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The Standard

Here’s an idea: electoral funding

Written By: - Date published: 6:01 pm, January 11th, 2014 - 25 comments
Categories: accountability, democratic participation, election funding - Tags:

Yesterday Standardista freedom posted a suggestion for electoral funding on open mike. 

Here is freedom‘s suggestion/blue print (in black print) – in freedom‘s own words:

Want to get some transparency back into politics funding in New Zealand?

Tired of electoral funding skullduggery?

I suggest NZ creates the Electoral Donation Register of New Zealand.

THE EDRNZ:
The EDRNZ is an escrow body which collects and distributes donations for all local and central government election candidates and or political parties.

Any party or individual standing in local or central government elections registers with the EFRNZ and is paid donated monies minus an administrative tax.

A small fee of perhaps 0.01% is taxed on all donations for administration of the EDRNZ.

KiwiBank is an obvious choice to administrate the fund.

All donations are deposited and logged with the EDRNZ then distributed to the relevant party or individual. With modern banking on-line processes this would be an efficient near instantaneous transaction from donation to EDRNZ to candidate. (especially quick if the candidate banked with KiwiBank)

DONATIONS:
Any individual donation over $1000 is not anonymous and is declared on a public register.

Donations below $1,000 can be anonymous but are still declared on a public register.

Any donations from a business or a trust for example, of any amount, would not be anonymous and must be declared on the register. (Trusts are and will continue to be a major thorn in the paw of NZ politics, until they are extracted) Occasional audits of the anonymous deposits should show up attempts to circumvent this.

Any donation of any amount not made in the name of a NZ citizen or resident of NZ would not be anonymous and must be declared on the public register.

All cash donations, electoral office collections and ‘raffle’ sales etc are processed/declared as per origin of funds. -this is an obvious grey area for cases where this total exceeds $1000 but it is hardly an insurmountable obstacle. The circumstances of its collection would show the totals were legitimate. E.g. the deposit slip from bucket collections. Large single donations (over the $1000 limit) are very rare from a bucket day, I am confident dodo eggs would be more common, but a donor’s details could easily be logged by the collector or alternatively the donation can be made using any number of modern technical services such as Square, for one example.

THE PUBLIC REGISTER

Your vote is your vote and that should always be private information between you and the relevant electoral body. When it comes to political donations however, I strongly feel if you don’t want people to know you donated to a particular party then why are you donating to that party?

I am sure there are plenty of clever folk out there who could shape a register with the suitable oversights which also provides the necessary social protections.

Despite the disasters in information sharing from recent years, I am confident NZ could produce a public register detailing the donated amount with an associated donor identity that does so without signing away excessive amounts of private data. The Addresses or locality of the donor for example need not be specific or even public, you might live in Tawa but that does not mean you don’t want to support a candidate in Taupo.

The transfer of data to the EDRNZ Public Register would not need to be instantaneous and a weekly update would most likely suffice.

In conclusion, there are numerous opportunities to massively overcomplicate the environment of a body like EDRNZ, and despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth from some heavily invested interest groups, the actual mechanics of its operation are incredibly straightforward and there is no reason for it not to operate efficiently and most importantly transparently.

just an idea ….

25 comments on “Here’s an idea: electoral funding”

  1. Philj 1

    Xox
    Great idea. Except expensive turkeys won’t vote for an early Christmas. It took Parliarment about 80 years to get daylight saving sorted! What about sponsors logos on their business suits in proportion to their political donors contributions?

    • Akldnut 1.1

      Where would Key put his sponsors logos?

      1. The Emperor has no clothes
      2. If he had clothes they would need to be dozens of meters long, and there wouldn’t be room for the small donors.
      or
      3. He would need multiple thicknesses, look like the Michelin Man, overheat and die.

  2. dv 2

    Whats that phrase- if you have nothing hide you have nothing to fear.

    I suspect you will get agreement about how to tackle global climate change first.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Donations below $1,000 can be anonymous but are still declared on a public register.

