Thursday, May 07, 2009

A cost/benefit analysis

Murray Mandryk seems to be coming around to the view that the Lingenfelter membership issue likely is the result of a single volunteer (and insufficient supervision by the campaign) rather than a strategy that started at the top. But let's look in a bit more detail at why that's likely so - and what Robert Hale will need to examine to answer the question one way or the other.

Let's start by asking what the Lingenfelter campaign could possibly have gained by submitting and paying for the memberships if it had been aware that they didn't reflect actual support for the leadership vote. At most, one could argue that Lingenfelter could point to the memberships as an indicator of momentum. But that hardly serves to add any great value for a campaign which already figured to have sold more memberships than any other - particularly when the number of memberships involved doesn't add to Lingenfelter's actual sales by a margin which figures to change the general narrative surrounding the race.

And the calculus makes even less sense if there was any assumption that votes could be cast on behalf of the members signed up without their consent. Simply put, if the Lingenfelter campaign was counting on a strategy of conscripting people's names against their will to make up his margin of victory, then why stop at 1,100 when that number would have at best a moderate chance of making the final difference in the race? And why concentrate those memberships within two First Nations so as to draw attention - not to mention bragging about the concentration of memberships which was virtually certain to bring the problem to light?

Of course, in order to verify that similar problems didn't pop up elsewhere, Hale will presumably need to be able to evaluate whether the same strategy was actually carried out anywhere else. Which means having access to the other memberships sold by Lingenfelter's campaign as well as the canvassers whose names were signed to those, as well as following up with at least some of the individuals signed up.

But if the two First Nations involved are the extent of the problem, then one could hardly design a scheme which presented a higher likelihood of severe embarrassment in exchange for marginal benefits. Which does indeed suggest some serious oversight issues within Lingenfelter's campaign - but also offers ample reason to doubt that the scheme originated at the top.

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