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No Right Turn: Electoral donations, corruption, and transparency

Written By: - Date published: 4:11 pm, June 11th, 2014 - 37 comments
Categories: corruption, democracy under attack, election funding, elections, john banks, len brown - Tags: , , ,

no-right-turn-256Reposted from No Right Turn.

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.

37 comments on “No Right Turn: Electoral donations, corruption, and transparency ”

  1. Philj 1

    xox
    Just how do you correct systemic corruption, as it is corrupted? In China I believe they execute some transgressors and this sends a signal to be careful.

  2. Wayne 2

    You are hyperventilating.

    Do you seriously believe a political party (or rather the MPs of that party who are elected) can be corrupted for $15,000. Remember this limit is for political parties campaigning across the whole nation for the party vote, not for an individual constituency candidate of that party, where the threshold is very much lower ($1,500).

    New Zealand has among the most rigorous campaign spending disclosure rules in the world, and strict limits on what can be spent in election campaigns.

    There is a good reason why we do so well on the various international measures of the level of corruption, and that is because there is very little corruption.

    • vto 2.1

      Wayne, those measures of corruption are about “perceptions” of corruption, not actual corruption. Good old naïve trusting kiwis eh Wayne ….. such a lovely green place NZ eh…. land of milk and honey, I mean money.

      You carry right on Wayne, but your generation of politicians has let the nation down. Your lot are the ones who have tarnished the place – left skidmarks behind.

      Banks, Williamson, Collins, it is all over …..

    • geoff 2.2

      That’s why you get those donations split up, right Wayne?

      You know, just like Banks asked DotCom to do.

      I just wish that National and ACT had the balls to admit that they are the parties that represent big money interests.

      • Wayne 2.2.1

        But look what happened to John Banks. You can’t split the donations and still comply with the law.

        Personally, I don’t care whether the limit is $5,000 or $15,000. My point is that no political party can be corrupted for $15,000.

        And I do know that most donors to individual campaigns do not like their names to be public, so they make donations of $1000 or less (the limit when I was in politics) to maintain their privacy.

        Ask David Cunliffe to name all the donors to his leadership campaign. I am sure he would like to name them all, but some of them value their privacy.

        • Tracey 2.2.1.1

          why do they need privacy when they get nothing in return for their donation and expect nothing.

          • Wayne 2.2.1.1.1

            Tracey,

            Actually a fair question. I think some people just do not want it known that they donate to political parties, so they make their donations at a level that keeps their name private. For a local constituency that means less than $1,500 and for national level organisations it is $15,000.

            I guess the desire for anonymity is for much the same reason that people post on blogs under pseudonyms.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2.1.1.1.1

              Offering an opinion is totes the same as offering a bribe. Is that feeble analogy the best you can do Dr. Mapp?

        • Kiwiri 2.2.1.2

          Wayne’s asking price to be corrupted is much higher, you cheapos!
          You lot haven’t had much money to play with, have you?
          🙄

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.3

      Dr. Mapp, stop pretending: everyone knows National Party bribes are delivered in the form of post-parliamentary “lucrative business careers” (cf: Simon Lusk’s incontinent confessions).

      Unless you’re able to raise significant funds that is: cf: National’s corrupt dealings with Oravida and the low-life, Astle.

    • Lanthanide 2.4

      Ok then Wayne, answer this:
      In what way does setting the limit at $15,000 instead of the previous limit of $10,000 improve democracy?

      If you don’t have a compelling reason for how democracy is improved with the higher limit, then it would seem there’s no reason the limit should be $15,000 instead of $10,000. Personally I’d go for a $5,000 limit, but you’re the one that seems to think $15,000 is necessary.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 2.4.1

        Way back in the 1920s, Lloyd George created the Order of the British Empire, so those who couldnt afford to buy a peerage, instead could afford to buy a Knighthood (KBE).

        Im sure that National has a long menu of items that donors can be shown to improve their giving.

    • Tracey 2.5

      have you told fran in her comments section that she is delusional.

      No need for any donations to be anonymous then Wayne?

    • vto 2.6

      Wayne, why not have all donations thrown into a pot and then divvied up between the parties according to some formula…..?

      That would solve all corruption allegations, at least in this context.

      Unless of course donors want to influence politicians (i.e. corruption)

      Or unless of course they only want to support their particular political causes, in which case those of big business and big money will always win and that is clearly not acceptable.

      What say thee Wayne? I would be curious to hear your response to each of those (not just a selection eh).

    • Draco T Bastard 2.7

      The John Banks ruling and the RWNJs coming out and saying that what he did was normal, i.e reality, disagrees with you.

