Is getting paid to speak at a charity right?
June 20, 2013 Leave a comment
While not every politician does it, some attend events to be paid or maybe to be more out in the public. It’s done probably in many countries. For example, retired Presidents and Prime Ministers [as well as those who were high in office] spend their post political years on a speaking engagement circuit possibly for years.
So is it right for a current politician to do so? I guess it depends. Here’s one story.
It started a while back that Justin Trudeau, son of the late famous politician Pierre Elliot Trudeau, did quite a bit of public speaking [with a good chunk of it prior to getting into politics in 2008] and when he became leader of the Liberal Party, the ruling Conservative Party came after him the night of his party leadership win with a fairly nasty attack ad.
In the attack ad, they poked at his political and non-political background, using his father’s name to get ahead, etc. They poked at him when he danced around a bit foolishly in a video. Turns out the party had no permission to use the video. Even worse, the video was from a charity [where he was auctioned off to the highest bidder – this was before he was married].
Fast forward to last week. With all the heat coming out regarding various expense scandals, the Conservative Party tried to deflect attention. They know that in the next federal election it will be the Liberals they will be battling – not the opposition party, the NDP – now that Trudeau is the Liberal leader.
So they started to go after Trudeau because over the years he accumulated about $1.3 million in fees received for speaking at various charity functions [turns out that only about $270,000 while in politics]. It also came out that some charities actually lost money at the events he was paid to speak [or attend]. The Conservatives started to go after him for taking money from a charity. Shocking.
[I suspect anyone in the Us knows that at least former politicians and celebrities make quite a bit off charities and other organizations. For example, George W. Bush averages roughly $110,000 per event – making about $15 million or so in his first 30 months after leaving office – a few were charities.]
OK. Let’s look at this closely. You are invited to be speaking at an event. The charity agreed to pay you to do so. The charity lost money [in some cases at least] for the event. How does a charity lose money at a fund raising event? What else did the charity spend money on? His fee was maybe $20,000.
I have done work for a few charities and they all have compensated guest speakers or performers [let alone even some social new reporter or two]. Nobody [with exceptions] do things for free.
As it turns out one charity connected to the Conservative Party that complained, did so through the Prime Minister’s Office [a.k.a. PMO] [doesn’t mean the Prime Minister was involved]. Some staffer at the PMO decided to leak the information to a newspaper that declined to get directly involved but then announced that the request came from the PMO.
Meanwhile, Trudeau has announced that for any of the 17 charities that he was paid while a politician, that he has offered to return their money. Last I heard, very few took him up on his offer. He claims he used no tax payer money for any events [travel, hotel, etc.].
The ethics commissioner has found nothing wrong.
So is it wrong to take money from a charity to speak [or just attend] an event?