Cullen Momentum Threatening Mulcair, NDP Leadership Donation Data Suggests

March 7th, 2012

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[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

A closer look at monthly donation data in the NDP Leadership race suggests that Nathan Cullen's momentum may see him overtake Thomas Mulcair in the next week, if current trends prevail. More people gave money to Cullen than Dewar, Mulcair or Nash in the first 18 days of February, and he raised nearly as much money as the front-runner Mulcair over the same period.

The Headline News

Cullen's share of the Total Number of Contributions from the beginning of February to the filing of the last financial report (end of business on February 18) moved him ahead of Dewar and Mulcair (27% of all the contributions made vs. 19% for the other two) compared with January, while Mulcair remains ahead of Cullen in the share of Total Fundraising (26% of the total funds raised vs. 24%) over the same time period of time.

Of course, a new frontrunner means a new target, and a whole new level of scrutiny. If we've learned nothing else from the GOP primary season down south this year, it's that.

Unfortunately for Cullen's national prospects, however, the lion's share of that money (some 74.8% of it) is coming from BC. Still Cullen is not the only leadership candidate with a regional base of financial support as we'll see in a minute.

Over the course of the entire leadership race, Cullen's take still places him fifth, but his fundraising has been accelerating in recent weeks. Nevertheless, early favourite Brian Topp still remains in a strong second place. The next weekly report is due on Saturday.

The data for this analysis is contained in the detailed reporting of the leadership contestants' reports filed with Elections Canada on the weekend. The last of the donor geographical information was just posted late on Tuesday afternoon.


The Fundraising Primer

First a primer on how financial data is reported in a leadership race, as opposed to the other donations data we're used to seeing (skip down if you are only interested in the bottom line).

  1. Leadership candidates (or "leadership contestants" as they are called under the Elections Act) have to file a one-time Registration Report with Elections Canada, which gives various items of information, and includes a report of any contributions or loans made to the campaign *at the time of registration*.
  2. Leadership candidates can technically accept contributions in one of two ways:
    1. Directly to their campaign (called "Direct contributions"), in which case the donation is not eligible for a federal political tax credit.
    2. Passed through the political party's national office (confusingly called "DirectED contributions"), in which case the donation is eligible for a tax credit, and the party may also retain a share of the funds. The NDP, in the rules it established for this leadership race, decreed that all contributions to leadership contestants must be passed through the party (except for "pass the hat" small contributions, which would be reported under (i) above), and it is keeping 15% of the directed contributions in order to cover the costs of running the leadership race.
  3. All leadership contributions directed through the party are reportable by name. This is different from the case with direct contributions to a leadership contestant, which follow the same rules as for a party, riding association, election candidate or nomination contestant, whereby only contributors giving more than $200 in a reporting period are named. Of course, in both cases all the other information must be reported for named contributors as well, such as the date of the contribution, and the contributor's city, province and postal code.
  4. Contributions made to a leadership contestant are reported in six different places:
    1. By the political party on Part 2(b) of its quarterly and annual financial returns. This is how we knew about the leadership contestants' fundraising performance (or the lion's share of it at least) up to December 31, 2011, because the party had to report the directed contributions in its third and fourth quarter returns of 2011. Note that the amount of directed contributions to leadership contestants is in addition to the fundraising reported by the party itself on Part 2(a), and is not included in its party fundraising totals. Also note that no direct contributions to leadership candidates would be seen here, such as "pass the hat" small contributions made prior to the end of 2011.
    2. By the leadership contestant on his or her "Registration Report" (see A above), if any to begin with. Nathan Cullen was the only candidate to report pre-registration fundraising, but all those contributions were subsequently reported elsewhere, as they occurred after the launch of the leadership contest.
    3. Cumulatively, by the leadership contestant on his or her first "Weekly Contributions Report", covering the period from the beginning of the contest to four weeks before the vote. These are the reports that started to show up on Saturday night, and which I analyze below. Direct contributions, including "pass the hat" small contributions, are reported on Part 2(a), while contributions directed through the political party are reported on Part 2(b) of these reports.
    4. Incrementally one week at a time after that, in the next three weekly contribution reports leading up to voting day, and
    5. Comprehensively, by the leadership contestant, together with all campaign and candidate personal expenses, in a "Final Return", filed six months after the end of the campaign.
    6. Comprehensively, by any leadership contestant with outstanding financial obligations, in "Interim Reports" filed every six months thereafter with the Chief Electoral Officer (for example, here are the Interim Reports for the 2006 Liberal Leadership contest).

