Friday, October 10, 2008

Insider lobbying scandal and arrogance

The B.C Liberals reputation for arrogance isn't being helped by the latest lobbying scandal.
And the people supposedly on Gordon Campbell's side are doing the biggest damage.
The new lobbying scandal was dug up by the intrepid Sean Holman of the 24 Hours free newspaper and his own website, publiceyeonline.com.
The allegation - unproven, but based on evidence that raises reasonable concerns - is that Patrick Kinsella and his company violated the provincial Lobbyist's Act by pushing their clients' interests without registering as lobbyists.
Kinsella is not just another person selling advice on how to get government to do what you want. He's been a powerful political player for decades.
Kinsella guided Gordon Campbell's entry into provincial politics and co-managed the 2001 and 2005 Liberal election campaigns. Mark Jiles, also with the Progressive Group, Kinsella's company, managed Campbell's 2005 campaign in his riding. These are ultimate insiders.
And Holman uncovered information that suggested they had been lobbying the government without registering, as required by laws the Liberals introduced to shed light on the murky world of lobbying.
The Liberals introduced the Lobbyists Registration Act within months of the 2001 election. The government said people had right to know who was trying to influence government policy, their clients and the purpose. That would reduce the risk that party insiders would offer special access to people with money and a desire to steer government policy.
It was a good first step. The NDP had taken no action to bring order to lobbying.
But it hasn't worked. The loopholes were enormous; among the most critical was the lack of any real enforcement effort to ensure people played by the rules.
Theoretically, the province's Information and Privacy Commissioner was supposed to enforce the regulations. But the law was badly drafted and the office no real legal power.
That wasn't a problem in the first scandal, when Campbell associate Ken Dobell admitted violating the act. Dobell, while being paid as an advisor to Campbell, was also being paid to get money for a Vancouver city project. He never declared his lobbyist role.
But Dobell did co-operate with the privacy commissioner when the case went public.
Not Kinsella. His lawyers told commissioner David Loukidelis, who had launched an inquiry, to take a hike. The law gave him no authority, Kinsella's lawyers said.
Legally correct, perhaps. But not so good for Campbell.
The B.C Liberal campaign manager - unlike Dobell - has thumbed his nose at the rules, effectively saying the lobbyist registry is a sham.
If lobbyists decide whether they need to register, with no oversight, there is no real registry - just posturing.
It's an odd decision on Kinsella's part. Why not let Loukidelis look at the concerns, if there is no problem? Why subject the premier to so much negative action.
Especially because of the potential effect on the next election. Kinsella advised Alcan, which received such a generous deal from the government that the B.C. Utilities Commission had to intervene in behalf of consumers. He helped Accenture win a $1.5-billion contract to take over B.C. Hydro office functions, helped get millions in tax breaks for the movie industry and guided a payday loan company in its efforts to shape rules governing that industry.
Lobbying and government relations consulting are legitimate activities. People pay for help in convincing government to bring policies and programs that help them.
If the help is based on guiding the clients in aligning their goals with the public interest, as seen by government, no worries. But if it's based on who you know, that's a problem. People without the money for access are left in the cold.
In the end, Kinsella torpedoed any semblance of effective lobbyist registration. Loukidelis threw up his hands and said he wouldn't try to enforce the rule any more.
Arrogance? You decide.
Footnote: Campbell has nothing to say on the scandal or why the government has stalled needed changes to the Lobbyist Act for two years (while canceling the fall sitting of the legislature). The RCMP now has the option of picking up the investigation, along with any future complaints that come up about possible violation of the act.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Actually Gordon Campbell has commented on the Kinsella case. This is what he told CKNW on October 5th - despite being fully aware of multiple and longstanding demands to fix the flawed lobby law from both Registrar David Loukidelis and the NDP Opposition:

"Well I think that we have to let those things run their course. Obviously we've had an awful lot of people in the Province who have supported the endeavours of the Government over the last number of years. I think we should always let these things run their course."

Anonymous said...

Let us hope that the police (RCMP, West Van., New West., Calgary... WHO?) take up the offer to start an investigation of Campbell's sleazy friends.

I would think that one of the first items of an investigation would be to copy all emails. The emails copied must include those between all the involved parties AND also include private email accounts (gmail, yahoo, hotmail etc).

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DPL said...

Arrogance, thy name is Campbell" He gets legislation passed that somehow doesn't seem to hurt his close buddies. WE have folks hired to see if lobbyists are listed but then set it up so the guy can't really investigate. If the guy can't do his job, why are we paying him? Mind you it's not his fault it's King Gordo who refuses to improve the ACT, and I rather doubt he will do so anytime soon