Ralph Lean, a Bay Street lawyer and prominent campaign fundraiser, has announced his intention to raise money for Rob Ford’s re-election campaign. It’s an interesting cultural twist for Ford, since when you open a dictionary and look up “downtown elite” you see there a photograph of Ralph Lean.
But does it even matter? Even as an inside-baseball story for politics junkies? It’s hard to tell. A recent look at Lean’s recent (and even not-so-recent) history doesn’t inspire confidence, however.
In 2010, Lean was said to have been waiting on John Tory—who would have been an odds-on favourite to win had he run—and when Tory made himself unavailable, Lean selected George Smitherman as his racehorse. Why? Because it looked like Smitherman was a good bet to win. “Mr. Lean canvassed the city’s money men and women and found that, ‘overwhelmingly, the people I talked to wanted me to back Smitherman.’”
In 2006, he backed David Miller, who was running pretty much unopposed (sorry, Jane Pitfield.) Why? When John Lorinc asked him at the time, he took a minute–”I’m thinking. It’s a good question.”–before settling on the fact that he thought Miller was running the winning bandwagon:
Mr. Lean says he consulted with some of the city’s most prominent business leaders before taking the plunge. “People you know,” he adds suggestively, without naming names. He refuses to say if one of those calls went out to Toronto Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey, the former Metro chairman whose unrivalled influence at City Hall during the Lastman era was the stuff of legend. “Without exception,” he adds, “all of them said, ‘Yes, get involved.’ ”
In 2003, he was thought to be a backer of John Tory, who would have been considered a better bet to win than David Miller until very late in the campaign, but Lorinc reports that Tory was rumoured to have asked him to sit on the sidelines because Lean carried too much of the old-Lastman backroom-boy Toronto-elite stench with him. Lean, for his part, points out that he was too busy raising money for the doomed campaign of Premier Ernie Eves.
As a fundraiser, it seems (according to his own explanations) that Lean calls potential donors, asks them who they are going to donate to, and then joins that team. And more generally, he picks whoever appears most likely to win and signs on with them.
So does this matter at all for Ford? Who the hell knows? The election is still more than two years away.