So, to get a complete picture of the contributions made to leadership candidates in the NDP leadership race, you need to total:

  • any contributions made prior to the start of the leadership contest on their Registration reports, plus
  • any contributions made directly to the candidate and directed through the party, as reported in the first of the weekly reports, plus
  • any subsequent contributions reported in each of the next three weekly incremental reports, plus
  • any contributions not previously reported (i.e., from the last week of the leadership contest, or after voting day) as shown in the Final Report and/or any subsequent Interim Reports filed until all outstanding financial obligations have been cleared.

Or, to keep it simple, you can just leave the heavy-lifting to me.


The Fundraising Totals

Here are the totals for each candidate to date:

Gross Fundraising by NDP Leadership Candidate, by category, to February 18, 2012

Small, Direct
[Part 2(a)]
[Part 2(b)]
$Amt Num $Avg $Amt Num $Avg $Amt Num $Avg
ALL 7,604 7,171 1.06 1,088,413 4,368 249.18 1,096,016 11,539 94.98
* Amounts reported before the 15% retained by the NDP to cover leadership race costs.
** To Dec 31, 2011. Figures taken from Part 2(b) of Dec, 2011 quarterly NDP financial return, as withdrawn candidates have not filed weekly returns.
TM 3,530 342 10.32 238,003 1,005 236.82 241,533 1,347 179.31
BT 1,200 460 2.61 213,982 524 408.36 215,182 984 218.68
PD 169,598 782 216.88 169,598 782 216.88
PN 629 60 10.48 163,318 667 244.85 163,947 727 225.51
NC 973 199 4.89 151,274 924 163.72 152,247 1,123 135.57
MS 662 5,950 0.11 65,916 156 422.54 66,577 6,106 10.90
NA 610 160 3.81 33,370 159 209.87 33,980 319 106.52
RC**   n/a   35,400 64 553.13 35,400 64 553.13
RS**   n/a   17,552 87 201.75 17,552 87 201.75

First a few notes on the totals:

  • Since the NDP does not allow direct contributions to leadership candidates, the only Part 2(a) amounts shown here are "Pass the Hat" amounts, which take a bit of explanation in terms of how they're reported. Basically, if you pass the hat at one or more events, you have to record both the total collected, and the total attendance. The attendance is then reported as the number of contributors. So, for example, say Martin Singh attended a series of events at which a total of 5,950 people attended and where his campaign passed the hat for donations: it looks as though 5,950 people contributed to his campaign, at an average of 11 cents each. Now I guess you could count the total number of contributors for each candidate and pretend that it's a good indicator of organization, but to me it just looks as though someone couldn't raise much out of "pass the hat" operations in a big room, so I'm not sure that's very predictive. Probably better to stick to the number of contributors in the other categories instead.
  • In my earlier blogpost on money, I reported on the number of contribuTIONs (i.e., line items), because that was all that was available to go on from the third and fourth quarter party reports. In the weekly reports, the candidates have to report on the actual number of contribuTORs (i.e., consider that a contributor might have made more than one contribution). These are the numbers now reported above (except for Messrs. Chisholm and Saganash who do not have weekly filings, and thus I'm taking their number of contribuTIONs data from the Dec 2011 filings instead). In practice there were 249 more contributions than contributors, so the gap between the two figures is not too big. To get really complicated, a given contributor could have given to more than one campaign as well, which wouldn't have been caught in either tabulation.
  • It follows, then, that if the number of donors data is wonky because of distorted "pass the hat" contributor counts, one should really read the overall average contribution size with a lot of scepticism as well, if what you're looking for is an indicator of success. The most obvious example again is the financial situation of Martin Singh, whose 5,950 "pass the hat contributors" donated an average of 11 cents each, while his other 156 contributors gave an average of $422.54. I guess we could say that he had an average donation size of $10.90, but it would likely mislead us as to the breadth of his organization, or the skewness of that dataset.
  • Finally, the totals above won't match the Elections Canada totals reported on their site, because Elections Canada sums up *all* direct contributions, plus only the transferred portion of the directed contributions (i.e., net of the party's 15% cut). To me, that's adding apples and oranges, but enough of the Cullen plan … ;-)

In light of those cautions, we see that Thomas Mulcair has pulled ahead of Brian Topp in the amount raised by their respective campaigns ($242K vs $215K), and Paul Dewar has pulled slightly ahead of Peggy Nash (170K vs 164K), but that Nathan Cullen finds himself not that far behind now ($152K).

Moreover, while Mulcair again claims the greatest number of named contributors (see above to understand why I'm not counting the total contributors), Cullen has passed the others and snuck up on him (924 to Mulcair's 1,005), and is followed a ways back by Dewar, then Nash, then Topp (782 vs 667 vs 524).

Now, as mentioned above, here's where it gets interesting. Let's look again at the candidates' cumulative fundraising over time (since this analysis depends on dates, and since no dates are reported for "pass the hat" donations, it includes the directed Part 2(b) contributions only):

[Click on image for full-sized version]

You can see that Mulcair pulled ahead of Topp in the last month or so, in parallel with the growth in Cullen's fundraising success. More recently, Paul Dewar was able to put a bit more distance between himself and Peggy Nash.

Now no sooner had the media started reporting the fundraising figures, or me tweeting the initial graph, when campaigns started getting in touch to advise us of what was in their pipelines and did not get included. Peggy Nash's team says that another $20,000 is yet to be reported, Paul Dewar's team claimed total fundraising of $171,000 in their "Paul Dewar By the Numbers — Priceless" release yesterday, and Nathan Cullen's campaign hinted that their next fundraising report would also shake up people's perception of the race. But, hey, we've got to save something for next week, right.

The Monthly Timelines

But more insight is gained by looking at both fundraising performance and number of donations by month. And, remembering that the percent of the fundraising take predicted to within 2.5% of the final outcome in the 2003 leadership race, the changing shares of the total money raised this time does seem to mirror many observers' soundings of the changing state of the race.

Monthly shares of total fundraising by NDP Leadership candidate, to February 18, 2012, Part 2(b) Directed Contributions only

Cand 2011 2012 Tot
Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan to Feb 18
All 11,850
TM   11,256
BT 11,850
PD   15,690
PN   4,275
NC   2,100
MS   1,356
NA       10,485

This all looks more dramatic on a chart, so let's look again at all the different ways to view this dataset. One caution to bear in mind, however, is that we are only comparing 18 days of February to full months in all other cases except last September, and so any conclusions drawn should be tentative until next week's tallies are reported and included.

First of all, the monthly fundraising of each leadership contestant.

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

Here we see that after building to a strong year-end for most candidates, January and February established a new but lower equilibrium for most of them, with only Nathan Cullen substantially bucking the trend in total dollars raised. This counter-trend is what saw Cullen's share of the total start to move upwards toward Thomas Mulcair's.

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

Cullen's burst of fundraising in February was largely the result of a big hike in his number of contributors, relative to the counts of his competitors, as seen below.

