ImperatorFish: How Should We Fund Our Political Parties?

Written By: - Date published: 12:43 pm, July 10th, 2012 - 22 comments
Categories: political parties - Tags:

Scott at Imperator Fish has kindly given us permission to syndicate posts from his blog – the original of this post is here.

One of the weaknesses of our democratic system is that it gives people the opportunity to buy political influence.

I don’t mean to suggest that some people are “buying” politicians, in the sense of writing cheques in return for express promises from politicians. We don’t usually know the motivations behind large political donations. But it’s reasonable to assume that companies existing solely to make profit aren’t giving cash out of feelings of altruism. We should not be naive enough to think that donors don’t want something in return for their money, even if what they want is never expressed openly.

It’s obvious that parties promoting certain types of policies will be supported by those organisations and individuals who stand to benefit by those policies. So unions give money to Labour, rich cranks donate to ACT, and corporates and wealthy individuals are more likely to give to National.

But despite all of these things being obvious, we still retain the capacity to be surprised whenever a story emerges showing that a party or politician is acting in a way that might potentially benefit a donor.

The Clayton Cosgrove donation scandal (one is tempted to use the term “beat-up” rather than “scandal”) illustrates this point. There is no evidence that the donor, Independent Fisheries Limited, pressured Cosgrove into pursuing any sort of property development legislative change, and yet it’s likely that IFL donated to Cosgrove because it saw some benefit in doing so. Perhaps the company’s owners thought Cosgrove was sensitive generally to the concerns of land-owners in the Christchurch area, and paid the money in the hope he would be re-elected. This is really no different to a company giving National cash because the Nats are “business-friendly”.

In the perfect world politicians would not accept cash from anyone, because the risk of undue influence is always present where parties are funded by donations. But what choice does a party have under our current system? Cake stalls and sausage sizzles will only take a political party so far.

But this post is not intended to be a defence of Clayton Cosgrove. Unless more details emerge about the IFL donation the story seems doomed to disappear in a few days. That a politician pursued policies that appeared to favour someone who donated to his party is hardly a scoop.

There is an obvious solution to the donation problem. Full state-funding of political parties would cost only a few million dollars per year, but it would do away with much of the suspicion that surrounds politicians, and would go some way towards restoring the public’s trust in our political system. We would of course need to have a robust debate over the make-up of any funding system, to ensure it was fair and didn’t entrench the power of the main parties, and we would need to accept that any system we implemented would be imperfect and would need ongoing refinement.

Those groups who currently have influence would probably object to such a system, but that’s precisely why we should be looking at this seriously.

Such a system would be difficult to sell to the public, but it would be worth the effort if it helped to clean up our political system.

[Bunji: And if you agree with State Funding – how do you think it should work?  Based on Membership numbers?  Vouchers?  Or?]

22 comments on “ImperatorFish: How Should We Fund Our Political Parties?”

  1. tracey 1

    I agree with state fundinig campaigns. If the cheque is big enough I am sure it enables more one-on-one access to a minister or MP. We’re all human and we’re all influenced byt he human beings we have contact with.

    Lobby groups, with daily access tot he halls of power maybe positive on one level but on another it is grimey and elitist.

    When was the last time the Chair of Fletcher’s had to queue at his local MP office on a Saturday to have a chat about something bothering him, fletcher related or not.

    • Gosman 1.1

      Equally , when was the last time the Head of a Trade Union had to queue at his/her local MP office on a Saturday to have a chat about something bothering him/her, Union related or not?

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        Yes, exactly.

        I’d say that Gosman was getting it but he was just being sarcastic without realising the truth.

    • McFlock 1.2

      Tracey, we all know how it is – CEOs don’t need to go to electorate offices. They’re at the charity dinners and in the corporate boxes, having quiet chats over complimentary beer. It can be very hard work, so they say before their media meltdowns.
           
      And the union reps are outside, protesting with their unions. 

  2. Pete 2

    Personally I’m opposed to state funding of political parties as I believe that a) there are alternate methods to “fixing” the current system, b) it results in political parties being less responsive to their members and c) means those people end up being forced to support parties and individuals who they may be completely ideologically against.

    However if it was to be introduced I believe that the best way would be:
    1) The status quo remains in place until the next election,
    2) Between now and then an amount of funding per voter is determined. This should look at things like typical votes:donation ratio’s, What amounts the public are happy paying etc.
    3) As of the next election the policy is introduced with parties provided a lump sum for the next 3 years for them to manage based on the number of voters that they receive.
    4) Prior to the following election the funding amount would be reviewed and adjusted up/down based on so the amount was known before voters voted.

    • Pascal's bookie 2.1

      What would you think about a voucher system?

      ie, the pool of money to be given to parties is divided by the number of people on the electoral roll. Each person on the roll then allocates their share of the pie to their party of choice. If they don’t want to give it to any of them, the money goes back to the consolidated fund.

      In essence it would be a 100% tax rebate on political donations. 🙂

      It also eliminates the problem of tactical voting. If you support the libetarianz, and would like them to get some funding, you could give it to them, yet you might have *voted* for National on the grounds that anything else was a wasted vote.

      • Pete 2.1.1

        I think vouchers are fine however the downside I saw with them was that they would create another level of administration which would add another additional cost. I think that ideally that the mechanism for any state funding plan should correspond with the voting process (either via the enrolment or voting stages).

        One downside to the above approach came to mind last night how do new parties gain funding?