    This is wrong. Every donation going to the EDRNZ would have to have name/address on it so that all donations can be accumulated correctly and while the total donation to a political party remains below $1000 then the name isn’t given out. Once it passes $1000 then it would automatically flip over from anonymous to public.

    Any donations from a business or a trust for example, of any amount, would not be anonymous and must be declared on the register. (Trusts are and will continue to be a major thorn in the paw of NZ politics, until they are extracted)

    I’m still of the opinion that any legal entity that conglomerates multiple individuals into a single name (unions, businesses, trade associations, etc) should not be able to donate to political parties at all. Gets rid of that major thorn.

    One other thing I’d like to see is the requirement that all money and transactions that a party have be available to its entire membership at all times. This transparency would help prevent corrupt practices within a party.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      I’m still of the opinion that any legal entity that conglomerates multiple individuals into a single name (unions, businesses, trade associations, etc) should not be able to donate to political parties at all. Gets rid of that major thorn.

      I disagree. It’s quite conceivable that a company would want to donate to a particular party, but none of the high-ranking officers of that company personally would want to donate to that party.

      • felix 3.1.1

        Can you give a hypothetical example of how this might work? Having trouble seeing that one.

        • Lanthanide 3.1.1.1

          In practice it probably doesn’t happen (with *all* of the company’s upper officers), but it’s not difficult to imagine Michael Cullen being loathe to donate to the National Party even if that were the best thing for NZ Post to do (obviously they’re an SOE so it’s different, but just an example).

          Another case could be a company that serves the lower classes in some capacity and therefore should be leftwing in it’s views, but is staffed by right-wingers.

          Potential possible examples: private prisons and private schools, probably would want to donate to National but could be staffed by left-wingers.

          • karol 3.1.1.1.1

            But the stafff may not make the decision – other individuals might – it’s still individuals making the decision.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2

        It’s quite conceivable that a company would want to donate to a particular party

        Actually, it’s not as the company isn’t a living, thinking being. In what you describe it’s the individuals within the company that want to donate but want to use the company to hide that donation.

        • Lanthanide 3.1.2.1

          It’s quite possible for companies to have positions on things that are different and distinct from the individuals that are employed by that company.

          In fact it’s often made clear when individuals are speaking on their own terms and not as a representative of their companies, and vice versa.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2.1.1

            Companies have the position as decided by the collective of the boardroom. Now, some idiots may dress it up as the position of the company as if it was a living being but that is nothing but sophistry. The reality is that it’s the position of a limited number of individuals that work at the company.

            • Lanthanide 3.1.2.1.1.1

              So if a company like The Warehouse has a position on paying living wages to it’s employees (which they do), and the company at multiple levels carriers out this position in the way they treat staff and hire staff, according to you that company is behaving in exactly the same way as Pak ‘n’ Sav who only pay their employees minimum wage?

              • karol

                Lanth – the company doesn’t make decisions. The comany is not a thinking, sentient human being. The company doesn’t behave at all. It’s not human. What part of that don’t you get?

                Some people in the company, at some level, would make the decision to contribute some of the company’s money to a political party.

                I don’t see what the different decisions made by Pak n Sav boards and that of Warehouse has to do with it.

                • Lanthanide

                  The point I’m making is that if you say companies, which are collections of people, cannot have positions on things, then you’re effectively saying that no collection of people can have positions on things. It really is quite obvious that different entities can have policies that have been decided on by some segment of their population, and those policies are then enacted throughout the entity on as many levels as necessary.

                  For example, turns out New Zealand actually doesn’t have an anti-nuclear position, because New Zealand isn’t a living breathing entity, it’s just a whole bunch of individuals. Some the individuals have an anti-nuclear policy and some of them act on said policy, but most members of the country don’t do anything about it at all.

                  • karol

                    It depends on who in the company makes a decision on contributing to a party’s funding. It most likely doesn’t include the rank and file staff. It’s probably the majority decision of the Board.

