Fisking Farrar’s fisking

Written By: - Date published: 2:30 pm, July 9th, 2009 - 40 comments
Categories: election funding - Tags:

Yesterday David Farrar presented us with his analysis of Labour’s electoral finance submission. There is a lot of ‘Nya Nya I Told You So!’ in there every time Labour’s position changed from 2007 to now, and a fair bit of ‘Nya Nya They Haven’t Learned Anything!’ when its position did not change. That kind of partisan cheerleading is to be expected.

And he did make some good points about shortcomings in Labour’s submission, such as their treatment of the broadcasting allocation, their attitude towards parliamentary services expenditure during election campaigns, and their proposals to help out new parties. Despite being a proud Labour member, I agree with the general thrust of his critiques in those areas, and those positions are also reflected in my own submission.

But there are three other elements of his analysis that caught my eye:

1. Hypocrisy and Double Standards

David accuses Labour of proposing a self-serving solution that is only good for Labour. But then David’s own submission advocates no restrictions at all on budget or advertising streams for parallel campaigns, opens the door for large increases in party spending limits, retains the possibility of unlimited large corporate donations, opposes any public funding for political parties, and argues for a short regulated period where absolutely anything goes outside of the period. That sounds an awful lot like a self-serving solution for the party that gets the support of most of the wealthy people, no?

He also accuses Labour of making assertions in their submission without having evidence to back it up. But in his own submission he simply asserts that freedom of speech is more important than participatory fairness in a democracy, without presenting any evidence, and when there is actually some reasonable evidence (see paragraphs 7-8 in my submission) to the contrary. He asserts that ‘A disclosure limit of $1,000 would be far too low and discourage many supporters from donating’ without providing any evidence at all about that. And so on.

2. Silly Statements

Both the analysis of Labour’s submission and David’s own submission are liberally sprinkled with howlers. My favourites:

Commenting on Labour’s submission that any restrictions on voter registration constitute a barrier to participation, David exclaims: ‘Good God. Never before have I heard voter registration be called a barrier to participation.’ Given David is in the US, I suggest he go to the southern states and ask all the African Americans about their historical experience with restrictive voter registration laws, then come back and see if he wants to revise his statement.

Commenting on Labour’s submission about political television advertising, David says: ‘What decade are they in? How many people even watch TV ads now? Heard of My Sky.’ Earth to David: There is a world outside of Thorndon in which not everybody has My Sky. People advertise on TV because advertising on TV works.

In his own submission, David wants to allow things that are ‘unfair’ but are not ‘manifestly unfair’ on the grounds that the taller guy tends to win US Presidential elections. I am not making this up, honestly. He really submitted that to good people at the Ministry of Justice. He seems to believe that the proposed principles of electoral finance, as stated in the discussion document, would open the door to a declaration that all candidates have to be the same height. Earth to David: Come back, David! You can use your tin foil hat as a parachute.

3. Unworkable solutions

There aren’t many solutions proposed in David’s submission except for the catch-all ‘the gummint should butt out’, but some that are opposed are entirely silly. Again, my favourites:
David opposes any limit at all on how much a person or company or union can give to political parties, but says ‘if there is [a limit] it should be set as a percentage of a party’s total income.’ Which would mean that nobody would know the donation limit until after the election is over. Oops.

Voluntary compliance for parallel campaigners. Yes, we are back to voluntary compliance again. The last group who tried this on was the major industrial polluters, as I recall. And that sure worked a treat. Anyway, David reckons that we can fix the problem of parallel campaigns jamming the airwaives with unlimited ads by inducing them to voluntary accept a spending limit in return for wait for it legal advice! Because large lobbying organizations do not know any lawyers, you understand. Again, I promise I am not making this up.

– Rob Salmond

40 comments on “Fisking Farrar’s fisking”

  1. lprent 1

    In other words DPF hadn’t bothered to engage his brain?

  2. r0b 2

    Good to see you commenting and posting here Rob (note to conspiracy theorists, r0b is not Rob). Loved your stuff at 08wire!.

    Thanks for this detailed commentary. I’m not up to speed on this issue, but as I understand it the process National has set out for electoral form looks good on paper – is that right? It would be good to get genuine multipartisan agreement on this issue and put it to bed for good…

  3. lbj 3

    well, he is a rotund no-mates so it’s to be expected I guess. he’s probably in cahoots with Ian Wishart as we speak

    • Maynard J 3.1

      Thanks for that idiotic comment. So stupid you managed a complete contradiction in two sentences.

    • Ari 3.2

      Farrar’s “rotundness” has shit all to do with the fact that he is, from time to time, a partisan, hypocritical, and an intellectual lightweight.

  4. roger nome 4

    “David accuses Labour of proposing a self-serving solution that is only good for Labour. But then David’s own submission advocates no restrictions at all on budget or advertising streams for parallel campaigns”

    lol – for someone who’s been spinning disinformation for the last decade and a half or so, Farrar doesn’t half leave himself open to some obvious corkers.

    “David exclaims: Good God”

    He often plays the pompous/sanctimonious wank without knowing.

