Friday, August 31, 2012

Who, Exactly, Is Behind The Fine Folks That Want Us To Race To The Bottom?


Update: Tweetfight between CTF's Jordan Bateman, Bill Tieleman and Laila Yule, here...Dean Skoreyko weighs in and notes that yes....BC conservatives did, in fact, take Mr. Bateman's predecessor Sara McIntyre to task for the CTF's support of the HST here...Now that's grass roots!

Double-Secret Probation Update: Spartikus, over at the Exile on Ennui St, has done multiple, in-depth fiskings of the CTF, here...


Let's say that, suddenly, universal healthcare was only universal for half of Canada's population.


That a public-school education was only available to half of our kids.


That public transit could only be used by half of our citizenry.

What would we do?

Would we, as taxpayers, suddenly start clamouring that we should get rid of public healthcare, schools, or transit because half of us don't get it?

Or would we demand that things changed so that we all get it?


Of course, the great dismantling, wherein people become convinced that we must always pull each other down rather than help each other up is what the 'politics of division' is all about.

Which is something that is being waged very successfully down south.

But all this dividing and conquering and divvying-up of the spoils does not start at the ballot box.

Instead, the offensive begins with surrogates and fronts and astroturf groups who do all the front-end fomenting that then makes it possible for elected officials like, say, Paul Ryan to pretend that he will not kill Medicare while he puts the shiv in, deep.

But is this kind of thing happening in Canada?


Did you notice that whispering wind from the wurlitzer that started out here in BC a couple of days ago, but which has since started blowing nationally, that is telling us that we have to gut public sector pensions because not enough people in the private sector have comparable ones?

Well, that tickle in your ear was started by a very fine, out-front group called the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Which is supported by 'taxpayers'.


Well, David Shreck (not Shrek!) got to wondering about this very thing not long ago, and here is what he discovered:

...After watching Voice of BC on June 28 with host Vaughn Palmer interviewing Philip Hochstein from the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC and Jordan Bateman from the CTF I started looking for more information about the CTF. After all, we are all taxpayers but I don't recall being asked if the CTF could speak on my behalf. I went to the CTF website in order to look for its financial statements and constitution, curious as to how its directors are elected. The organization that is quick to criticize governments for lack of transparency is far from transparent. It takes some searching but financial highlights can be found which shows it received $3.4 million in donations in 2011, up from $3.2 million in 2010. It paid one person between $91,000 and $110,000, four people between $71,000 and $90,000, and five less than $71,000. A search of the Industry Canada website indicated its last annual meeting was held in 2005 and it has not filed returns for 2011 or 2012; however, after Tweeting that discovery, its Alberta Director and National Communications Manager, Scott Hennig, responded that the Industry Canada information is out of date. My advice is for the CTF to get the information updated and to also provide it on its own website.

Mr. Hennig was most helpful in answering questions about the governance of the Taxpayers Federation. When asked if its 70,000 "supporters" are eligible to elect who is on its board of directors, he Tweeted that only the directors are eligible to elect directors! In other words, the $3.4 million in donations received by CTF is under the direction of 
five people who elect themselves and choose whoever they want to fill any vacancy; no one else has any control over the organization. Of course, donors could withdraw their contributions if they became unhappy, but how many of those donors know that the Taxpayers Federation has a self-perpetuating board of directors with no accountability to a membership base? Its website reports: "CTF offices field hundreds of media interviews each month, hold press conferences and issue regular news releases, commentaries, online postings and publications to advocate the common interest of taxpayers. CTF representatives speak at functions, make presentations to government, meet with politicians, and organize petition drives, events and campaigns to mobilize citizens to affect public policy change." How many media or politicians know that the CTF is governed by five people who have the power to elect themselves and are not accountable to anyone else?

While I don't always agree with the points of view offered by the Taxpayers Federation, I don't dispute its right to contribute to debate on public policy. However, when it comes to fundraising, I believe not-for-profits should be as transparent as charities, and if a governance structure allows no challenge in elections to a board of directors, potential donors should be fully aware of that form of tight control.
Mr. Hennig Tweeted: "Those who are interested know"...


Is it possible that,  'those who are interested' love the smell of astroturf in the morning?

For their next trick....Watch out for the blades of the wurlitzer in the next day of two at the end of a slow news week as the CTF tries to co-opt Labour Day because, you know, organized labour is not actually supported by its members....Or some such thing...
And, it is worth noting that, for those who like to do crazy stuff like dig into past performance to figure out what someone is up to in the here and now....The size of the turf  'patch doesn't have to be very big to get the job done...



Bill said...

It may be the dog days of summer with many lazing into a long weekend but for Romney and a hurricane, the BC Liberals and our "holidaying" local MSM things are twisting, blowing, careening, and spinning - all mostly out of control.

Yes the Mike's (Campbell and Levy), Jordan Bateman, Phil Hochstein and enablers really have been racheting up the evil pension 'problem' and gee maybe now some people are starting to think it's us against us, prosperity is not sustainable and the new reality must be done.