Monthly shares of total numbers of contributions by NDP Leadership candidate, to February 18, 2012, Part 2(b) Directed Contributions only

Cand 2011 2012 Tot
Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan to Feb 18
All 26
TM   75
NC   15
PD   63
PN   18
BT 26
MS   4
NA       61

Although it was share of the fundraising totals that predicted the first ballot vote in 2003, we did notice that share of the total number of contributions better predicted the results of at least one of the recently released internal polls, so it is worth taking notice of this potentially explanatory indicator as well. Here is where Cullen's presumed momentum appears particularly strong.

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

The pattern of monthly average contribution sizes for each candidate confirm the general principle that leadership contestants need to raise some seed money from large contributors at the beginning of the race, and then once their campaign's fundraising infrastructure is built up, they slow down to a dull roar in which more smaller-sized donations are pursued (currently ranging from $130-$150 on average in February to date, with Mr. Mulcair a bit closer to $200).

The only two candidates who haven't followed that path are Niki Ashton, whose January totals probably reflect the fact that much of her December money didn't get processed until after the New Year, and Martin Singh, who has lent his campaign $170K and must raise the necessary funds to pay it back. Raising large-scale donations does not appear to be a problem for him, however, certainly not recently.

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

The Regional Distribution

Nearly half the funds raised since the beginning of the Leadership Race have come from Ontario, and it's also the province that accounts for the majority of fundraising for Paul Dewar (78% of his take), Brian Topp (77.8% of his), Peggy Nash (71.9%) and to a lesser extent Thomas Mulcair (38.6%). Québec produced less than a quarter of Ontario's yield, but Mulcair picked up three-quarters of that, making up another 38.4% of his overall fundraising.

BC was responsible for about a fifth of all money raised. After Cullen, at 74.8% of his fundraising take, the west coast province was next most important for Martin Singh, making up 51.0% of his total raised; whereas 58.1% of Niki Ashton's fundraising was concentrated in Manitoba.

As a percent of each province or territory's tally, Thomas Mulcair has so far "won" in Québec, Alberta, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nunavut, while Brian Topp has "won" in Ontario and Saskatchewan, Paul Dewar in Manitoba, Peggy Nash in Newfoundland & Labrador, Nathan Cullen in BC, Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and Martin Singh in Nova Scotia.

[Click here to view all the provincial fundraising totals and percents (opens PDF)]

Drilling down a bit further to the "postal regions" (i.e., grouping by the first letter of the contributor's postal code), we see that Paul Dewar's main fundraising strength in that province is Eastern Ontario (K), while Brian Topp, Peggy Nash and Thomas Mulcair were concentrated in the City of Toronto (M) instead.

As a percent of each postal region's fundraising tally, Dewar "won" in Eastern Ontario (K), Topp won in the 905 (L) and the City of Toronto (M), Nash won in the Southwest (N), and Mulcair won the fundraising stakes in the North of the province (P), along with all three postal regions in Québec (G, H and J).

[Click here to view all the fundraising totals and percents by postal region (opens PDF)]

We'll repeat this analysis in a week's time (without the long-winded explanations) and see where things move next.


For the latest on the NDP Leadership Race, don't forget to follow the half-hourly news updates, and social media tickers at the Pundits' Guide NDPLdr portal page:

5 Responses to “Cullen Momentum Threatening Mulcair, NDP Leadership Donation Data Suggests”

  1. corie johnson says:

    Thanks for this. Cullen is quite impressive. He just came to see us on Salt Spring Island and the synergy in the room was palpable.
    Very personable guy, and how refreshing to have someone just talk from their heart, with a solid intellect and basic sense of decency.

  2. There are still NDP members including myself who are waiting for their ballot ID and password.

  3. corie johnson says:

    I live on Salt Spring Island and just received mine yesterday, so you might want to check today and also check your phone messages. I received a call yesterday from the NPD asking if I had received the package and leaving a 1-800 # to call in the event it had not arrived. It did say that yesterday was the last day to vote via mail (must mean to mail it) and thought it an awfully tight timeframe.
    However I voted online so I didn’t have to worry about it not arriving.

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