    “Heard of My Sky’

    Fark – this takes the cake. It’s like his ego pump piece where he brags about “having a chat with Michael Laws in the Koru lounge”. He’s such an elitist toss-pot, so oblivious about it. Although sometimes i wonder whether he’s just enjoying himself with a bit of post-modern self-parody – who knows.

    “the taller guy tends to win US Presidential elections.”

    I’ve seen him use this argument to justify his supporting a flat rate of tax. Something about tall guys getting all the hot girls and him not getting any compensation for being short (as if he misses out just because he’s short). Really David – don’t be so disingenuous and superficial – look at napoleon, Hitler, Churchill etc – all were short-arses like you and all beat there taller counterparts to power.

    Let’s face it – Farrar wants a plutocracy, and he’s willing to advance all manner of sophistry and intellectual contortion to promote it. Like redbaiter, and all other libertarians, in practice, he regards democracy as a synonym for “socialism” – it’s the great unwashed wielding “undeserved” power.

  5. So Bored 5

    Rather amusing that Farrar runs an opinion polling company….given his views I wouldnt trust the veracity of the results. Amazes me the way his type bust a gut trying to join with and be accepted by a political class that is set up to preclude their entry.

  6. lbj 6

    np, oxy-moron is my middle name.

    Check this out:

    http://www.should-a.com/pmv7r3

    lol

  7. roger nome 7

    “David accuses Labour of proposing a self-serving solution that is only good for Labour. But then David’s own submission advocates no restrictions at all on budget or advertising streams for parallel campaigns’

    lol for someone who’s been spinning disinformation for the last decade and a half or so, Farrar doesn’t half leave himself open to some obvious corkers.

    “David exclaims: Good God’

    He often plays the pompous/sanctimonious jerk without knowing.

    “Heard of My Sky’

    Fark this takes the cake. It’s like his ego pump piece where he brags about “having a chat with Michael Laws in the Koru lounge’. He’s such an out-of-touch elitist, yet so oblivious about it. Although sometimes i wonder whether he’s just enjoying himself with a bit of post-modern self-parody who knows.

    “the taller guy tends to win US Presidential elections.’

    I’ve seen him use this argument to justify his supporting a flat rate of tax. Something about tall guys getting all the hot girls and him not getting any compensation for being short (as if he misses out just because he’s short). Really David don’t be so disingenuous and superficial look at napoleon and Churchill etc all were short-arses like you and all beat there taller counterparts to power.

    Let’s face it Farrar wants a plutocracy, and he’s willing to advance all manner of sophistry and intellectual contortion to promote it. Like redbaiter, and all other libertarians, in practice, he regards democracy as a synonym for “socialism’ it’s the great unwashed wielding “undeserved’ power.

  8. Rob Salmond 8

    Thanks to the Standardistas for letting me post here, and thanks also to r0b for the props.

    In answer to r0b’s question, yes I think the Nats’ process for the electoral finance review is pretty good. The big test, however, will be in crafting a proposed law that really does represent a fair compromise. As roger nome points out, DPF hasn’t been especially helpful in the that regard. Fingers crossed.

  9. DPF’s critique isn’t total criticism – he even agrees with Labour in parts.

    One interesting comment that appears to have been overlooked because DPF has mentioned it is the state funding of parties. The point that DPF makes is this effectively cuts the reliance on the parliamentary wing from the rank and file membership who raise the funds.

    This would clearly have an impact on party activists – on all sides – who would be able to wield significantly less control over the parliamentarians. Certainly a point worth considering, even if DPF did raise it.

    • Pascal's bookie 9.1

      I hear what his saying, but I’m not sure that it would be as big a problem as he makes out.

      One reason people don’t get involved more at the moment with party membership and what have you, is that fund raising is such a big focus. And not what activists want to spend time doing. Removing this task from the extra parliamentary party will leave them focussed on candidate selection, canvassing, policy remits, and the other more, err, exciting bits. Ok so ‘exciting’ takes it a bit far.

      An idea for public financing I keep coming back to, (in the hope that someone will smash the shit out of it), is what I call citizen directed public financing.

      Basic idea is that every eligible voter gets to throw their allocation of the public financing at the party of their choice. $5, $10 whatever it is. This could be done when registering to vote, (which is already compulsory and the forms are sent out to everyone) by ticking a box.

      The main advantages over other forms of public financing are that:

      – It’s not up to the pollies who gets how much.

      – Voters can feel free to give their money to a party that they might not feel confident voting for because of tactical or whatever other reason. (This makes it less sucky for the smaller parties that get punished in systems based on last elections results.)

      The obvious drawback is that the parties will want to campaign for this cash, making it essentially another election. I don’t see why we have to let them. Make each party give the electoral office a 1000 word pitch which would be posted on the interwebs or something and other than that the soliciting of these funds should be illegal.

      If it works this could actually develop into a system for involving citizens more in the process. If they wished, the citizen might be able to tick another box so that the party they fund could contact them about membership or activism etc.

  10. While pleased to see Rob agrees with some of my submission, he misses the point several times.

    First of all people should note both Labour and myself have argued for no fixed limit on third party spending.

    All I have suggested for party spending limits is they should be the same today as they were in 1996 – adjusted for inflation and population. Rob also misses that my main point was suggesting the limits be set based on actual emperical research of how much you need for an effective communication campaign with three million voters.

