Metro column: Political snowball effect: presenting a case study
It’s the age old political conundrum, no politician wants to be seen as beholden to anyone – especially a big company – but they still need to pay the bills that come from running an election campaign.
When accepting donations, it’s a delicate balance that each elected official pays an awful of attention to — just in case anything even looks like it could be unseemly-esque.
To that end, politicos usually do everything they can to build a public wall between the donors and the candidate to ensure everything passes the “smell test.”
Placing a big corporate logo at the top of an invitation to a fundraiser and listing that company as a “sponsor” is pretty much the exact opposite of building that wall.
Unfortunately this is exactly what rookie Alderman Peter Demong did this week.
To make matters worse, the company in question operates a private landfill in Demong’s Ward 14 and currently has an application before the city to extend their lease.
While Demong doesn’t have any direct say in the future of the dump, he and his office will naturally act as middle man, fielding resident concerns.
To not only accept a donation from the company, but to prominently display its logo on an official notice causes some residents to question whether their alderman can remain neutral.
Compounding the speculation, when the Calgary Herald asked Demong about the sponsorship, he indicated he was “too busy to comment.” Something no resident ever wants to hear from someone representing them.
Furthering the problem is that Demong’s assistant was not too busy to comment. He was ready to step around Demong’s authority and comment on his behalf to the press, creating a bigger news story and leading pundits to wonder who’s actually running Ward 14.
It’s one mistake after another, compounding something potentially innocent — a plain-jane donation — into something more than it needed to be.
All of this could have been avoided if the donation had just been the purchase of a table instead of a “title sponsorship” and the name hadn not appear edanywhere except the election financial statements.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting any impropriety.
After having briefly met Demong and seeing his behaviour during council’s first month, he certainly appears to be an upstanding representative.
Let’s hope he can fix the appearance of wrongdoing in this case to ensure none of the goodwill our new council is slowly rebuilding is undone, and that all in council learn from this boneheaded example.