    • North 2.8

      Wayne @ 2 above – ” Do you seriously believe a political party (or rather the MPs of that party who are elected) can be corrupted for $15,000 [?] ”

      No. I agree with you Wayne. $15K is way too tiddly.

      George Bernard Shaw/The Actress one of your tupuna perhaps ?

  3. Dave_1924 3

    Very Happy for every donation to a party over $500 to be declared – no anonymity.

    But Public Funding of political parties over and above the amounts they already get for campaigning i.e. TV Time. No way.

    Why should I contribute to Labour, Nationals, Acts, Mana, etc coffers if I don’t want to make a donation and if I do want to fund the political process I should be free to choose where my dollars go.

    Labour is propped up by the Unions in Cash and kind [campaigns running in support, door knocking etc]. National gets money from Business …

    Big deal

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      Why should I contribute to Labour, Nationals, Acts, Mana, etc coffers if I don’t want to make a donation and if I do want to fund the political process I should be free to choose where my dollars go.

      Firstly, forget about you. This is not about you.

      Secondly the main reason to have tax payers in general contribute is to lock out billion dollar corporations and oligarchic elite from controlling political funding like they do in the USA.

      • geoff 3.1.1

        Forget about me?!?!

        There is only me!

        There is no society!

        Only….solipsism!

        ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME

      • Dave_1924 3.1.2

        Hahaha

        One man, one vote. I shouldn’t be coerced by pollies to fund their parties.

        its always easy spending other peoples money – and politicians are just in love with doing it.

        Fund raising is good for the soul of politicians – it makes them look people in the whites in the eyes and realise their jobs depend on the people

        How about no donation over a $1000 from any source, anything over $500 declared no anonymity, no trusts to wash it through and all aligned campaigning like Unions touting Labour to their members should count as election spending….

        No don’t like that?

        Forcing Tax Payers to fund political parties via a government distribution of largess is just a left wingers wet dream

        • Colonial Viper 3.1.2.1

          How about no donation over a $1000 from any source, anything over $500 declared no anonymity, no trusts to wash it through and all aligned campaigning like Unions touting Labour to their members should count as election spending….

          Not a bad idea and I could support something along those lines with very little trouble at all. Left meets Right in the interests of democracy.

        • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2.2

          Fund raising is good for the soul of politicians – it makes them look people in the whites in the eyes and realise their jobs depend on the people lie to them – unless they’re the big donors in which case they kiss arse.

          FTFY

        • karol 3.1.2.3

          Public funding of election campaigns is not about taxpayers funding parties they don’t agree with.

          In fact, it’s not about funding parties at all. It’s about funding democracy: a level playing field where candidates and parties get the opportunity to put their case to the public as to why they should be in government.

          Then the electorate makes their choices.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.1.2.3.1

            +111

          • The Chairman 3.1.2.3.2

            Indeed, Karol.

          • Nick K 3.1.2.3.3

            Good. All parties receive $5 million for the campaign and let’s go for it.

          • Dave_1924 3.1.2.3.4

            Karol – noble sentiment.

            But Public Funding imo is about funding parties – and worse than that funding established parties. How does the new idea, the new path, the new energy get into the game?

            How does a New Zealand Party that got Lange the PM’s job get funded? How about Internet Party starting out, how about the Conservatives or Mana? How would they qualify for tax payer funding? Mana not such a good example I suppose as it seems a boootstrap operation until recently.

            Ultimately politics is competitive and about power. If you can sell you ideas to someone or enough people and he/she/they will back the ideas with cash – fair enough in my view

            Labour is backed by a number of the unions – they fund Labour and in return get policy they, the Unions, want. Ditto National or ACT with some business interests – though ACT ain’t delivering much of a return on investment

            If left wing parties, who seem to be calling for the funding, were actually parties of the people then funding shouldn’t be an issue. Mass membership gives a decent amount of cash to campaign on. The whole call for public funding looks like someone looking in their wallet seeing its empty and then turning to Joe Public and saying Gimme, gimme….

            • The Chairman 3.1.2.3.4.1

              Sorry Dave, but I totally disagree.

              As Karol highlighted, it’s not about funding parties. It’s about strengthening democracy by removing the fiscal bias, thus providing a level playing field for parties to campaign off and promote new ideas.

              New parties would largely face the same hurdles they face today. After meeting the criteria, they would also be entitled to a share of public funding.

              Structuring and selling policy to those willing and able to pay tends to result in policy largely benefiting those with the deepest pockets, undermining democracy.