    And yes I support the status quo in terms of donation limits and state funding.

    But to suggest all my proposals benefit National is silly. I doubt National like me advocating they should lose $1 million of broadcasting allocation. I doubt they agree with me that they should be banned from spending their parliamentary budget during the regulated period. I doubt they agree with my position that all anonymous donations should be prohibited (Labour by the way wants to keep anonymous donations). I doubt they agree with my position that they publish audited accounts.

    Yes in a couple of cases I have made assertions also without proof. But Rob misses the point again. When you are advocating that someone should be banned from doing something – the onus is on you to make your case. I don’t think one should have to prove the desirability of freedom of speech for example. Given more time (I am not a political party with staff) I could have fleshed out arguments in more detail.

    The voter registration as a barrier to participation was domestically focused. Of course in other countries decades ago bad things happened with voter registration. But I don’t think Labour’s position of labelling it a barrier to participation is healthy.

    Rob misses the point on TV advertising. My point is it is no longer such a dominant medium it needs special laws than ban parties from buying broadcasting time. There is a difference between dominant and effective. The fact a medium is effective is a reason to allow parties to advertise on it I would have thought.

    And most of all you almost maliciously mischaracterise my statement on unfairness. The point I made about taller candidates winning (which I also made to half a dozen Ministry officials at an invite only roundtable on electoral finance) is that money is not the only factor that can affect how people vote, and that there are many factors that a party or candidates can have that can seem unfair to others. Hence my suggestion the test should be manifestly unfair. Only a moron or Rob being malicious would think I was advocating candidates need to be the same height.

    And finally Rob takes the mickey out of my suggestion of a voluntary limit for parallel campaigners. He ignores the fact I suggested there be significant incentives for parallel campaigners to voluntarily register and accept the limit. But what he doesn’t point out is his beloved Labour actually advocates there be no limit at all – I at least advocated for a limit for those who voluntarily register to gain benefits.

    Rob, being based in the US, should know that the US has certain voluntary spending limits. Obama is in fact the first candidate to exceed them I think. Hence my suggestion of incentives to comply with a voluntary limit is I think quite a reasonable thing to consider. It is a halfway house between Labour that says there should be no spending limit for parallel campaigners and those who say there should be a compulsory spending limit.

    The fact any compulsory spending limit is so easy to get around (you just set up multiple third parties) is another reason I proposed a voluntary regime as an alternative.

    Anyway as I said, I am glad Rob agreed with some of my points, and we obviously disagree on others.

    • Ari 10.1

      David, just because you aren’t arguing the National Party line does not mean you’re not arguing a very pro-National Party regime after criticising the Labour Party for doing the same thing.

      Rob, being based in the US, should know that the US has certain voluntary spending limits. Obama is in fact the first candidate to exceed them I think.

      Nope, plenty of republican candidates ditched the public funding and the spending limits that went with it. Obama ditched the limits because they’re designed to impede campaigns running on big donations- and his campaign exceeded the limit using small donations.

      And most of all you almost maliciously mischaracterise my statement on unfairness. The point I made about taller candidates winning (which I also made to half a dozen Ministry officials at an invite only roundtable on electoral finance) is that money is not the only factor that can affect how people vote, and that there are many factors that a party or candidates can have that can seem unfair to others. Hence my suggestion the test should be manifestly unfair. Only a moron or Rob being malicious would think I was advocating candidates need to be the same height.

      Why didn’t you give a real example then, and point out why your solution was the best way to avoid “fairness” provisions from giving advantaged candidates a slanted playing field? Talking about statistical coincidences made your point look vexatious and self-interested. It wasn’t just the way Rob characterised your argument.

      The fact any compulsory spending limit is so easy to get around (you just set up multiple third parties) is another reason I proposed a voluntary regime as an alternative.

      I think we could consider allowing unlimited funding of paralell campaigns in return for not accepting anonymous donations or donations from funds or trusts that could potentially “launder” donations because they don’t declare their own donors.

      Honestly, if there are aggressive rules around parallel campaigns that enforce accountability and transparency, I think we can experiment with letting them spend what they like.

      What specifics did you propose for your voluntary regime, anyway?

  11. Maynard J 11

    “Only a moron or Rob being malicious would think I was advocating candidates need to be the same height.”

    Only a moron would think that is what Rob was suggesting.

    • Frank 11.1

      (which I also made to half a dozen Ministry officials at an invite only roundtable on electoral finance)

      I like the fact that even in a rebuttal comment Farrar can’t help but boast about what an insider he is. Small man syndrome?

  12. jason 12

    You sure there’s not a spelling mistake in there, fisking?

  13. Rob Salmond 13

    David

    Welcome home and I hope you enjoyed the Koru Lounge you mentioned on Kiwiblog this morning.

    Taking your points in order:

    1. I also advocated no limit to parallel campaigns, so long as there is a limit on total political donations from one source (as in the US). Without that cap, the floodgates are open.

    2. Your second paragraph contradicts itself. You first say party spending limits should be simply adjusted from 1996 levels, then call for entirely new limits based on new empirical research about communication with voters.

    3. You know as well as I do that your proposal benefits your favourite party much more than it benefits their main opponents. So quit playing all innocent. (Also, my submission seeks to limit how much a union can give to Labour, so if you are innocent of favouritism then so am I.)

