Campaign Contributions

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:

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.


  1. A bit frightening to think how little power the people seem to have at times over big corporations. Amazing how the “elected” government can be just a group of well paid off sheep.

    Doesnt give me any confidence in the government.

  2. Citizen
    that mr martin allowed one of his ministers to be so deliberately bought off for a very specific coporate profit driven interest again says plenty about martin’s leadership arogance and obvious poor political judgement. And ms bulte … well she saw the cash and played the part. Get rid of these people and clean up the pig pen.

  3. Citizen
    that mr martin allowed one of his ministers to be so deliberately bought off for a very specific coporate profit driven interest again says plenty about martin’s leadership arogance and obvious poor political judgement. And ms bulte … well she saw the cash and played the part. Get rid of these people and clean up the pig pen.

  4. Distant observer
    Here in the US of A where I hang my hat, buying off government officials in exchange for usurious bankruptcy “reform”, attacks upon the 8-hour work day, license to commit enviromnental ruination, etc. is so maddeningly commonplace that the late composer/performer Frank Zappa was prompted to comment that “Government is the entertainment branch of industry”.

    Corruption in government is inevitable. But I’ll bet Canadians will deal with it much more swiftly and effectively than their neighbors to the south. Please don’t let this creeping blob devour your government as it already has ours.

  5. thank you for bringing this to our attention. research time well spent.

  6. Donations changes needed
    Corporations should not be allowed to make campaign contributions. Politicians have too much money to spend on things like TV ads anyway, they don’t need what are essentially bribes from lobby groups or massive companies. It’s so blatant that this funding of a Liberal with clout in Heritage Canada is a push by the CRIA and others to enact draconian copyright legislation, but unless the source of funds is shown the light of day in every paper and TV news, the average Canadian has no chance of ever knowing the connection.

    I write about copyright law changes on my blog, as I think it’s an important issue that’s all too often misrepresented by the main stream media outlets in Canada, such as a deceptive piece in the National Post last week.


  7. Geist misses facts
    Mr. Geist, you are leaving out some major facts in this story that it seems your passion for digital issues blinds you to. Firstly, Ms. Bulte was an ardent proponent of the copyright issues she currently holds prior to her election in 2004. This suggests that the fundraiser might be a ‘thank you’ from the recording industry for her position, which they support. Also, since the early 1980s Ms. Bulte was a fan and friend of the Canadian music scene at a time when she had no political or economic clout; she has not recently joined their cause for economic gain. Also – while this does not relate to your copyright issues – her opponent Peggy Nash received more money in the 2004 campaign from organizations than Ms. Bulte; all of these donations are from labour or labour associated organizations; Nash works in labour (an assistant to Buzz Hargrove, CAW). Your influence-peddling reasoning can also be used to make rash claims against Nash. Finally, while the $250 a plate dinner seems like a more affluent event, and even if 100 people attend (the venue cannot seat many more), $25,000 is a very small amount for an MP to be bought out for. Most corrupt politicians of the past settled for figures with a few more zeroes at the end.

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