The Liberal Party of British Columbia deserves some kind of award.
Its dubious accomplishment? In a province that has virtually no limits on political donations – where a party can rake in unlimited millions from corporations, unions, company owners, business associations, law firms, wealthy individuals and you name it – this party still found a rule to break.
It apparently isn't enough that the B.C. Liberals get to operate in a system that allowed them to collect $12-million in donations last year alone – a mindboggling amount that far exceeds the logical needs of a provincial political party.
No, they also have to ignore a simple rule – a common courtesy, really – that requires that individuals who donate to a party use their own money.
A Globe investigation has found that lobbyists are funnelling large sums to the Liberals under their own names, but are then being reimbursed by the company or special interest they in fact represent.
It's pathetic. There are basically only two rules limiting political donations in B.C.: Every annual donation over $250 must be reported to Elections B.C.; and individuals cannot donate on behalf of someone else.
In most of the provinces and at the federal level, modern political fundraising rules restrict who can donate, and how much. Most ban corporate and union donations.
But in B.C., companies and/or their individual owners seeking approval for projects, or generous tax breaks, can unabashedly throw tens of thousands of dollars at political parties. Most of it goes to the long-ruling Liberals, who unabashedly accept it.
The only solace available to people troubled by such egregious pay-to-play politics is the fact that the parties have to be upfront about who is doing the paying. But now we learn the Liberals can't even be bothered with that tiny inconvenience.
The Liberal Party is feigning shock about what it describes as "confusion" over a rule that could not be more straightforward. Elections B.C. says it will investigate, and it should.
But that's not enough. B.C.'s fundraising rules are absurdly loose and weak. Only a complete reform will erase the impression that government is for sale to the highest bidders.