    4. When you make any empirical claim about the world, **any** claim, it is your job to back it up with evidence. If you don’t have the evidence, don’t make the claim. You fell short of that standard multiple times in your submission, which is why it is pretty rich for you to get up in arms when any other submitter does the same thing.

    5. I do not really understand the democratic reason for wanting to ban same day registration. Could the real reason be that it is because most same day registrants are likely to be poor and to vote for a left-leaning party? David, tell me this: why in a democratic society should someone who wants to vote, and is entitled by citizenship etc to vote, be turned away from the polls for purely administrative reasons? How is that democratic? I agree with Labour on this one every time that happens, someone has been denied their say in their democracy, and if it is an administrative rule that causes this then the rule is a barrier to that person’s participation.

    6. Maynard J is right only a moron would think I was accusing you of actually wanting a Candidate Height Rule. What you in fact argued was that, unless “manifestly’ made it into the principles, there was a danger of some idiot getting such a rule by arguing height constituted an “unfair’ advantage. Your argument here is specious and paranoid, and I called you on it.

    7. The other argument of yours I made fun of is not specious and paranoid, it is specious and rose tinted. You argue that big spending lobby groups will accept voluntary spending limits in return for free legal advice from the EC and the threat of Duncan Garner exposing them as big spending lobby groups if they resist. That aargument is laughable. It takes a cheque for around $80million to get US candidates to agree to these limits. (And on that, George Bush operated outside of those limits at least once, and I believe twice so no Obama is not the first.)

    Yes we do agree on some stuff David. But the same old PR tricks, with the same old game of seeking to advantage your own party lying underneath, are not going to help in getting a truly multipartisan compromise. I really do want to engage constructively, but if you are going to post nonsense I am going to call it nonsense.

    • Ari 13.1

      Was it just Bush? I was under the impression that Republicans had done that before Bush.

      • Rob Salmond 13.1.1

        Ari – It is entirely possible that candidates before Bush went without FEC matching funds. Once I had found out that David’s claim about Obama was wrong, I stopped looking.

    • Anita 13.2

      OT I know, but

      Welcome home and I hope you enjoyed the Koru Lounge you mentioned on Kiwiblog this morning.

      Why does he do that? Why why why?

      🙂

  14. Rob Salmond 14

    PS – David, I did note the point you have made in a number of forums about there being many dimensions to political participation other than money, and I specifically address it in my submission.

  15. Chris Diack 15

    On the whole DPF makes a better fist of a contribution than does Rob.

    Always hang on to your fundamental freedoms when government types and academics propose “balance’ among a list of meaningless statements or objectives.

    What it invariable means is the less free approach.

    Rob does catch on to the Ministry’s compromising of the freedom of speech and its non compromising of fairness which if one reads the prose is actually about substantive fairness a particular pattern of characteristics (money or whatever) between parties and candidates. Rob calls this participation which sort of begs the question about what the Ministry’s “participation’ means.

    What he misses in his canvassing of the variety of regulatory regimes around the world is that while each is invariably justified on the grounds of fairness, what they actually have in common is the fact that each promotes the interests of incumbents and usually dominant incumbents at that.

    Surprise surprise politicians around the world (incumbents) just LOVE regulating political competition. Their key concern and focus is always challengers.

    Let us take but one small example of where Rob gets things wrong:

    “If a person can expend massive resources on election campaigning then that person’s disproportionate influence, or just as importantly that person’s perceived disproportionate influence, in the election campaign would transcend what most New Zealanders might consider “fair.’

    He goes on to add the truism that there are just so many hours in the day but money is unlimited (Obamanomics?)

    There are just so many errors. First spending does not necessarily equal influence Rob simply dresses up the old argument that money can buy votes (its called influence now) he has no faith that New Zealanders will not be beguiled by big political spenders; that they cannot “balance’ (to use Rob’s word) this information with other information and process it. Nor should they be give the opportunity to learn this skill by experience; no they must be protected and sheltered from the magic of political ad men.

    And how great a risk it is really that this would happen? Does anyone have unlimited resources (money or otherwise); and if so would they irrationally apply them in political causes as Rob suggests.

    Non Party and candidate speech problems around the world are almost entirely a creation of the regulation of candidates and parties (both donation caps and spending rules and in the States the transfer rules within parties). In fact political cause money in politics is much like water: its goes where there is least resistance and can be most efficiently utilised generally. Therefore light regulation of parties and candidates will mean that most money for political causes will flow to them. The other occasion where political money flows to non candidate non party speech is where there is a fundamental shift in the political system going on thus it’s borne of a deep dissatisfaction with incumbents. What is the State’s interest in regulating this is it always to be the case that there will be the existing array of parties and politicians? Non candidate and non party speech can be the early sign of a new party system arising (take Labour’s pre 1916 speech for example and the long slow decline of the Liberal Party electoral coalition)

    Rob goes on to support the most nutty element of US political regulation; individual donor caps. This has not worked in the States indeed because it is a rule caused fundraising inefficiency, it actually advantages the wealthy as they are best able to afford to carry the cost of this inefficiency. Nor has it broadened the class of donors contributing to US political campaigns. It tends to support richer candidates of dominant parties and favours incumbents against challangers. Obama is a good example of the power that early adoption by the Millionaire/Billionaire set can provide – forget about all the internet fundraising myths. Obama also disproves the notion that leftwing candidates are necessarily unattractive to high net worth individuals.

