B.C. politics already has its dark money – donations that are difficult to trace back to an actual donor – but the free for all when it comes to political fundraising in the province has given rise to a murky practice: raising campaign cash from some dark corners of the world.
Its name seems innocuous enough, G&E Studio.
It’s just one of the companies identified among the 76,887 donations that the B.C. Liberal party received between 2005 and 2015.
G&E donated $5,000 to the Liberal party less than three weeks after a 2015 Reuters investigation identified the company as part of “a global radio web structured in a way that obscures its majority shareholder: state-run China Radio International.”
A station in Vancouver – CHMB AM1320 – broadcasts G&E’s state-approved content. CHMB is owned and operated by Mainstream Broadcasting.
Before her election in 2013, International Trade and Minister Teresa Wat was the president and CEO of Mainstream.
G&E isn’t the only state-controlled Chinese company to donate to parties in B.C.
The Bank of China contributed $388 to the Liberals in 2015 and Canadian Kailuan Dehua Mines – part of the Kailuan Group – has given the party $59,974 and $7,375 to the B.C. NDP (2011 to 2014).
A genuine interest in B.C. politics may not be top of mind when the cheques get cut.
In one of China’s state-run newspapers, Huang Xiangmo, chairman of the Yuhu Group of developers, wrote this in regards to Australian politicians: “(They’re) not delivering …We need to learn how to have a more efficient combination between political requests and political donations.”
To date neither Yuhu nor Huang have made donations in B.C. Lucky for us.
And China isn’t the only foreign country whose state-controlled enterprises are coughing up cash for parties in the province.
Progress Energy has donated $12,750 to the Liberals.
Progress is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Petronas, a Malaysian state-controlled energy company.
Petronas is also the majority partner in Pacific NorthWest LNG who has donated $21,700 to the Liberals and $350 to the NDP.
Closer to home Texas-based Kinder Morgan boasts on its website that it’s “committed to being a good corporate citizen and conducting ourselves in an ethical and responsible manner. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on integrity management and maintenance programs…”
It may want to ask for some of its money back.
The website goes on to note that the company does not have “a Political Action Committee. Any political contributions made by executives or employees are made individually as private citizens with their own personal money.”
Highly noble of them, except for the tiny matter of $33,188 in donations to the Liberals through 11 corporate cheques over nine years.
Must be clerical errors.
California-based Edison Power gave the Liberals $10,000 in 2016 and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. $1,832 in 2009.
Both companies were on the winning side when B.C. Hydro reached a $750 million out of court settlement in 2013, after its subsidiary Powerex was accused of “gaming the energy market by purchasing and exporting to Canada huge quantities of electricity California needed and then selling it back to the state at exorbitant prices.”
Thinking of taking a cruise this summer or perhaps a quick jaunt to Seattle?
Put Princess Cruises and Holland America Line down for $3,000 each to the Liberals, Royal Caribbean Cruises ($3,701) and the Clipper for $2,216 to the Liberals and $1,000 to the NDP.
Paper Excellence Group, a privately held company, has contributed $135,938 to the Liberals since 2014.
The B.C. government likes to think of Paper Excellence as a company headquartered in Richmond B.C., even though it’s head office is in Indonesia.
Beijing-based Modern Investment Group gave the Liberals $25,000 in December 2015.
Last year the company was part of a consortium that purchased TransLink’s 13.8-acre Oakridge Transit Centre in Vancouver for an estimated $440 million.
Most foreign donors to B.C.’s political parties can be traced to a country, but not all.
Sakuna Natural Resources has donated $10,000 to the Liberals and Orient Investment Corp. ($1,000). The Globe and Mail reports that neither company is registered in B.C., nor federally and that their their home base is unknown.
When a party has few scruples about who it will take money from and where they will raise it, you’re left to wonder what’s on the table when the cheques are handed over?
By Dermod Travis
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC. www.integritybc.ca