              Labour are not only funded by the Unions, which helps explain why Labour Party policy largely falls short and in some cases goes totally the other way (right).

              Removing private donations will enable parties to focus and deliver more to their voters opposed to largely benefiting a few wealthy supporters.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Why should I contribute to Labour, Nationals, Acts, Mana, etc

      To help get the corruption in our political system out of it. John Banks being found guilty shows you that there is corruption in it and that will just be the tip of the iceberg.

  4. felix 4

    “National raised the disclosure threshold for donations from $10,000 to $15,000”

    Well yeah, but that’s just because the rich have been getting richer.

  5. Penny Bright 5

    FYI

    PRESS RELEASE: Epsom Independent candidate ‘Anti-Corruption Whistleblower’ – Grace Haden

    To all MPS
    11 June 2014
    PRESS RELEASE: Epsom Independent candidate ‘anti-Corruption whistle-blower’ Grace Haden

    “I have decided to stand as an ‘Independent’ candidate in my home electorate of Epsom. I am seeking accountability from government and to achieve this I will be campaigning for an Independent Commission Against Corruption and the Ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC)”), says ‘anti-Corruption whistle-blower’ Grace Haden.

    (https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/

    “I believe that a by-election in Epsom is essential to keep the public spotlight on the corrupt practices surrounding the resignation of ACT MP John Banks, but also shine it on the reality of the widespread corruption which is becoming more and more evident in New Zealand.

    “The harsh reality is that New Zealand’s “least corrupt country in the world “tag line is not reality but a perception and as such ,the perception is a false illusion a façade . The perception index (http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/results/) is frequently misquoted and does not correlate with the fact that we are one of a small handful of countries which have not ratified the United Nations convention against corruption.

    “(https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/signatories.html)

    “Despite New Zealand claiming to be ‘the least corrupt’, I, a former long-serving Police officer, (and Police prosecutor), now a licensed Private Investigator, have found it impossible to get corruption investigated in New Zealand by any of the so called public watch dogs.
    I have discovered that we do not have corruption because we do not define it and turn a willful blind eye to it, as occurred in the John Banks case.”

    “8 years ago, I questioned serious public corruption, provided facts and evidence to support my allegations, but so far, to no avail. I have discovered that Corruption does ruin lives – It tore my family apart.”

    “Enough is enough. No one else should have to go through what I have had to endure.
    Lessons need to be learned from the past and solutions found for the future.
    Cancer cannot be treated without a diagnosis and this is also true with corruption. Ignore corruption and like cancer it will consume us.

    “New Zealand desperately needs an Independent Commission Against Corruption, and I am pleased to report that I now have an MP who will present a petition which I initiated, seeking

    “That the House legislate to set up an independent Commission against Corruption, tasked with the prevention, education, detection and prosecution of corruption in New Zealand.”

    I have a well-established background in fighting and exposing corruption in New Zealand,
    these are documented on the following web sites http://www.civiljustice.co.nz/, http://www.transparency.net.nz/, http://www.anticorruption.co.nz/

    Grace Haden
    ………………………
    visit us at http://www.transparency.net.nz

  6. Philj 6

    xox
    Go Grace.
    But I attended a Public meeting of Transparency International in Wellington and was told, by Chair Suzanne Snively, we didn’t have enough corruption in NZ to warrant action! 100% pure. hahaha. All power to you Grace. Careful with your communications as we are kept safe by our minders.

  7. vto 7

    I can’t believe some dumb arse commentators are still saying that what Banks did was relatively minor.

    It was fraud for fucks sake.

    Fraud.

    Don’t people know what that is? It is one of the most serious of crimes.

    Fraud is what John Banks committed. It is as serious as all hell. What the fuck is it about some people who think it is a trifling matter? Eh? Bloody dimwits

    • Craig Glen Eden 7.1

      Yup so true vto the Banks case and the subsequent Journalists who have waxed on about this being a minor technical issue are either corrupt them selves by benefiting from the current state of play or they are 6th graders attending the local primary school.The brazen gall that the likes of Armstrong and others have in trying to defend Banks is breath taking. I also couldnt believe Brian Edwards saying he felt sorry for him that it was a sad way to end a life’s career in Politics. News flash Edwards, Armstrong and others Banks lide and corrupted his way through his career and got caught at the end finally. Edwards had more scorn for McCready than he did for Banks.

      • North 7.1.1

        Because in Edwards’ view McCready is a nothing scruffy old bastard and Banks is one of the ‘up-there movers and shakers’. In which strata Edwards sees himself. “Oh yes we have our differences but……”

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