    Rob’s proposal supports extending regulation to non candidate and party speech a regulatory nightmare which will chill non candidate and party speech.

    It is amusing the way all the detail of Rob’s extensive regulation of speech is in his footnotes.

    Like Labour’s submission a bare pass mark.

  16. Ari 16

    Rob goes on to support the most nutty element of US political regulation; individual donor caps. This has not worked in the States indeed because it is a rule caused fundraising inefficiency, it actually advantages the wealthy as they are best able to afford to carry the cost of this inefficiency. Nor has it broadened the class of donors contributing to US political campaigns. It tends to support richer candidates of dominant parties and candidates and favours incumbents against challangers. Obama is a good example of the power that early adoption by the Millionaire/Billionaire set can provide forget about all the internet fundraising nonsense. Obama also disproves the notion that leftwing candidates are necessarily unattractive to high net worth individuals.

    The point is not to eliminate the influence of the wealthy, the point is to make it not disproportionate to the influence of other voters. Per-person caps do this nicely.

  17. Chris Diack 17

    US evidence does not support your contention Ari.

    All the evidence in the US supports the notion the rule-required fundraising inefficiency supports those who are best able to carry this inefficiency i.e. the wealthy.

    They can spend their 24hrs arranging their affairs and those of others who are like them to comply.

    The other effect of the rule is to advantage incumbants over challangers as challangers must spend a greater deal of their time fundraising in smaller increments unless they are personally very wealthy themselves. You will note the trend in the US towards candidates with a higher net worth – this has a lot to do with the crazy regulation in the US the donor cap being the most significant of these along with the rules against intra party transfers.

    There is no evidence that the individual donation cap has upped the influence of voters (or confidence in the electoral system or the range of people contributing, nor corruption – all the various justifications for it).

    As I said its the nuttiest feature of the US regulation of political competition.

  18. Rob Salmond 18

    Chris

    First, thanks for taking the time to read and think about my submission. I mean that.

    It seems that you believe David’s to be a better submission because its conclusions fit more closely with your own ideas. I make this statement based on your first two paragraphs praising freedom and bemoaning academics and bureaucrats. If that is your decision rule for a “good submission’ then that, of course, is up to you. If applied broadly, however, that kind of thinking leads people to be receptive only to ideas they already agree with, running the risk of rigid rote learning of ideals. I do not suggest you have reached that point, of course, but it is a risk.

    On the specifics:

    1. I do not agree with your contention that “each [regulatory regime] promotes the interests of incumbents and usually dominant incumbents at that.’ For example, the German public funding regime, which gives parties more money for the first few votes they receive than for the subsequent votes they receive, advantages small (often new) parties at the expense of large incumbent parties.

    2. The evidence is clear candidates or parties who raise more money get more votes. As evidence, here is what even David Farrar said on this topic in his submission: “the amount of money raised and spent by a party has relatively minor (but not nil) influence of the votes they get.’ I, of course, would disagree with David about what counts as “relatively minor’ but it is telling that even he is forced to concede that there is a positive relationship between spending money and winning votes. Note that the studies finding this control for all sorts of other possible explanations about incumbency, longevity of the incumbent, challenger quality, larger trends, etc.

    3. At first glance, your claim that a per person donation cap which has the effect of decreasing likely giving by the rich, but does not affect behavior among the non-rich, would in fact **advantage the rich** sounds like Orwellian doublespeak of the highest order. I am not saying I do not believe your inefficiency argument I just have not seen the evidence. You say there is evidence for this can you point me to it? (Note that the trend to richer candidates over time is not good evidence of this, given that it the trend continues unabated even within the same donation cap regime, and that there are other good explanations on offer, such as increasingly mediated politics etc.)

    4. You say: “Rob’s proposal supports extending regulation to non candidate and party speech a regulatory nightmare which will chill non candidate and party speech.’ That is untrue. I specifically recommend against spending limits for parallel campaigns, so long as there are per person donation caps. The only act being regulated is the donation, which is being regulated the same way regardless of the recipient. So the regulatory nightmare that wakes you in a sweat a “chilled’ sweat I guess – does not arise.

  19. Ari 19

    All the evidence in the US supports the notion the rule-required fundraising inefficiency supports those who are best able to carry this inefficiency i.e. the wealthy.

    They can spend their 24hrs arranging their affairs and those of others who are like them to comply.

    I don’t actually get what you’re trying to say here, sorry. Are you talking about spending money fundraising on behalf of a campaign, or the rich just being more willing to donate? Because I don’t know if I really mind either of those.

    The other effect of the rule is to advantage incumbants over challangers as challangers must spend a greater deal of their time fundraising in smaller increments unless they are personally very wealthy themselves. You will note the trend in the US towards candidates with a higher net worth this has a lot to do with the crazy regulation in the US the donor cap being the most significant of these along with the rules against intra party transfers.

    It would be nice if there were also limits on the amount candidates can self-fund and loan to their campaigns.

