NPA’s Francis Wong dives through loophole to hide campaign donations, expenses

Failed NPA council candidate Francis Wong has exploited a gaping loophole in the city’s election financial disclosure rules, blowing through two deadlines to withhold all information about his campaign contributions and expenditures.

The penalty? Under the city’s feeble rules, Wong is prohibited from running in the next election. That’s it. City clerk and chief electoral officer Janice Mackenzie confirmed to council today that she has no power to order disclosure from Wong or the NPA.

The result: voters cannot get a complete picture of who donated to the 2011 NPA campaign, which raised a grand total of $2.4 million (not including Wong’ s unknown sum) and spent $3.1 million. (That leaves a mammoth $640,000 gap to close before the next election in 2014.  NPA revenue included a single donation of $980,000 from a single donor, perhaps the largest such individual donation in Canadian political history.)

Mackenzie revealed Wong’s delinquent status in a statutorily-required report to council today.

How much is unaccounted for? Only Wong knows, and he’s not telling. (He could have filed for up to 120 days after the normal deadline upon payment of a $500 fine, but did not do so.)

But consider this: the other NPA council candidates raised between $5,600 (the ill-fated Jason Lamarche) and $64,142 (Ken Charko).  NPA councillor George Affleck raised $40,000 and Elizabeth Ball raised $17,509. Wong undoubtedly raised and spent similar sums.

During debate in council today, I called on  Affleck to urge his NPA colleagues to disclose everything they can about Wong’s election finances so voters have a more complete picture of the NPA’s overall campaign.

But Affleck laughed off the appeal, claiming that the NPA was not a political party and “dissolved” between elections. “It’s a non-partisan association of free thinkers,” Affleck said, implying NPA candidates are free to ignore the rules as well. Ball assured council “it will all be resolved in due course.”

Too late for that. Wong missed the deadlines. This year, seven candidates failed to file, many more than the three to four in recent elections, but Wong is the only one who campaigned on the slate of a major elector’s organization. His campaign was an integral part of the NPA campaign, but he’s not disclosing one cent.

Vision Vancouver has disclosed all contributions since its formation and has called on the province to tighten the disclosure rules in the Vancouver Charter.

Now Affleck says he’ll bring in his own motion to tighten the rules.  Why not start by ensuring the NPA’s 2011 candidates comply with the existing ones?