Municipal Election 2006

A Buck a Vote Bucks the Trend

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 04, 2007

Nicole MacIntyre reports in today's Hall Marks blog that Mayor Fred Eisenberger ran his election campaign for $60,000, having eschewed corporate and union donations. He won the election with 54,110 votes, which MacIntyre calls "in true Hamilton style ... a 'buck-a-vote'".

Incumbent Larry Di Ianni, in contrast, spent $236,000, including $220,000 from donors. Despite outspending Eisenberger four-to-one, Di Ianni lost by a hair.

MacIntyre reports that Di Ianni concedes money was not a factor in the results. I'd argue that money was a factor, but that it actually worked against Di Ianni's favour.

Di Ianni went into the election race battling the perception that he was corrupt and beholden to his corporate donors, mostly in the homebuilding industry.

(Recall, for example, that one of the contributors who broke the law in 2003 was DeSantis / Multi-Area Developments, who gained a $1 billion housing development in Glanbrook with the approval of the Red Hill Expressway after donating $25,000, much of it illegal, to pro-expressway candidates. Pretty good bargain.)

Certainly the evidence of Di Ianni's many violations of the election law calls into serious question that they were "honest mistakes" as he insisted and as the Spectator editorial board happily repeated.

In one case, a single cheque for $1,000 was recorded as two cheques from different sources, one for $750 and one for $250. That does not look like it could possibly have been an honest mistake.

I think the Spectator's endorsement of Di Ianni also worked against him. The editorial board's rationale - that Di Ianni is a better team builder - was so patently ridiculous that it looked like yet another example of cronyism on a political track record that was already loamy with it.

Eisenberger's election wasn't a repudiation of corporate and union donations per se (although that was certainly a factor).

It was a repudiation of the sprawl-building "business as usual" mentality that believes public money should mainly serve private interests, conducts much of its business through backroom deals, holds engaged citizens in contempt, and has been running Hamilton into the ground for decades.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By w willy (registered) | Posted April 05, 2007 at 16:53:12

Fred's campaign proved you can reach voters in this city for about $60,000. Obviously, more money can help you try to drown out the other candidates, or persuade citizens not on the basis of your platform but through image. Surely now is the time to put strict campaign spending limits into place. I'd say it would make sense to cap spending at, say, $100,000, and to ban corporate donations -- still a lot of money, but an amount that a serious candidate could be expected to raise from individuals.

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By borat (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2007 at 19:16:20

Are there laws and police in this country? How do guys like Di Ianni and Valeri get away with it?

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