EDMONTON – Anonymous numbered companies contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Alberta Tory leadership candidates, including nearly $36,000 to Premier Jim Prentice alone.
Donating incognito through a numbered company is legal in Alberta, and 23 people used this option to contribute between $500 and $25,000 to one of three candidates in the 2014 Progressive Conservative leadership race.
Records obtained by the Journal show the largest nameless donation went to candidate Ric McIver, who received $25,000 from a numbered company registered to Edmonton businessman Peter Wall.
Wayne and Eleanor Chiu of Trico Developments donated $10,000 apiece to Prenticeâ€™s leadership campaign, each using a different numbered company.
Other Prentice donors who used numbered companies include Darshan Sandhu ($2,000), Baldev Heer ($1,000), former Tory MLA Lorne Taylor ($1,000) and Raj Saunder, who gave Prentice $10,000.
The Journal obtained the information by cross-referencing leadership contribution disclosures released by Elections Alberta with corporate registry records â€” a costly and labour-intensive process.
Elections Alberta spokesman Drew Westwater said the system is transparent insofar as it allows Albertans to see whether an individual, a named company or a numbered company has contributed money to a politician.
â€œYou know the funding did come from a numbered company, it didnâ€™t come from an individual or an illegal organization,â€� Westwater said. â€œThere is a fair amount of disclosure there.â€�
The disclosures mark the first time that leadership candidates for Albertaâ€™s long-ruling Tories have been required by law to disclose the names of their donors.
For most of Albertaâ€™s history, political parties set their own rules for financial disclosure in leadership races and in some cases, candidates never revealed the names of their donors. In 2012, the provincial government introduced new legislation that set basic rules for the first time. Under those new rules, donors are allowed to use numbered companies to contribute to leadership candidates.
â€œItâ€™s a policy decision by the government,â€� Westwater said, adding Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim has not recommended any change in current practice.
In 2014, some donors used numbered companies and contributed to more than one candidate. In addition to giving $10,000 to Prentice, Saunder, for example, used two different numbered companies to contribute $5,000 to Ric McIverâ€™s campaign.
Other McIver donors who used numbered companies include Mahebub Gilani, who gave $10,000, and Aleem Dhanani of Bri-Mor Developments, who contributed $5,000.
Candidate Thomas Lukaszuk received four donations from numbered companies, including two from developer Prem Singhmar, who gave $8,100. Edmonton entrepreneurs Nelson and Estrella Rodriguez contributed $2,250 to Lukaszukâ€™s campaign.
The fourth donation, for $4,500, was attributed to 994552 NWT Ltd., but the director could not be identified through the Alberta registry.