Tuesday, April 22, 2008

So ... what WOULD be breaking the law then?

Via Scott Tribe, we find a delightful example of Conservative thinking courtesy of Elizabeth Thompson:

"Even though there is a cap on national campaign spending, it is easy and legal to exceed it by transferring expenditures to local campaigns that are not able to spend up to their own legal limits."

Tom Flanagan
Former campaign manager to Stephen Harper
From the book "Harper's Team," 2007

Now let's think about this for a second, and ponder how best to get to the bottom of what passes for thought in the Canadian Conservative intellect.

As it stands, the CPoC talking point (taken up joyously by the Stepford wives known as the Blogging Tories) is that the Conservatives haven't done anything wrong or illegal in this "in and out" shuffle of cash between the local and national campaigns. Which inspires the obvious question that someone should put to the CPoC powers-that-be:

"Given your understanding of Canadian election laws and financing limits, do you believe there is anything you could possibly do that would constitute a violation under those laws?"

It's a simple question, isn't it, and its purpose should be obvious: If someone claims that what they've done is not illegal, then all we're trying to do is ascertain whether their understanding of the law allows them to admit that anything (in that context) would be illegal. And if so, what?

This is most assuredly not an unfair question. If someone is taking the position that action X is within the law, then all we're doing is trying to clarify their interpretation of that law by asking them to provide an example of what would not fall within the law. And this question really allows only two possible responses.

If the questionee takes the position that there's nothing they can think of that would break that law, what they've effectively admitted is that they don't believe there are any limits or restrictions on campaign financing, at which point they should be quizzed as to what they think those existing laws actually mean.

On the other hand, if the questionee is forced to provide a theoretical scenario which would violate the law, then we've made progress; we've actually had them admit that it is possible to break those laws, and now it's just a matter of focusing the scenario more and more tightly until you locate the dividing line between what they consider both legal and illegal. And that's really what this is all about, isn't it?

Don't ask the Stephen Harper Party of Canada whether they think they broke the law. Instead, ask them what variation of what they did would constitute a violation, then ask them to explain what the crucial difference is. I'm guessing that's when things would start to get entertaining.


Lindsay Stewart said...

Q. If the election had fallen the other way and the Liberals had squeaked out a minority, would this money juggling scheme be legal if they were behind it?

A. But... but... adscam clinton adscam corrupt, um... Liberal blog use swears!

Niles said...

Found via Impolitical in the Times Colonist...and am I the only one not aware of the alleged officialness of this?

"...Parks also said that in 2005 he was asked to take the lead with Blogging Tories, an on-line, pro-Conservative web log that could operate outside election rules. After the issue came to light on Sean Holman's Publiceyeonline website, the Conservatives stated that the Blogging Tories initiative was independent of the party..."

Has this commentary by Eugene Parks been talked up before and I just missed it? Because I always thought CC and gang were just being perceptively snarky, not working from actual insider allegations. I apologize.