Green politico Pete Fry sounds alarm about loophole in campaign-finance law

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      Big money may continue to influence local elections in B.C., says a former city-council candidate. Pete Fry of the Green Party of Vancouver claims that this is due to a loophole in legislation that was passed by the province last month regarding campaign financing.

      “That opens the opportunity for kind of an end run around getting a lot of that big money out,” Fry told the Straight in a phone interview.

      He explained that although the new law banned corporate and union donations and imposed limits on individual contributions, people with deep pockets may still sway electoral outcomes.

      According to Fry, the wealthy can affect the polls either by acting as or acting through third-party-advertising sponsors. These are individuals or groups that conduct election advertising independent of elector organizations and individuals.

      “A developer group could register as a third-party election sponsor and deliver messaging,” he cited by way of an example.

      The two-time council candidate noted that there is neither a limit on how many contributions can be made to these third-party advertisers nor a cap on how much they can spend in the election period, which begins in the calendar year in which an election is held.

      “I can see that being a real opportunity to reinsert big money into the political process despite this legislation,” Fry said.

      He pointed out that the only time the law imposes an expense limit on third-party-advertising sponsors is during the campaign period, which is the 28 days preceding the vote.

      Residents of B.C. who are either Canadian citizens or permanent residents can contribute to these advertising sponsors. They can give as much as they want, which is not the case when they are making a donation to elector organizations and candidates.

      Under Bill 15—or the Local Elections Campaign Financing Amendment Act, 2017—which passed on November 23 this year, individuals may contribute only up to $1,200 to an elector organization and candidates in a campaign.