- Date published:
4:11 pm, June 11th, 2014 - 36 comments
Categories: corruption, democracy under attack, election funding, elections, john banks, len brown - Tags: fran o'sullivan, jono naylor, no right turn, public funding
Writing in the Herald, Fran O’Sullivan tells us what we all knew: that political donors have expectations, and want favours in exchange for their cash. She’s too polite (and Establishment) to call it corruption, but that’s what it is. Naturally, this being Fran O’Sullivan, she uses it as a springboard to attack Auckland Mayor Len Brown’s laundering of his donations for his 2011 mayoral campaign.
She’s right to do so: Len Brown is a money launderer who has gone far out of his way to hide who might be able to exert a corrupt influence over him (and there’s only one reason you’d go to that much effort…) And in local body politics, there are countless opportunities to repay donors. To give a pertinent example, my local Mayor (and now National candidate) Jono Naylor, voted to rezone land owned by the property developer who had paid for 95% of his campaign, which no doubt increased its value considerably (and by a hell of a lot more than the $36,000 paid for Naylor’s election). Brown could be doing the same. And in the absence of proper transparency, we rely on the media to expose his donors and prevent corruption.
At the same time, it needs to be recognised that that particular loophole has been plugged. Brown got away with it, but he won’t be doing it in future, and anyone giving him more than $1500 will have to be identified.
But while we’ve forced a welcome level of transparency on local body politics, most of the money given to national-level politicians is still secret. National raised the disclosure threshold for donations from $10,000 to $15,000, reducing the level of transparency and enabling corruption. So, if someone gives a party $10,000 in a brown paper bag, they get to know who they owe favours to – but we don’t. And the only reason to do this is to enable corrupt behaviour and the corrupt trading of influence.
We need to clean this up. Local body politicians must be transparent. Electorate candidates must be transparent. Its time we forced parties to do so as well. And if they’re worried about donors refusing to fund them if they can’t get favours in return, then we need to replace their money with transparent public funding. If the choice is spending public money or permitting corruption, I think its pretty clear.