Leading Conservative fundraiser drops Ford support

It’s early in the game, but Toronto’s mayoral candidates are already vying for attention — and money — to fund their campaigns.

Some of Ryerson’s professors are involved in this political game.

Conservative lawyer and Ted Rogers business school professor Ralph Lean is known among the political community as the city’s top fundraiser for mayoral candidates.

This week, however, the Ryerson professor withdrew from fundraising duty for this year’s race.

The news comes as a surprise since Lean was the top fundraiser for George Smitherman’s 2010 mayoral campaign.

In both 2012 and 2013, Lean said that he would fundraise for Mayor Rob Ford in the upcoming election.

“I’ve been involved in every mayoral campaign since 2003 as a fundraiser. I originally got into politics as a business development tool,” Lean said. “This year, I need to give my time to my new firm and I’m going to start broadcasting with a friend of mine from CP24.”

Another shock to the race’s mayoral fundraising strategy is Coun. Doug Ford’s accusation against Andy Pringle, a member of the Toronto Police Services Board and former Ford donor.

On Feb. 27, Doug Ford said Pringle is hoping for the mayor’s biggest competitor, John Tory, to win.

According to records, Pringle donated $2,500 to Ford’s 2010 mayoral campaign. Now Pringle is raising money for Tory’s mayoral bid. He is also overseeing police Chief Bill Blair in his investigation against the mayor.

Nearly two months into the 10-month campaign, Rob Ford has yet to announce the names of the people in his camp other than campaign manager Doug Ford. The Fords also haven’t revealed the name of a spokesperson.

But fundraising is only a part of the puzzle. George Smitherman raised more money than Ford in 2010, but Ford won by 11 percentage points.

The official spending limit for the Oct. 27 election is about $1.3 million, but candidates can both raise and spend much more through fundraising events. They can also borrow if needed.

Ford had a post-campaign debt of $800,000 during the last election. Mitchell Kosny, a Ryerson urban planning professor who formerly ran in city politics, says the general strategy for fundraisers is a desire to back the winner. This sets the tone for future favours.

He said some right-wing fundraisers are currently waiting to see who will emerge among the conservative candidates — Tory, Ford and Karen Stintz.

“The political machine is moving and ready to go, whether candidates have declared or not,” Kosny said. “In one way, everyone’s hitting the ground hard now. But the final, heavy, hard hit will be after Labour Day.”

Campaigns will take a targeted approach in getting people with a personal affiliation to the candidate or to their platform, to be donors, said Kosny.

Left-wing candidates, on the other hand, are waiting for Olivia Chow, a NDP MP, to declare that she’s running for mayor.

As for Lean, who teaches a class on politics and law at Ryerson, he will still get a fair share of the political action.

He will appear as a political commentator on Stephen LeDrew’s CP24 show.

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