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NRT: There is too much money in our politics

Written By: - Date published: 3:27 pm, May 6th, 2015 - 60 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, election 2014, greens, labour, national, political parties, Politics, same old national - Tags: , , ,

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

The Electoral Commission released political parties 2014 donation returns yesterday. DPF has the usual breakdown here. The highlights:

  • National raised twice as much money as Labour and the Greens combined. They received significant funding from Auckland property develops and real estate agents. Which might explain why they’re opposed to doing anything about the Auckland housing bubble.
  • the Greens out-fundraised Labour for the first time. This hasn’t come at the cost of Labour – they raised slightly more money than they did in 2011 – but it suggests that the Greens have got a far more organised fundraising infrastructure than they did in the past. The Green’s donors were mostly MPs, as usual. Labour, as befits a labour party, was primarily funded by unions.
  • No-one accepted money from SkyCity this time.
  • the total amount raised (and presumably spent on getting elected) by parties last year was $14.36 million – over twice the $5.5 million raised in 2011. Even discounting the crazy millionaires, the amount of money raised by the parties has still increased by more than 40%.

The latter point is the most disturbing. Our political system is awash with money. There is clearly an arms race going on where the largest party is trying to spend everyone else into the ground. But this creates a perception of corruption and cynicism about our democracy. If we want to protect the latter and ensure a level playing field, we need to eliminate private money from the political system and replace it with public funding.

60 comments on “NRT: There is too much money in our politics ”

  1. whateva next? 1

    Money seems to have taken the priority over connection to voters….but was it money that brought about the “spirit of 45” reforms in the UK? or a groundswell against corruption?
    Money is needed for infrastructure of course, but seems like we have fallen for the Nats believing money is the KEY.

  2. Detrie 2

    Agree. Still, we’re not as bad as the US where politics is basically run by the wealthy, telling lies upon more lies to get a vote both at national and state level. Here’s the definition. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/plutocrat

    Yes we still have a democracy, of sorts, but we don’t make the rules. Chris Hedges in the US did a disturbing expose a while back. Something we need to keep an eye upon here.


    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Of course we have a class system. Representative Democracy was designed to leave the class system in place while giving the illusion of power to the people:

      In order to do this, the Patriot leaders of the Revolution used ‘a language inspiring to all classes, specific enough in its listing of grievances to charge people with anger against the British, vague enough to avoid class conflict among the rebels, and stirring enough to build a patriotic feeling for the resistance movement’ (1999: 68). But this was a difiicult game for the Patriot leaders to play because it required a balancing act, maintaining broadly popular support for the War of Independence and Revolution by appealing to universal notions of liberty and democracy, on one hand, while simultaneously defending the sanctity of property and the rule of a rich capitalist minority, on the other.

      History of Democracy by B. Roper.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Which might explain why they’re opposed to doing anything about the Auckland housing bubble.

    That and the land bankers on the outskirts of Auckland rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the tax free capital gains that they’re going to get as National push the borders of Auckland city further and further out against the wishes of most Aucklanders.

    But this creates a perception of corruption and cynicism about our democracy.

    Oh, IMO, it’s not just a perception. Our democracy is being thoroughly corrupted by the rich as they buy our politicians outright or via lobbyists preventing the majority of people being heard.

    If we want to protect the latter and ensure a level playing field, we need to eliminate private money from the political system and replace it with public funding.


    And each party to have the same funding available to them no matter their size or voter support so as to ensure that they’re on a level playing field. Make sure that all parties have the same capability to get their views out.

    • Wayne 3.1

      I guess you mean Internet/Mana as the bought party

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Internet Mana weren’t running Cabinet Clubs to give access to ministers at $5000 a pop. Nor were they giving out Honours to restaurateurs for hosting dinners at $5000 per person which then got agglomerated into one donation allowing the donors to remain anonymous.

        That was all National.

        • Wayne

          Not much influence can be bought for $5,000 compared to $3,500,000.

          • Draco T Bastard

            A hell of a lot more actually as it’s direct to the minister while having a face to face about laws and policies. Meanwhile, the $3m that KDC donated fully transparently has had no effect upon the laws at all.

            And, no, I don’t like the fact of $3m donations. The maximum amount should be $1000 per year per person if we don’t go to full public funding.

            • Realblue

              “Has had no effect on laws”, it had no effect on the election result other than the removal of the excreble Hone Harawira. A roaring success in my opinion. Seriously though if money has no effect, why was Mana drooling at the prospect of KDC and his millions. In the hands of competent people that money would have been, to use the well worn phrase “a game changer” sadly competence and Mana are mutually exclusive.

              • Murray Rawshark

                As opposed by the competence of NAct, who can’t even seem to help selecting people under police investigation for dubious activities and then cost the country heaps for a byelection? Or have a Minister of Climate Change who considers facts to be refutable? Or revere a leader who can neither keep his hands to himself nor tell the truth?

                I’ll take the “execrable” Hone Harawira over any of your right honourable lying and ignorant dung beetles.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            One seat for each company staff member in attendance – the money all from the same source – and those numbers add up pretty quickly. Of course the big spenders get more face time, don’t they.

            Stop pretending you don’t know how it works, Dr. Mapp. You a law commissioner and all.

            • Tracey

              and the media excluded meeting of select companies hosted by elected reps of aussie and nz… politicalky neutral naturally

          • Tracey

            What about the influence Alan and Jenny Gibbs over the years, they must have purchased quite a bit by your “reasoning”.

          • Tracey

            Are you saying there was only 1 Cabinet club Wayne? That’s very misleading of you.

          • newsense

            so what you are saying is that we need to bring in a provision in the consumer guarantees act for those trying to buy influence through Cabinet Clubs and in fact getting taken for a ride and receiving 2/5ths of fuck all?

            Those people were lead to believe that in a low-wage, low-price economy like NZ $5000 actually meant a lot to an MP and minister. Are there larger amounts of money coming in from elsewhere that make Kiwis attempts at buying influence ridiculously small?

          • DoublePlusGood

            The $3.5 million was transparent. No problem with that, you can see really clearly and obviously where the money came from and you are able to draw your own conclusions as to what influence might be placed on the party from that funding source. (Indeed, with Dotcom, so obvious that no one can really claim that it’s secret who is financing the party). It’s also really clear for matters of conflicts of interest.
            By contrast, Cabinet Club obfuscates who is financing the National Party, so it is not fully transparent as to who seeks to influence National. As a result the public cannot be assured that there are no conflicts of interest undeclared, and the public are not fully aware of who may have influenced policy.

        • alwyn

          “restaurateurs for hosting dinners at $5000 per person which then got agglomerated into one donation allowing the donors to remain anonymous.”

          That shows a total misunderstanding of the law. If there had been no “agglomeration” there would have been no need to declare the donation at all, except as merely part of the general category of small amounts. There would not have been a single donation of a hundred thousand or so, that has to be declared specifically, but a series of $5,000 donations that do not have to be individually identified at all.
          Instead of a single line in the return that said there were 658 donations between $1,500 and $5,000 there would have been 669 (I think there were 11 people at the dinner concerned). The donors would have been even more anonymous.

          • