COVER

THE PRICE OF POWER

MONEY IS THE KEY TO MODERN CAMPAIGNS

BRUCE WALLACE February 5 1990
COVER

THE PRICE OF POWER

MONEY IS THE KEY TO MODERN CAMPAIGNS

BRUCE WALLACE February 5 1990

THE PRICE OF POWER

COVER

MONEY IS THE KEY TO MODERN CAMPAIGNS

One of the most valuable people in Jean Chrétien’s campaign organization has no powerful political connections, no public profile and no particular expertise in either government policy or campaign tactics. What Louis Friedman, a 50-year-old Sydney, N.S., furrier, does contribute is something far more basic to any political campaign: money. Friedman first met Chrétien nine years ago, when party officials asked the lifelong Cape Breton Liberal to drive the visiting politician—then federal minister of justice —from the Sydney airport to an inner cabinet meeting 100 km away at Keltic Lodge.

“The guy was so sincere,”

Friedman recalls, “that I fell in love with him right away.”

Since then, Friedman has remained an unabashed Chrétien supporter—and a proven member of his fund-raising network. “I do not go after the big $25,000 cheques,” he told Maclean’s. “But the ‘little man’ loves Jean. That makes it easy to collect cheques for $100, $200 or $500.” Now, as Chrétien and his rivals embark on their race for the party crown, supporters like Friedman are more sought-after than ever.

Money: Even in the era of electronic politics, the success of a campaign comes down to money. Beyond the traditional expenses of buttons, brochures and travel,

competitive candidates must -

now retain several full-time employees—including media advisers and pollsters—and equip them with computers to track the potential allegiances of convention delegates. Between Sept. 29—the date on which the leadership campaign was formally declared—and the June 23 leadership vote in Calgary, each candidate will be allowed to spend up to $1.7 million. That ceiling has been harshly criticized by some of the lesser-known candidates as excessive. But the Chrétien and Paul Martin campaign teams have complained that the spending limit is too low for an extended nine-month campaign. Still, every candidate’s strategists agree that raising the money is a demanding and uncertain task. Said John Rae, Chrétien’s

campaign chairman: “There is just not a lot of big money available for politics in Canada.” The relatively small money pool forces all the candidates to tap many of the same donors. Adding to the difficulty, they are trying to accomplish their goals in a climate of business restraint. Said Gordon Farquharson, a Toronto lawyer who is Chrétien’s national finance chairman: “I notice that people who contributed to

Jean’s 1984 campaign are giving the same amount or a little less than they did last time.” Indeed, one potential candidate, Winnipeg MP Lloyd Axworthy, blamed the financial squeeze when he announced last month that he was abandoning his leadership bid. Axworthy said that he was afraid of becoming mired in personal debt, as happened to 1984 contenders Donald Johnston and John Roberts.

But even the leaders may find their financial resources strained. Martin’s organizers point to the high cost of such mundane expenses as mailing: in December, his office distributed 6,500 pieces of campaign literature in one mailing at a cost of $3,300. And in the month leading up to their candidate’s formal entry into

the race, Chrétien’s organizers spent $200,000—most of it on polling and setting up provincial offices. At the same time, Chrétien’s staff said that they will probably need a further $500,000 for entertainment, communications equipment and other expenses at the four-day Calgary convention itself.

The fund-raising job is complicated by a party regulation aimed at the biggest campaign spenders. For every dollar over $250,000 that a candidate spends, another 20 cents must be donated to the party, which itself remains $4 million in debt. As a result, any candidate who spends the full $1.7 million must actually raise $1.99 million, with $290,000 of that amount going to the party coffers.

Complicated: The party has also set what Senator Daniel Hays, co-chairman of the expenses committee, described as “detailed and onerous” rules for accounting for the money that the candidates raise and spend. The party will compel the candidates—no matter when they formally launch their campaigns—to report all campaign spending since Sept. 29, the only exception being some travel expenses. The g value of goods and services § donated to campaigns must £ also be declared, along with § the names of individual donors who gave over $100. Party executives say they will reveal during the June convention whether the candidates have met those spending rules. Acknowledged Hays: “We expect some rough spots.”

Certainly, the pressure to spend is unyielding. One Martin aide was besieged in Toronto this month by a supporter who argued that the campaign should hire a full-time organizer just to woo support among Liberal members of the city’s Greek community. The request was turned down. But as the balloting nears, the temptation to match a rival’s every gimmick —whether it is a daily convention newsletter or equipping key operatives with extra walkietalkies—will become difficult to resist.

BRUCE WALLACE in Montreal