made by the Right Hon. R. B. Bennett, while a member of the Alberta Legislature, regarding the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway.

British Columbia has been shaken with political scandals of provincial origin. There was the blow-up over campaign contributions made by promoters of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway, a road enjoying provincial guarantee of bonds.

There was some similarity between the Beauharnois exposure of 1931 and the Pacific scandal of 1873, to which reference was made in the last issue of Maclean’s.

Thanks to such able organizers as the late Hon. James Sutherland, Minister of Public Works, Sir Wilfrid Lauriers house was usually in good order. Mr. Sutherland was a Scotsman from Zorra, Ontario, and combined with Scottish shrewdness in money matters a gift for political organization which saved Sir Wilfrid from personal worry over funds. Yet the Laurier administration had its dark moments. There were the Saskatchewan land deals, the Yukon scandals, the Grand Trunk Pacific charges, and many others.

In the old days the party chests depended upon public works contracts, railway franchises, land grants, the wine and spirit industry, the lumber industry and donations of one kind or another from private business enterprises. Then, as now, some money came in from disinterested persons; that is, disinterested so far as desiring to influence legislation. There were motives such as family pride behind many a donation.

Today, party managers have many more sources of funds than they had in 1873. The trend of industrial and commercial development increases the lists of those seeking favors from Government. Funds nowadays may be sought from companies engaged in the pulp and paper industry, oil development, mineral exploitation, electrical power developments. Even aviation and radio may be regarded as sources for seeking out sinews of political war.

No statistician has as yet come forward to reveal the exact number of millions of dollars which have been collected for political purposes in Canada; and the people never will know how much of the money collected has found its way to the objective for which it was given.

Certain it is that campaign collectors pay no income tax upon sums they take in, and no profits or other tax upon sums which they keep in their pockets.

The Beauharnois exposure may do good if it stimulates the rank and file of Canadian citizens to take a keener interest in political affairs of the country. So long as the average citizen neglects to take his proper share of responsibility in the conduct of public affairs, just so long will party leaders be compelled to fall back upon campaign managers and campaign funds for assistance. The Right Hon. Mr. Mackenzie King stated frankly in the House of Commons that his party was in the valley of humiliation as a result of the disclosures made by the committee investigating the Beauharnois scandal. It is not the Liberal party alone which is in the valley of humiliation. It is the Canadian people. So long as the average citizen neglects his political duties, so long will campaign managers continue to have a major voice in directing public policy. So long as funds for carrying out election work come from corporations and individuals having dealings with the Government, so long will the influence of the political lobbyist in the corridors of parliament outweigh the decisions of our elected representatives.

Another article suggesting remedies for the conditions outlined above, written by “A Defunct Politician,’’ will appear in an early issue. —The Editor.

The Editor