I am a law professor, not an investigative reporter or a political operative, so the notion of campaign contributions is foreign to me. I've been posting on the planned Sam Bulte fundraiser being hosted by the heads of the major entertainment industry associations just four days before the election (Tipping Point and That's What Friends Are For). This has generated considerable interest and I'm hopeful that Ms. Bulte will respond to the concerns that are being expressed by many Canadians.
A review of the Elections Canada contributions database suggests that this is not a first, however. The most recent Elections Canada data is the 2004 riding association financial information, which covers the period just prior to the last election and the six months immediately afterward. In the case of Sam Bulte, this timeline covers the period during the Canadian Heritage Standing Committee hearings that led to the Bulte Report, her re-election, and appointment as Parliamentary Secretary of Canadian Heritage during intense lobbying over what became Bill C-60.
As with the January fundraiser, it is becoming increasingly clear that the pro-stronger copyright lobby is a major Bulte backer. From what I can find on the Elections Canada site, consider that Bulte's riding association received contributions during this period from the following groups:
- Access Copyright
- Association Of Canadian Publishers
- Canadian Film & television Production Association
- Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency
- Canadian Publisher's Council
- Canadian Non-Theatrical Film & Video Corp.
- Professional Association of Canadian Theatres
- Professional Photographers of Canada
What makes the thousands of dollars raised from these groups particularly noteworthy is that Bulte's riding association was the only one to receive such contributions. In other words, at a time when the publishing, music, movie, and photographer industries and collectives were concerned with copyright reform, they chose to provide campaign contributions to just one Member of Parliament – Sam Bulte (or at least only one chose to accept such contributions).
While I have no doubt that the contributions were lawful, I would only re-iterate the point I made in my original post on this issue. At a time when public cynicism about politicians is at an all-time high and millions of Canadians, particularly those concerned with education, security, consumer rights, privacy, and the Internet, are focused on balanced copyright reform, the acceptance of these campaign contributions sends the worst possible message. As someone who spends considerable time writing and speaking about balanced copyright in the broader public interest, count me as deeply discouraged with the process beneath the process.
Update: Once again, there is considerable commentary and discussion in the blogosphere about the Sam Bulte issue. With people picking up the Bourque and additional BoingBoing coverage, there are entries here, here, here (best headline), here, and here (most interesting reaction from another Liberal MP), here, and here. Stay tuned – more on this story tomorrow morning.