Guest post by Rob Salmond
It is almost time for you to send your submissions on the government’s issues document on electoral finance. Submissions are due on 26 June, here’s where you can email the submissions. This is the only time we all get to throw around options before the government comes out with its preferred set. From then on out we’ll all be reacting to them, not helping set the agenda.
So what should our electoral finance arrangements look like? There is no ‘right’ answer, which is why it is so important for the government to hear what you would like to see.
In my own submission, I make some suggestions. In short, they are:
Essentially adopt a version of the American model:
- An overall per-person cap on annual political donations (across all parties, candidates, and parallel groups), set at the level of the average adult income (about $26k in 2008). This limit would also apply to businesses and unions, with some loophole-closing rules to prevent shenanigans, and would operate every year, not just election year.
- All donations over $200 to be declared right away to the electoral authorities, who keep running totals for everyone.
Essentially adopt a version of the German model:
- A retrospective dollars-per-vote scheme for parties, where the first few votes you get are more valuable than the votes that follow. This favours new parties and small parties over large parties.
- A top-up subsidy on privately made donations, up to a low cap. This favours parties with a large base of somewhat committed members over parties that rely on a small band of zealots.
- Those subsidies, however, are subject to the rule that you can’t make more money off public funding than you make off private funding. This prevents too much reliance on the state and distance developing between the politicos and the public.
- Ditch all the broadcasting allocations and requirements and such, except the ones preventing broadcasters from taking sides and ripping off parties they don’t like.
- Keep spending limits on political parties, but increase them to take account of the lack of separate broadcasting funding.
- No spending limits on parallel campaigns. If they can convince people to give them the money (especially in light of an overall donation cap and the structural advantages that parties enjoy), then they should get to spend it.
- Keep existing rules on what parallel campaigns can and cannot do on television.
- Regulated period from Queen’s Birthday weekend for normal elections (giving about a 6 month period that really only limits parties, as they are the only ones with budget constraints), from the time the election is announced for early elections. This is longer than National likely wanted but shorter than Labour tried for.
- Introducing American-style ‘stand by your ad’ requirements.
What do you think the system should be? Is it anything like this one? If not, what direction would you take? Saying your piece in the comments is fine, but even better to write it down and send in a submission!