Party Second Quarter Returns Hint at Trends Worth Watching
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If we're really honest, the federal polls don't mean too much three years out from an election and with still one interim leader, seat projections are an iffy proposition given the pending redistribution and a party system likely still in transition, and most of the financial data we're getting lately can only tell us in great detail what happened last year.
But Monday evening's release of the federal party second quarter fundraising reports hints at a few potential trends in the making. And of course with the looming end of the quarterly public subsidy payments, getting its fundraising machinery into shape is paramount for any political party wanting to challenge the governing Conservatives.
Here's what the reports suggest:
- The NDP came within $63K of beating the Liberals in second quarter fundraising: $1,743,862.40 to the Liberals' $1,807,092.36. This comes after a first quarter where they were some $337K behind the Liberals, who naturally took full advantage of their competitor's leadership vacuum to try and guarantee a niche of political and financial support for themselves in their new role as the third party.
- At some $3.74M year-to-date the NDP has raised nearly as much by the end of June as it usually raises in an entire non-election year. For example, this amounts to 86% of the party's best ever non-election year haul of 2010 (then $4.38M). These two developments combined raise the spectre that the NDP might surpass the Liberals in fundraising by the end of December.
- The Liberals, meanwhile, are succeeding in increasing their numbers of small donors. And while the NDP is also demonstrating some real progress in increasing its number of overall donors over previous non-election years, the Liberals have been able to move and stay ahead of them on that score. (See the "Quarterly Data" tab at the Pundits' Guide "Finances" page for all the details).
- The Conservatives, on the other hand, are seeing another slip in their numbers of both small donors and overall donors, after last year's push to win a majority government. This did not hurt their overall fundraising take for the moment, as it looks like the party made a big push for "at the limit" contributions of $1,000-$1,200 in the second-quarter including what looks like a very successful push in the Montréal area the first week of June. But every majority government takes a hit as it rolls out the toughest part of its agenda early in its mandate, and no government lasts forever, so if there is to be any early warning sign of a more permanent change in their fortunes, it will show up as a decline in the number of small contributors. Although, we've seen false positives before.
- The Green Party is not dead yet, as their recent fundraising performance will attest. A healthy second quarter for them seems to be in part the result of prepaid convention fees (lots of $249 contributions showing up), but not exclusively. Unfortunately for them, as we'll see when we review the 2011 annual financial statements in a subsequent post, they have to raise this money in order to repay their election loans.
- The Bloc Québécois might be on life support, but on the other hand, their usual pattern is to go dormant on the fundraising front when their sister party needs to build up its own provincial warchest. When a federal election was constantly looming, the Bloc stepped up its on-going fundraising, but otherwise typically it did a round of central fundraising at year-end, and otherwise left the field open to its riding associations.
Now, part of what's allowing the NDP to compete with the Liberals are some significant bequests, and they got another one in the second quarter of 2012 — just over $296K from the estate of a William Giesbrecht of Coquitlam, BC, along with another bequest of some $23K from Anne Murray Powell of Toronto, ON. The estate of the late Jack Layton made a $50K bequest in December, 2011 and another $50K in March, 2012, though no further bequests from the party's former leader were recorded this quarter.
But a quick scan of the party donor lists hints at another part of the explanation. With names like Louise Arbour (if it's the same person, once touted as a potential Liberal leader), and that of a former national campaign director for the Green Party showing up on the NDP's return, it suggests the strategic voting / contributing card is being played by the NDP for a change.
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The biggest NDP bequest shows up on the weekly large donor fundraising timeline along with a late March post-leadership bump, as do the Conservative campaigns to large donors in late January and early June, and the spike in Liberal tallies from their convention in January and again in late March when the Conservatives ran attack ads against their interim leader, Bob Rae. That one Conservative TV ad was worth over $200K in revenue to the Liberals the week it launched, proving that some laws of physics also apply to politics.
The quarterly returns also give us an update on where the NDP Leadership candidates' fundraising efforts got to, after the contest ended.
Directed Contributions to NDP Leadership Contestants (before party tithe), as reported on the party's quarterly financial returns
Leader Tom Mulcair is said to have paid off all his leadership debts some time ago, and is now doing fundraising events with his former competitors to help pay off theirs. Nathan Cullen is thought not to have had any debt, given that he raised most of his money too late to spend it, and the rest have whittled their debts down to a greater or lesser extent, which we will find out in detail when they file their returns six months after the contest concluded.
Meanwhile amongst the remaining 2006 Liberal Leadership candidates, Hedy Fry did most of the fundraising in the first quarter, but she was joined on a much more active basis by Martha Hall Findley in the second.
NDP Leadership candidates raised about $1.3M all told in the first two quarters, while the 2006 Liberal leadership candidates raised another $68K or so.