    There is no evidence that the individual donation cap has upped the influence of voters (or confidence in the electoral system or the range of people contributing, nor corruption all the various justifications for it).

    As I said its the nuttiest feature of the US regulation of political competition.

    I think nutty behaviour in the USA is probably based around not shoring up the rules properly in hopes of taking advantage of the loopholes, rather than an inherent flaw in the idea of a per-person cap.

    Also, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. 🙂

  20. Chris Diack 20

    Rob:

    “It seems that you believe David’s to be a better submission because its conclusions fit more closely with your own ideas.’

    No on the whole his reasoning is better. Actually I disagree with DPF in a number of places he is far far too fond of regulation and enforcement for my liking.

    “I do not agree with your contention that “each [regulatory regime] promotes the interests of incumbents and usually dominant incumbents at that.’ For example, the German public funding regime, which gives parties more money for the first few votes they receive than for the subsequent votes they receive, advantages small (often new) parties at the expense of large incumbent parties.’

    Well we have had this argument before the entire German set up mitigates against quick political change that its intention. Also they have not been immune to money in politics scandals: Mrs Merkel was the bangperson for Kohl (when she was CDU party Treasurer) and he wasn’t unique he engaged in practices widespread among German political parties. German political parties are pretty sickly due to their dependence on the state funding. The Germans quite like them being creatures of the State given their history.

    “The evidence is clear candidates or parties who raise more money get more votes’

    Labour/Green spent more than National/ACT last time did they get more votes?
    ACT until the last election consistently spent more than any other non Labour/National political party did it get more votes? It sometimes was close to Labour and National in its spend has it ever got anything close to the votes or either of the broad church parties?

    Your statement is nonsense. It’s far truer to observe that incumbents tend to raise more money and get more votes than challengers. And in the US incumbents win more elections than challengers. It’s a fundamental error to assume money = votes. It really depends. Money can follow electabilty not cause it. But what isn’t disputed is the higher co relation between incumbent re-election and regulation.

    I would be interested in surveys you cite suggesting controlling for every other variable that prove the contention that money spent = votes. The “controlling’ for all these variables will tell the tale I suspect.

    “your claim that a per person donation cap which has the effect of decreasing likely giving by the rich, but does not affect behavior among the non-rich, would in fact **advantage the rich** sounds like Orwellian doublespeak of the highest order’

    I never said that I don’t know what you are on about. What I said is that rule caused fundraising inefficiency advantages those best able to carry this inefficiency – wealthy donors, wealthy candidates and those who can purchase or who hold specialist knowledge.

    The rise of the millionaire candidate in the US has resulted from the regulation of political competition there; making it hard to solicit meaningful donations advantages those who don’t have to fundraise; it also the pushes funds that would otherwise go to parties and candidates into non party and non candidate speech especially if that candidate is highly electable (attracting more financial support than they can actually take on an individual basis). The cap incentives both because of the drop in real value over time. As you know almost every electable US pol has shadow organisations – these exist almost exclusive because of the regulation – without almost all probably wouldn’t.

    “4. You say: “Rob’s proposal supports extending regulation to non candidate and party speech a regulatory nightmare which will chill non candidate and party speech.’ That is untrue. I specifically recommend against spending limits for parallel campaigns, so long as there are per person donation caps.’

    You dissemble: first you say that there is no speech urging voting for or against parties or candidates (is that not regulating non candidate non party speech?). You then want to regulate issue advocacy (whatever that is) during the regulated period by suggesting that organisations not running candidates are “political organisations’ and thus subject to your donation regulation. How on earth does one cast a rule to define “political organisation” And if it doesn not take donations at all it can freely but inefficient speak (because it cant be direct) but one that must soliticit donations must do so in small increments?

    And of course there is the arrogance of the “species politicus’; assuming that all speech about politics is “parallel campaigning’ it’s a sort of an “its all about me’ type attitude. It’s a fundamental right of New Zealanders to both bag and praise politicians what is the state interest in regulating this? The purpose of the freedom of expression is to express. Again what are you afraid of: can New Zealanders not process this information; can they not handle ideas.

    Again Rob you simply repeat the old prejudice: money spent on advocating ideas can buy elections. It’s nonsense. Money is necessary but it isn’t sufficient for political success.

    Rudely you define your “parallel campaigning” as issue advocacy – this is an extreme position.

    Trust me: you cannot “balance’ all political speech its impossible and unwise to even attempt it thankfully Labour seems to have given up on this. I don’t know why you would even attempt bring non candidate and non party speech into a regulatory regime.

    And the donation and definition rules you suggest one could drive a bulldozer through them if one had the time and money; hello Mr Wealthy again.

    Surely its better to lightly regulate candidates and parties so what most money for political causes flows there – where it is generally most efficiently spent.

    • Duncan 20.1

      Chris Diack, aren’t you the guy who tried to steal the Labour Party’s house?

      Speaking of unethical behaviour, ask Roger about that Red Seal rort he was into next time you talk to him.

  21. Chris Diack 21

    Duncan

    Ad hominem attack is sooooo boring. Try to keep up or please go onto another thread.

    I am taking the issues Rob raises seriously you should try making a tiny contribution to the sum total of human understanding too.

