B.C. Liberals raise big money

Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon

VICTORIA – B.C. Liberal leadership candidates have released donation totals in advance of Saturday’s vote to succeed Premier Gordon Campbell, following the lead of Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong’s campaign for more financial transparency.

Party rules require donations to be declared after the contest, but de Jong led the way Feb. 11 by listing 181 individual and corporate donations totaling $266,450.

“This is the kind of information that the public is entitled to have, and so are the members of the hiring committee – members of the B.C. Liberal Party – prior to making their decision on Feb. 26,” de Jong said.

Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon led the way with donations totaling $708,665, far exceeding the $450,000 spending limit imposed on leadership candidates.

Former MLA and radio host Christy Clark collected $519,040, while Shuswap MLA George Abbott raised just under the spending cap with $427,842 from more than 300 contributors.

Falcon and Clark said donations beyond the spending limit will be given to the party to put toward debt from the 2009 election campaign.

The largest donation to any candidate was $40,000 from Keg Restaurants to Falcon. Keg CEO David Eisenstat is a member of Falcon 20/20, a group of business leaders who raised money and signed up new members to support the former health and transportation minister.

Aquilini Development and Construction Inc. gave $25,000 each to Falcon and Clark, and Aquilini Investment Group gave $10,000 to Abbott. Both are family companies headed by Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini.

Wall Financial Corporation also gave $25,000 to Clark’s campaign.

The B.C. Liberal Party has also increased membership to nearly 90,000 as leadership candidates signed up members to vote in Saturday’s party election. A party spokesperson declined to comment on reports that 6,000 of those new members have been disqualified, but said total membership numbers will be disclosed with voting results on Saturday.

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