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Available Expert - New legislation proposed on cash-for-access

Friday, January 27, 2017

Queen's University economist Christopher Cotton is available to comment on reports that the federal government intends to introduce new legislation to end the practice of so-called "cash-for-access" fundraising events. The Globe and Mail reported today that the Prime Minister has requested that Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould work to introduce legislation that would effectively ban elite fundraisers for cabinet ministers that are usually held in private homes. The bill would require fundraisers to be held in publicly accessible spaces rather than private homes or clubs, be publicly advertised in advance, and would require a public report on each individual fundraiser be released detailing how many people attended and how much was raised.

"A reliance on private donations to fund parties and campaigns gives policymakers an incentive to prioritize issues supported by well-funded interests, who are more likely to provide substantial political contributions to gain access," explains Dr. Cotton. "These incentives are at their worse when the cash-for-access exchange is happening behind closed doors. The proposed legislation helps improve transparency, which is a good thing. It would, however, be better to require the public reports to provide detail not only about how many people attended each event, but also about who attended each event."

Dr. Cotton adds, however, that he does not believe the legislation will do much to reduce the influence of money in the political process. He explains that the primary issue with cash-for-access events is the perception of impropriety and that there is little evidence that these events involve much backroom dealing between the politicians and donors. 

"A more substantial concern involves the fact that donors are more likely to have access to politicians outside of the fundraisers, in one-on-one meetings within their ministries," Dr. Cotton explains. "The proposed legislation does nothing to limit cash-for-access except at the group events, where less discussion of policy details likely takes place."

Dr. Christopher Cotton is the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic and Financial Policy in the Queen's Department of Economics and the director of the John Deutsch Institute for the Study of Economic Policy. His research focuses on topics such as game theory and experiments to study policy related questions in public economics, political economy and organizational economics. He is available for print and radio interviews on January 27, 2017.

To arrange an interview, please contact communications officer Chris Armes (613-533-6000 ext. 77513 or chris.armes@queensu.ca) or Anne Craig (613-533-2877 or anne.craig@queensu.ca)at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.

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