Thursday, January 31, 2008

On Fundraising

Elections Canada has just released fourth-quarter financial returns for national political parties. The Conservatives have again outstripped the Liberal Party. The Cons raised just under $5 million from 44,000 contributors. This is an average contribution of something like $110. The Liberals, by contrast, raised just under $2 million from about 14,000 Canadians for an average contribution of $143.

The Conservative fundraising machine is still far superior to the Liberal's; they continue to raise more money in smaller donations. These small donations are the key to success in the post-C-24 world. As donors are quite limited in total annual giving, parties who can raise small amounts of money from regular donors are better off. They can return to these donors when in need rather than having to find altogether new donors. So, the Conservatives appear to maintain the advantage, both in total donations and in the average size of donations.

I should note, however, that it is not all bad for the Liberals. Indeed, comparing this quarter's returns with the previous three quarters suggests that they are getting their act together. In the first quarter of last year the party raised just half a million dollars. They increased that to $1.2 million in the second quarter but it dipped down to just $800,000 in the third quarter. So, their fourth quarter was a big improvement. As importantly, they are increasing the number of donors, from just 4300 in the first quarter to 13,618 this quarter. While they average donation per donor is going up (up 17% from Q1) the number of donations is going up faster (up 311% from Q1). This is the key figure and those slogging away in party headquarters should take some real pride in it.

The Liberal Party still has a long way to go in matching the fundraising capabilities of the Conservatives; an ability which is a result not of wealthy donors but an ability to engage partisans. But they are on the right path. Which is all the more reason for Harper to go to the polls soon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Altruism and Partisanship

For those who are interested, I've been working up a nice little paper on altruism and support for greater public spending (it is the last of my dissertation papers). The data are drawn from a poll of a few thousand people I was involved with last spring. And the measure of altruism is rather unconventional for a survey. Rather than ask individuals about whether they engage in altruistic acts or have an altruistic orientation, we observe their altruism. Specifically, we gave subjects some sum of expected money and then measured how they share it with an anonymous individual (in behavioural economics parlance this is the dictator game). A couple of results are of note, even though the paper is not ready. First, those who are altruistic are more likely to support greater public spending on public and semi-public goods, even when they are made aware that it comes at a cost to themselves in terms of higher taxes. This goes someway in confirming earlier findings which rely on stated rather than revealed altruism. And it goes some way in confronting the argument that people support public spending because they are self-interested and they want to benefit from programs at the cost of others. Second, and this is the more general finding I wanted to flag, I can find no relationship between partisanship and altruism. Tories, Liberals, and Dippers are, on average, equal in their altruism. What is interesting, though, is that their partisanship still matters for public spending, with Libs and Dips supporting greater public spending and Conservative identifiers supporting less. It's a bit of a puzzle I hope to resolve in the next couple of weeks. As always, thoughts are welcome.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brad Davis

Brad Davis has died, far too young.

A bright young lawyer, Brad worked as a volunteer on Michael Ignatieff's run for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and then became his director of policy on his leadership campaign. He then followed Ignatieff back to Ottawa before returning to Toronto and the practice of law. It was during Iggy's leadership campaign there that I came to know him. He coyly roped me into writing a memo on equalization (which soon led to a lot more memos). He was remarkably smart and a did a remarkable job marshalling together information and turning it into daring policy.

There is no shortage of words to describe Brad: hard-working, focussed, funny, witty, sarcastic, biting, incisive, determined, stubborn, brilliant. I give you everyone in the most complimentary sense. More importantly, Brad was a father who leaves behind a family. So say a prayer for them and for him, and then go out and do something good and that you believe in.

UPDATE: Jane Taber has a succinct and touching obituary on Brad here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Kenyan Killings Planned?

This is a terribly sad and worrying article.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Time to strip Guergis of her cabinet post

I am with Dion on this one. Helena Guergis should be made to resign for revealing that Dion and Ignatieff were to visit a provincial reconstruction team while during their visit in Afghanistan. Leave aside Guergis' uncivil claim that it was somehow ironic they were visiting the soliders they apparently don't support. And leave aside too her claim that she doesn't know why it took them so long to go. (Answer: because her department set that as the date for them). And leave aside the assertation that this revelation endangered the lives of Dion and Ignatieff. All of that is rather irrelevant as soon as you consider that Guergis revealed top secret information. This is highly contrary to her obligations as a minister. It also reveals a surprising lack of judgement or seriousness.

If Bob Coates was made to resign for potentially exposing NATO secrets to strippers, then Helena Guergis should be made to resign for actually revealing top secret information to that salivating press corp in Ottawa. And shame on them for even publishing the stuff...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No Torture, No Vote

From the blog of my friend Jim Johnson, I read that the National Review is withholding its endorsement from John McCain. Now, this is not only because he supports the reasonable accommodation of millions of hardworking and taxpaying residents of the US. And it's not only because he opposes tax cuts during war time. No, it's also because he does not support the US waterboarding prisoners.

For those of you who don't know, every reasonable person in the world thinks that waterboarding is a form of torture. Also for those who don't know, the National Review Online is ridiculous and unworthy of your readership. Find it for yourself, if you like.

Sir Edmund Hillary, 88

Sir Edmund Hillary has died. Shed a tear or go climb something high humbly.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

On Cynics

I think I would be better at the cynic schtick if I could do it half as well as Dan. The evidence herein.