Please join in welcoming Adam Smith to his new job as the Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser, aka the National Director of the National Liberal Fund.
Safe to say he’s had kind of a rocky start, learning today for example the pitfalls of not saying *exactly* what you mean in a highly politicized and partisan environment. I believe Senator Nancy Ruth has had a recent education on the same principle.
In his first foray into the fundraising letter business, Mr. Smith wrote the following PS (PS’s are mandatory in all fundraising appeals, since they are one of the few parts actually read):
Your $25 or $50 donation is a show of force against Stephen Harper’s Conservative culture of deceit and contempt, and a reminder of who’s working for who. More importantly, it will move us closer to the time when a Liberal government can work with Canadians – as a partner, not a bully.
National Director, National Liberal Fund Liberal Party of Canada
PS. Political donations under $200 annually are reported to Elections Canada anonymously. If Harper’s intimidation tactics make it difficult for you to publicly oppose him, you can still show your solidarity with those who don’t have that option.
This led Conservative Minister John Baird to remark in today’s Question Period that anonymous donations are unlawful. Which stimulated the curiosity of the CBC’s Kady O’Malley, who then did what she does best, which is to consult the original online sources for an answer.
The answer she came up with, based on her look around the Elections Canada website was not exactly right unfortunately, but it’s easy to see how people can get confused. Until I put all that data into my own database, and started to work with it and make it all add up, I didn’t realize many of the reporting intricacies myself.
Here is what actually happens, and how it gets reported publicly:
- “Anonymous – $20 or less”: If you give $20 or less in cash (e.g., if they pass the hat to pay for the hall rental), you don’t have to give your name, and the political party / riding association doesn’t have to record your name. The party does have to report the total number of cash donations it receives of $20 or less, along with the total amount. I think you don’t automatically get a tax receipt either, although I believe you can ask for one.
- “Unnamed – a *total* of $200 or less”: If you give one or more donations totalling $200 or less to the same party, you must give your name and address to the political party (to prove you live in Canada and are not a corporation or union, etc.). They count you as one contributor in the “small donor” category (i.e., of $200 or less), and lump the amount of your donation(s) in with all the other small donors, and then report the total number of small contributors alongside the total amount of contributions they gave. The party also has to issue you one or more tax receipts summing to the full amount.
- “Named – a *total* of $200 or more”: If you give one or more donations totalling more than $200 to the same party, the party must report your name and postal code, along with the date and amount of *each* contribution you made. This is how it happens that some small donations appear in the Elections Canada database, while others do not.
I guess you’re truly “anonymous” in the first case, “unnamed publicly” in the second, and “named” in the third. I believe Mr. Smith was referring to the second case, but because he used the word “anonymous” he accidentally ran afoul of the Elections Act which does not permit anonymous donations of any amount greater than $20.
And, by the way, anyone who works with party fundraising rules would have known this right away. That Ms. O’Malley didn’t, as I jokingly wrote to her, pretty much proved to me that she had never, either given money to, or raised money for, whichever the political party the CBC is currently being accused of promoting.
The above reporting thresholds apply to both the quarterly reports and the annual reports, by the way. Suppose you give one contribution of $20, and then another of $50, followed by a third of $150. If they were all in the same quarter, then all three donations will appear in that quarterly report, and you will be counted as one large donor of $200 or more, and would also appear on the annual report.
But if you gave $20 in the first quarter, $50 in the second quarter, and $150 in the fourth quarter, your name would not appear in any of the quarterly returns. It would still appear on the annual return, because the sum of the donations crossed the $200 threshold for that reporting period.
And if you gave $20 to one party, $50 to two of the parties, and $150 to three of the parties, your name would only appear on the return of the party to whom you had made all three contributions.
I’m as certain as I can be that this is the case, as I’ve crunched every single quarterly and annual return posted on the Elections Canada website, and they all add up to the penny using these rules.
So, if you need to be completely anonymous, give $20 or less in cash. If you don’t mind that the party knows who you are, but you don’t want your name on the Elections Canada website, don’t give more than $200 to each political party in each calendar year.
There. Clear as a bell, right!