                    It’s not the same as the majority views of members of the public.

                    PS: Lanth, I’m not sure what it is you are disputing about DtB’s original comment.

                    • Lanthanide

                      I disputed DtB’s original comment by saying it’s quite possible that a company would hold different policies or positions than it’s higher officers, so prohibiting a company from donating and saying the individuals should do it instead won’t necessarily result in the same donations being made.

                      DtB followed that up by saying companies aren’t living breathing entities and therefore can’t have policies or positions, which logically means no collection of people could ever have policies or positions, which is patently absurd.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      I suggest you re-read what I wrote because you obviously misunderstood it. Either that or you’re purposefully misrepresenting what I said.

  4. Lanthanide 4

    0.01% admin fee won’t begin to cover the costs of administering this fund, unless you’re also suggesting that all government-funding for political parties (eg, their TV ad spend etc) goes through this scheme also.

    0.1% is probably the bare minimum you could get away with, and in practice it’d probably be more like 0.5%.

  5. jaymam 5

    Apart from small donations from individuals of up to say $20 to a party, I think donations should be banned. Parties should be funded by government before an election on the basis of several dollars per vote that they get in the NEXT election. So the parties will have to guess how many votes they get. If they get fewer votes than they estimated, they will get less funding in the following election. A number of other countries do this already.

    Brad Pederson of Democracy Watch in Australia said:

    “Financial donations to political parties and candidates are one of the most corrupting forces in our political system. This is the dark underbelly of our political system. These donations are a serious threat to our democracy. The policy outcomes of all our governments risk being improperly influenced by huge corporations, powerful trade unions and wealthy individuals. Some donors even secure their influence by making equally enormous donations to both parties.

    “Every year the major parties collect what amounts to many millions of dollars, much of it through dubious means. Creative accounting and shady ‘front organizations’ are used to allow rich and powerful donors to mask their identity. The current legislative framework is wholly inadequate, riddled with loopholes and invites corruption. The time has come to seriously confront this cancer in our political system.

    “Nobody should believe this money is donated because of any altruistic enthusiasm for democracy. Even if there is no direct undertaking on behalf of the beneficiaries, clearly it’s about buying influence. These donations are predominantly just bribes – to think otherwise is naive. It must be exposed for what it is. The control of parliament by political parties riddled with donor cash should not be seen as anything less than the breakdown of fundamental aspects of our democracy. It is no secret that the major parties are being strangled by these donations. They need to be saved from themselves.

    “This issue is too important to be left to the political parties to solve. They have always resisted reforms that threaten their privilege. The major parties created the campaign finance laws and they are its beneficiaries. It is a blatant conflict of interest. Nothing will change unless the public demands it.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      +1

      That would, IMO, be the next step. Full government funding of political parties but not on the votes that they get as that would tend to entrench the present main parties but on the members that they have. Probably want to have a minimum funding level as well so that small parties still have enough to get their message out.

      Which brings up the idea of a registry of party members.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 5.2

      I agree, but with one minor alteration.

      Private funding of any amount should be welcomed, but it simply goes into the general pool. No one party can benefit from it.

  6. philj 6

    Funding parties from Government coffers would not be welcomed by the beneficiaries of the dodgy present system. The corporates will queue up to get their say, as per usual. Nothing here, eh? Fletchers, Fonterra, Downers, SKY, Trucking Lobby

    • Draco T Bastard 6.1

      It would certainly be hard to persuade people that it’s the best idea and removes the corruption that is possible within the present system.

      • One Anonymous Knucklehead 6.1.1

        I don’t think it will be hard to persuade people. Politicians and their clients, not so much.

        • David H 6.1.1.1

          Yeah it’s not the general population that you have to convince it’s the Megalomaniac, Narcissistic, Self entitled, Thieves, that are supposed to govern for all, and not just a select few. And the sooner that the current bunch are gone the better for NZ and it’s population of workers, and battlers, that have been robbed, and insulted, by those who are supposed to help them, over the last 6 years!

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