From satellite big picture to microscopic behind the scenes manipulation maybe I am reading too much into your post but I don't think so. I think it both elegantly simple and simply elegant - especially how you connect the actions, the players, tie in Mr Shreck and link to very informative back posts.

Wish more people would read and become more aware of how all these operatives work for their self interests.


Laila said...

Great post and timely.Woke up this morning to continuing debate on twitter w/ Bateman, and now Tielman over CTF, after I called out Bateman yesterday for not revealing his past as Constituency president for Rich Coleman,included your post from last year I think it was... now tweeted this too. Great work RossK and David!!

Skookum1 said...

Sounds like an unregistered lobbying organization to me, or a p.r. firm misrepresenting itself, with profits masked as 'salaries' for the directors.....using tax writeoffs available to nonprofits/NGOs to advance the cause of tax-slashing, while avoiding taxes itself.....

LOL. Jordan Bateman, also, has been getting regular "airtime" or columnspace or whatever you'd call it on the HuffPo, generally he's the only "journalist" or ANYONE reported as saying anything about BC in that trumped-up rag until it condescended to start covering BC news lately, including columnspace for Laila Yuile. The only other reportage on BC was coming from statistician-cum-spindoctor Eric Grenier.

Articles mentioning Bateman were near always empty space concocted to give him profile and make him seem important in a province where he's a blip on the journalistic landscape......part of the neocon dabal that hijacked the HuffPo since it opened its Canadian doors under the misrule of Peter Worthington of the Sun.....

How interesting the CTF is just a bunch of hot air feeding off what seems to me to be illegal and mirespresentative fund raising activities for a tax-defrauding group of p.r. huckster....

RossK said...


'Us against Us' is a great and, I truly believe, accurate descriptor.

A really fine comment - thanks.



Saw the tweet-fight.

I have no problem with the likes of Mr. Bateman et al. advocating for anything they want, but I become very concerned when these fine folks purport to be doing things due to their grass-roots support and input as well as their non-partisan point of view.

I, too, once got in a 'discussion' about this insidious aspect of 'astroturfing' with Mr. Bateman (he was very derisive and attacked my politics) at Mr. Willcocks place back in the days when he was out front wurlitzering for the PortMann rebuild (see link at bottom of post) which was clearly pushing a political agenda...The number of 'citizens' behind Mr. Bateman's 'grass roots' organization in that case?...In his words an ad-hoc group of 'six residents'.

Yes that's right.


And yet he still got it into, for example, the Vancouver Sun, pretty much straight-up.


Based on the fact that the CTF is, based on Mr. Schreck's research and Mr. Hennig's correspondence with him, run by its five directors, I had a close look at their bios....They clearly have an agenda that does not in my opinion represent all 'taxpayers', which is precisely my point (ie. this is turf, not grassroots).

Thus, I do not disagree with you re: the 'PR' aspect of the enterprise. However, it does not appear, at least in terms of donations/contributions based on what is on their website, that there are any tax write-offs being doled out (to their credit, they are actually very up front about that).


Laila said...

And if you look back on my twitter feed to yesterday Ross, you;ll see where this all started- between Jordon, Robbie and couldnt believe it when I woke up this morning and saw Bill chiming in to defend and Jordan still going at it. All quiet now.... for how long I dont know.

RossK said...

Thanks Laila--

Post on anti-taxpayer CTF support of HST comin'...

(which one can only note amusingly that Mr. Bateman dismissed as 'before his time').


spartikus said...

As I tweeted yesterday, CKNW and 1130 (and others) have a propensity of posting CTF press releases as, you know, news. Why be journalists when you can be stenographers.

Yes, they have the right to participate in the public arena, but Bateman & co and facts often do not co-exist comfortably.

RossK said...

Thanks Spart.

You've done a lot of heavy lifting...Will link in post.


Anonymous said...

It all started with a relatively harmless Tweet from me to JB about Les's age, and his MLA pension. If I were in the fourth quarter of the blame game, I could have easily said it was the BC Libs fault. But, I didn't. Instead I take full responsibility for my Tweets, all 140 characters worth. No dodge and spin here. The exchange however escalated from a tongue in cheek reference I made to JB's scheduled appearance at the BCCP AGM Sep 22 :"thx 4 data and research JB. Great stuff. You rock. Counting sleeps til u speak at BCCP AGM in September!"
LY asked if JB was a BC Con. He said in his heart he was not filipina but that was my DM, and not his outer voice. From there it launched into a full on poli-technic Tweet show, complete with CV's, poli-sci fi on wi-fi and a host of interesting remarks about how JB does his hair from BCBlue. Well, maybe not. This morning BillT, an NDP comm guru, steps up and the HST anniversary celebrations continued unabated well into the wee hours of the morning. But we still have the tax and yes JB has a storied past with the BC Libs I never knew about until LY brought it to my attention. And so it is we live our lives in the shadow of a relentless tide of data, Tweets and blog posts. Thanks Ross K for letting me rant.

Robbie Armstrong

RossK said...

Thanks Robbie--

Appreciate it.

But, for the record, it's not the specifics that matter so much to me.

It's the serial subterfuge.