Friday, May 22, 2009

On disorganization

UPDATE: As Steven notes in comments, the premise behind the below post is apparently wrong - the issue with the donation numbers was a matter of party processing, not a matter of tracking or reporting by the Lingenfelter campaign. Thanks to Steven for correcting me, and my apologies to the Lingenfelter campaign for drawing the wrong conclusion.

The original post is maintained for posterity below.

Most of the recent writings looking to drag out the Lingenfelter membership controversy - see for example Murray Mandryk's latest - have been based in large part on incredulity at the concept that the Lingenfelter campaign could have come by its mistakes honestly. Surely, the line goes, the people responsible for managing a well-funded frontrunner's campaign couldn't overlook obvious problems with the memberships and make questionable decisions about money management.

But to paraphrase what another politician once said to some effect, yes they can. And for evidence, one need look no further than the sequence of events documented in this post and its updates.

Presuming (as seems to the case) that the Saskatchewan NDP's public postings reflected the information submitted to it by the candidates rather than any further processing at the party level, it was Lingenfelter's campaign which submitted a total nearly $40,000 (or 40% of total donations) below what was actually reflected in its donation list. And if the campaign is that far off the mark in tracking money coming in, it's entirely more plausible that it could lack any real controls over $11,000 moving out.

Likewise, it was Lingenfelter's campaign which apparently managed to miss the presence of two maximum-level donations from the same organization within a few lines of each other on its own reporting documents. Which makes it seem far less improbable that it could have failed to properly check the signatures and other elements of membership forms submitted by somebody else.

Now, one could seek to pry into the donation reporting with the same type of detailed questions which Mandryk and others are raising about the membership controversy. Who was responsible to add the totals and double-check the lists, and why did they fail to do so? Did Lingenfelter's campaign actually receive and cash two cheques from the Canadian Ironworkers, forcing it to turn around and return one of the donations after the duplication was discovered? What exactly is the "Sask. Provincial Trades Association" which doesn't seem to exist anywhere except for Lingenfelter's public disclosures?

But from my standpoint, those smaller issues would miss the more important point. Despite his head start in terms of time, money and volunteers, Lingenfelter has managed to run the least effectively supervised, most amateurish campaign of any of the leadership competitors when it comes to basic functions like handling money and processing memberships.

Moreover, he's resolutely refused to hold anybody accountable even in the face of significant public embarrassment for himself and for the Saskatchewan NDP as a whole. And while it's perhaps understandable that Lingenfelter would be hesitant to make major changes to his organization in the middle of a campaign, it certainly can't be a good sign that the first wave of problems didn't lead to any improved internal oversight.

Which means that NDP members who may have favoured Lingenfelter as the candidate best positioned to put together the party's campaign in 2011 now have every reason to doubt that he actually fits the bill. And that fact may be more damaging to Lingenfelter's aspirations than any accusation of old-style politics.

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