    • Bunji 2.2

      I’d be inclined to have a funding model based on membership (rather than per voter – which also risks entrenching current political parties) to partly address those concerns. If parties have to have a thriving membership, they’d be inclined to listen to it somewhat more…

      • Pete 2.2.1

        Then presumably membership would have to be free otherwise party’s gain an additional form of funding which can still be manipulated eg Bronze membership ($10) gets you full voting rights etc while Diamond membership ($1,000,000) gets you full membership and the party leaders cell phone number?

        Also do you then have to make it compulsory to belong to a political party otherwise party’s suffer from voters being willing to support their idea’s and policy at the ballot box but not wanting any direct involvement/contact with the party itself?

  3. DH 3

    I think full state funding would be the best investment we could ever make.

  4. Gosman 4

    This is just another ploy from leftist leaning people who desire to ‘Even’ the political landscape in their favour. As such it has no show of being implemented as it won’t get cross party support and will be vigorously opposed. EFA part Deux.

    • felix 4.1

      “leftist leaning people who desire to ‘Even’ the political landscape in their favour”

      Define “even”, then define “in their favour”, then try writing your comment again with this new well knowledge to draw on.

    • Deano 4.2

      I like the scare quotes around ‘even’. When one party represents and is funded by the wealthy clique who control most of the country’s wealth and the others don’t, the playing field isn’t even if party funding is based on private donations.

  5. higherstandard 5

    They should get not one more cent of taxpayer money.

    However, they should be provided with a “free” slot on state TV and radio to promote their policies and generally bullshit the public.

    …….. apart from that they can all get fucked.

  6. Tom Gould 6

    In relation to the Cosgrove beat up, Scott has missed the most important element, that both the donor and the recipient have said there were no preconditions, offered or sought. Anyhow, maybe taxpayer funding of parties is a good idea, maybe not, but it does not go to the issue raised, how does an electorate candidate under MMP raise the money to fund the local electorate campaign? Even if the central office doles out $20k or whatever the limit is to each of their electorate candidates, this will only catch the big party candidates. What of a new party? The Conservatives, for example? Will they get the full $20k to pass on to each and every local candidate? And if so, will that not jusy encourage hopeless unelectable candidates to spend the full amount, meaning enormouse waste? Why not just let the candidates raise their own money, and declare the donor source and amount, like Cosgrove did? The rules work. We are only discussing the matter because they do.

    • Bunji 6.1

      It would mean tighter party control on electorate candidates I suppose. The party would get its allocation and then it’d be up to them how much they farmed out to candidates to spend… But that wouldn’t work for independent candidates.

      I guess you could have a hybrid system where parties central campaigns are funded, but candidates can only spend what they raise, have a $500 donation limit, and keep the cap on advertising spend. It could probably even be lowered, to ensure candidate spend is only on candidate vote and an even playing field.

      The Nats might not like it though – the likes of Sam Lotu Iiga got >$50k from their head office last time for their campaigns…

  7. Cannot think of something clever 7

    What both sides of the divide have missed is that political spend has a much lesser effect on voting than one might intuitively believe. The extreme examples include the NZ Conservatives and ACT. Both spent a very large amount per electoral seat (in the Conservatives case no seat) compared to the likes of the major parties.

    We can also point at some campaigns where Labour either on its own or combined with Unions outspent National. The spend by Labour and National is typically not dissimilar. As, by all accounts, Labour are skint this time around we might see something substantially different in spend.

    This is also seen outside NZ where presidential candidates in the US often spend enormous amounts with no success.

    Based on that I really don’t want you and me funding their ambitions.

    I’m more with TG – if potential conflicts of interests were super transparent that would really address the type of furore we see with Cosgrove.

  8. Jimmie 8

    The one good thing about the current system is if you have a party that is stagnating, is not renewing itself or its candidates and is generally seen as out of touch then this leads to reducing membership and/or donations.

    This sends positive internal messages to the leadership stating, pull your act together or else you’re history.

    This means the party is not only in competition externally for votes from other parties it is also driven internally to modernize and to find suitable leadership and candidates to become more relevant.

    Surely this is better than a situation where the parties basicly become beneficiaries to to the state and surely will advantage existing parties over newcomers.

    There will be no incentive to listen to members as they aren’t part of the funding equation.

    Look at National circa 2001-05 as a case in point – under English they hit a pretty bad low – they reformed, got their act together, and came back and won in 2008.

    Labour are in a similar place currently. By advocating for state funding this is running away from the problems that Labour has to get to grips with uninspiring leadership and irrelevant policies.

    Look at how well the Greens have done since they turfed out their odd balls, moderated some of their policies, and put on a professional image of themselves – Labour should learn from this.

    • Pascal's bookie 8.1

      Vouchers would deal with that. the funding would be directed by voters.

  9. jaymam 9

    It’s simple, full state-funding of political parties should be done by a dollar amount for each party vote obtained in the NEXT election, and parties can only spend that amount in the year before the election.
    The parties will have to estimate the votes they will get. If they overspend, their allocation will be reduced for the following election.
    Every other method is subject to rorting or is unfair to new parties.
    The cost of state funding is negligible compared with the other costs of government.

    • RedLogix 9.1

      Nice.

      Actually just to really get the point across; how about for every vote they over-estimate they get twice the dollar amount taken off the following election.

      • jaymam 9.1.1

        OK there could be some fine-tuning. Other countries do it this way already. I’d like to say that they can only spend the money they get at ANY time. There needs to be some way to stop lobbyists like the Exclusive Brethren spending millions.

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  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    2 weeks ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

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