Alternative title: Why Joe won't get accreditation for the next budget lockup
I wrote about this for the MediaScout earlier this week but it continues to frustrate me, so all you Megalomedialites get to read about it now.
As many of you likely know, Stephen Harper replaced his director of communications on Monday. You can read about it here, or if you prefer a knob-pollishingly ass kissing recap, read this.
That in and of itself isn't big news, though it did prompt some analysis about the less-than-ideal job security in the PMO. What IS news, at least in my opinion, is that new director of communications Sandra Buckler is a former lobbyist.
Harper et al. didn't try to hide that fact; it was apparently included in the press release (though I can't find a copy of it. Hey, who writes a press release to announce a new director of communications? Weird).
But for some reason, nobody did much digging into her background, save for a couple of journos who took the time to list some of her former clients.
Odd. I seem to remember a lot of coverage of Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor's lobbying history. In fact, wasn't a crack down on the Liberal lobby culture a major part of Harper's campaign?
Granted, there's nothing illegal about lobbying, nor is there anything illegal about hiring a lobbyist to be your communications director. But when you've made a crack down on the lobby culture a major theme of your campaign, shouldn't someone take the time to run a few Google searches just to see what the aforementioned lobbyist was up to between stints with the Conservative party?
Here's a good place to start. Or, if that gives you an error message, go here and enter Sandra Buckler's name.
Now, does everyone have their list of Buckler's clients? Good, let's start Googling!
Of course, before we engage in this little exercise, let me make it perfectly clear that I am NOT connecting Buckler to any kind of wrongdoing. She registered her lobbying activities and deregistered (unregistered?) before going to work on the Tory campaign.
Now that we've cleared that up, let's have a looksy at that client list.
Royal LePage Relocation Services. If that name doesn't ring a bell, you probably didn't work as a media monitor on a DND contract. There were some concerns raised a few years ago that Royal LePage acted less than scrupilously in their dealings with the government. Since everyone else gets to hide behind Parliamentary privilege, I will too. Check out this Hansard entry and Google more yourself if you want.
Canadian Payday Loans Association. This is the association that represents, obviously, the payday loans companies. MoneyMart and the like. Recently there were concerns raised about the levels of interest charged by these companies. There was talk of federal legislation but to my memory, nothing came of it. I stand to be corrected on that.
CCFDA. What the heck is the CCFDA? Oh, the Canadian Coalition for Fair Digital Access! Well, digital copyright issues and the recordable media levy haven't been in the news or anything.
Once again, let me reiterate - there's no reason to believe Buckler did anything wrong. She registered properly and deregistered before working (officially at least) with the Tories.
That said, she lobbied on behalf of companies/groups that do work with the government. In the last two cases listed above, she was working with groups with a vested (in the case of CCFDA, stated) interested in changing or affecting legislation.
Now she has the ear of the PM.
Is it illegal? No. Is it unethical? Maybe. Is it slightly hypocritical on Harper's part? I think so.
Is it worth coverage in the mainstream press? Abso-fuckin-lutely.