The Sam Bulte fundraiser story has gone mainstream, with press coverage from the Canadian Press and the Toronto Star. The Canadian Press story focuses on concerns from noted Canadian historian and politican scientist Jack Granatstein, who says the fundraiser is inappropriate, adding that:
The concerns are dismissed by both Sam Bulte and CRIA's Graham Henderson. Bulte responds that "nobody influences me, nobody can buy me" and that "people raise money all the time." Well, some raise more money than others. Bulte is apparently one of the best. I've already posted on her prodigious fundraising from the pro-copyright lobby. It is also worth noting that a review of the 2004 Ontario Liberal riding association returns reveals that Bulte ranked 5th among the more than 100 ridings in terms of total contributions of individuals, corporations, trade unions, and associations.
Moreover, the notion that fundraisers are commonly promoted by the candidates during an election does not stand up to scrutiny. A review of all Liberal campaign sites in the current election campaign reveals that only three – Bulte, Stephen Owen, and Keith Martin – promote fundraisers. Only Bulte's reveals a $250 per person price tag and only Bulte's is clearly supported by leaders of lobby groups.
Meanwhile, Henderson spins this as no big deal since "it is part of the political process." He argues that "we've raised money for other people during this campaign period just like the truckers association, I'm sure, is doing." I find this line of reasoning (Douglas Frith of the CMPDA argued much in the same thing) deeply troubling as it reveals a mindsight among the U.S.-backed entertainment associations in Canadian camoflouge that cash to politicians who support their views is an accepted means of pursuing their policy objectives.
It is not.
These comments not only taint the perception of the policy process, but they are simply untrue. For example, another review of Elections Canada data reveals that in 2004 there were a total of five contributions to riding assocations from Canada's major banks (one of the five went to Bulte). Simply put, everyone is not doing it (for what it is worth, the 2004 riding association data reveals no contributions from Canada's leading trucking association, the Canadian Trucking Alliance).
The Toronto Star article raises the unfortunate spectre of Bulte attacking me personally, arguing that I believe that everything should be free (anyone who has read my work knows that is not the case) and then asking "seriously, who is he funded by?" The article answers that question by pointing to the grant I received to help launch the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. I am very proud of CIPPIC's work along with the other peer-reviewed work and grants that I have received and I believe that it is wrong to attack an academic in this way (is Granatstein next?).
Bulte and Henderson appear to think that they can ride this storm out by arguing that the technical legality of the fundraiser should end the discussion or by attacking the messenger. I suspect that they are wrong. The issue was apparently discussed at this week's all-candidates meeting, it continues to generate enormous discussion among the bloggers, receive profile from political sites such as Bourque ("Bulte Buntoss Blows Up"), and even the blog on Quill and Quire has described it as "problematic". The time has come for Ms. Bulte to cancel the fundraiser and take the Copyright Pledge.
Update: Terrific postings this morning on this issue from Dan Cook at Globeandmail.com ("Sam and Michael") and from Toronto technology law lawyer Rob Hyndman who rightly challenges Bulte on her characterization of the pro-copyright lobby as her friends, noting that "with friends like these, who needs democracry."
Update II: CBC is out with a story and Peggy Nash, Bulte's NDP challenger, has issued a press release stating that "Ms. Bulte needs to understand that her job as a parliamentarian is to work first and foremost in the public interest. Politicians are held to a higher standard than others and the perception of bias is simply not acceptable."