  22. Chris Diack 22

    Ari:

    The high net worth individuals arrange their affairs to comply with cap because they can afford to carry the costs involved in complying. Yes they also involve themselves in soliciting funds for their preferred candidates as well.

    It’s called bundling it’s a US phenomenon also entirely caused by the regulation.

    Yes high net worth candidates who do not have to fundraise in low increments are advantaged.

    Both of these advantages prompted largely by the regulation of political competition in the US results in Congressional demand for further regulation.

    As to your contention that the US does not try to enforce its regulation more money is spent on compliance and enforcement in the US than any other nation for none in the Anglo-American world have as much regulation.

    Its looks like the Robert’s Supreme Court will start rolling the regulation back the Chief Justice has said he wants to hear a case on the regulation of donations from corporations and the biographical films issue.

  23. burt 23

    All this concern for fair and balanced electoral finance laws is refreshing on the standard. The tables have changed and now DPF is defending “his team” trying to queer the pitch while you guys are opposing it.

    Politics, a game all partisans can play with great dexterity while still being too bloody stupid to notice they are just changing sides fighting over the same things all the time thinking they are better than the other team.

  24. Rob Salmond 24

    Chris

    Taking your points, again, in order:

    1. On Germany, I do not remember arguing that the German system was without blemish. But I did argue that the aspect of their system which I highlight in my submission does not, as you had claimed, advantage the incumbents.

    2. On the link between money and votes, anybody can pick out exceptions to a trend, write only the exceptions down, and then say there is no trend. But that doesn’t make the statement true. I suggest you read the studies. David Farrar has and, despite his ideological reservations, had to conclude that raising money really does help a candidate win votes, all else equal.

    3. “I never said that I don’t know what you are on about.’ Chris, take your statement immediately following that one and substitute the specific rule I proposed in place of your description of that rule as “rule caused inefficiency’, then you have a statement saying exactly what I said you said. You repeated your earlier logic as to why the rich might benefit from a per person donation cap. It **is** interesting logic. In an earlier comment you said there was some evidence to back this up. Can you point me to evidence beyond the rise of rich candidates? (As I said before, I do not find that one fact persuasive here.)

    4. On parallel campaigns, I do not think the definitional problems are as insurmountable as you appear to think they are.

    Chris, you have a position which reifies “free speech’ over other principles. I can understand how your proposals flow from that position. But I take a different view on the principles. I think that participatory fairness and freedom of speech are sometimes in conflict, and that it is not obvious that freedom of speech should win every time. So does the MOJ by the look of it, and so do most of the world’s democracies. More importantly, I have at least a little evidence that the majority of New Zealanders share my view on these principles. I have not heard evidence from the other side that their view on the principles has majority support.

  25. Chris Diack 25

    Rob:

    It’s a bit tiring to hear the “well reasonable people can disagree argument’ trotted out.

    As DPF correctly observes, it for those propose proposing removing fundamental freedoms to make out their case.

    Remember the freedom of expression is recognised in the NZBORA. Accordingly to abridge it the obligation is upon you to show that the limitation is justified; and further to outline what significant objective you seek to achieve by the limitation and whether the policy you propose is rational and proportionate.

    Substantive fairness or equity (your value of primacy) isn’t a NZBORA right. Nor is a right existing outside the NZBORA. Rather it is a mere public policy choice.

    Parliament has determined the issue of values by including the freedom of expression and not included your substantive fairness or equity.

    So Rob the duty is on those who want to remove fundamental freedoms to make out a compelling case.

    Regarding the MOJ document what you point to as a positive attribute of their work I interpret as pre judgement and poor drafting.

    Regarding what New Zealanders want regarding taxpayer contributions towards political competition, I am sure if they where aware of the probably close to $30m a triennium the taxpayer contributes towards Labour MP’s doing their jobs and competing with other parties I am sure they would say that that is enough fairness already.

    Using your numbering:

    1 Germany

    96% of all public funding goes on the parties in the Diet. One third of the Parties income is from state funding; one third from party membership and other donations and one third from levies on public officerholders for those parties. Both the members fees and the individual donations and levies are to some extent (generous) tax deductible. Parliamentary Blocs can also receive donations the transfer of which to the Party are also tax deductible.

    I should not have to say this but any funding system that relies on a formula based on previous voting in an immediate past Federal or European Election; and then on the tax deductibility of generously paid officeholder contributions at Federal, State and Municipal levels of course favours incumbents.

    That is not to mention all the funding available to party blocs at Federal, State and Municipal for their public duties. The Germans have quite some gravy train in operation.

    I mentioned the German problems not to illustrate perfection (or lack of it) but rather to show that German politicians are also functioning under the thicket of regulations and that the key justification for public funding (avoiding corruption and its appearance) doesn’t actually work even in system where the overall State contribution to political competition is very significant.

    2. On the link between money and votes, you offered research that controlled for incumbency that shows that shows those candidates getting more money win elections. I would be interested in the links to these.

    Certainly this contention isn’t supported in New Zealand. DPF has done some work on the actual returns of party donations and expenses that does not support the contention.

    I actually don’t believe that one can get meaningful research that controls for everything else but I would welcome the details of this.

    3 Individual donor caps are a rule required fundraising inefficiency by definition. I did not say that high net worth individuals benefit from them, what I said was that as candidates, donors and fundraisers they are best placed to afford to carry the costs of this inefficiency.

    It is simple economics really. To collect $20k from an individual is cheaper than collecting 20 x 1K increments. Thus the pressure goes on the reduce transaction costs. Reducing transaction costs favours the wealthy because they can afford this better.

    Rule based fundraising inefficiency must by necessity disadvantage low net worth political minority candidates since being a political minor necessarily means a narrow base of support. And so the University prof from Hyde Party might be moved to give a radical candidate 10K in one transaction but is prevented from doing so and simply isn’t rich enough to arrange is or her affairs to comply and nor to act as a fundraiser for the candidate. The Hyde Park radical must be electable enough to gainer the support of those who can arrange their affairs and those of people like them to fund, like Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires.

    4. On parallel campaigns, you propose outlaw express political advocacy at a time when citizens are actually most interested in politics, in favour of issues based advocacy which you then propose to regulate the soliciting of donations for (which again favours high net worth individuals and organisations that don’t need popular support to provide their income. What is actually “parallel’ about issue advocacy and why isn’t this erosion of the fundamental right of New Zealanders who are not candidates or political parties to bag, praise or ignore politicians and parties in their speech?

  26. Rob Salmond 26

    Chris

    I will not be as thorough as you indoor soccer and delicious beverages beckon.

    Most importantly, if you honestly do not believe that reasonable people can disagree on controversial political issues like election financing, then you have failed to learn lesson one of political science one. Think about the depth of the arrogance contained in the statement “people either agree with me or are stupid.’

    To the numbers:

    1. Abstracting from Germany a bit, if the opposite of regulation is Darwinian free competition in which the strong survive and the weak perish, aren’t incumbents almost always “the strong’ and therefore advantaged viz the rest in free competition as well? So even if you are right about the incumbency advantage in regulated systems, removing the regulation does not remove the advantage. And, as I have pointed out, some regulatory systems have elements that try to undo some of that incumbency advantage.

    2. You ask for references: I would start with Gary Jacobson’s 1978 article in the American Political Science Review, then look at a follow-ups from Jacobson, from Don Green and Jonathan Krasno, and from Erikson and Thomas Palfrey, then look for articles that cite these or that these cite. I don’t have the URLs off the top of my head, but if you google the authors and “campaign finance’ you should find them OK.

    3. In the issue of donor caps, twice I have asked you to point me to the evidence you mentioned earlier, and twice you have not done so. If there is evidence (as opposed to “argument”), point me to it.

    4. Nobody is seeking to ban you from saying nasty things about politicians you do not like. What we are regulating is you employing others (be they newspaper printers or television technicians or pamphlet printers and deliverers etc) to bag politicians on your behalf.

  27. Chris Diack 27

    Rob

    My comment about reasonable people disagreeing is not about intelligence or an attempt to be insulting it is really about ignoring the burden of proof you carry when you advocate abridging fundamental rights like the freedom of expression. As I said Parliament has spoken about this value it has put it in the law.

    It isn’t merely a matter or taste; you have much more work to do when advocating a position that reduces the freedom of expression. Whereas, I have much less lifting to do because I support no restrictions on non candidate and non party expression; and lighter regulation of candidates and parties generally.

    1 On Germany you claimed their regulation of political competition didn’t favour incumbents I established that on the whole it very clearly does. Further, that German political parties are highly reliant on direct and indirect taxpayer support; that their entire set up mitigates against dramatic political change.

    Remember the issue is ensuring that parliament represents the major streams of political thought in New Zealand. The key to that is to ensure that challengers can make their case. Most regulation both here and abroad advantages incumbents against challengers. You are correct that Parliamentary incumbents are generally advantaged by virtue of being in Parliament that is why the regulation of political competition should not add to that as you would propose.

    Using your numbering:

    2. You mean this Prof Gary Jacobson:

    “Meanwhile, I think it would be foolish to make policy on the assumption that bias is, in fact, substantial; the greatest likelihood remains that restrictions on campaign money will have the general effect of hurting challengers (Jacobson, 1979).

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/h08j13135144qt16/

    3. You must be pre occupied by the indoor soccer Rob; have you not see the moves to regulate both bundling and the millionaire exception in Congress the irony being of course that both of these problems arise almost entirely because of the cap on individual donations.

    As I said you are attempting to introduce the most nutty element of US scheme you are going to have to do better.

    4. This statement boarders on legal illiteracy you cannot be serious.

  28. Rob Salmond 28

    Chris – This is the last time I will post on this thread. 1. On Germany, I never made the broad system-wide claim you say I made – that may have been the source of the confusion. 2. Jacobson was talking in the context of the localised, candidate centered, individualistic US system. Would the same conclusion hold in a nationalised party-based system? I don’t think Jacobson would profess to know. In addition, you have framed the whole discussion as “incubments vs challengers” whereas most political party-level competition in all PR democracies is between incumbents and incumbents. 3. I note that for a third time you have failed to supply the evidence you had earlier alluded to. 4. I’ll judge your statement that you do not intend to be insulting with a grain of salt, given your final statement about illiteracy.

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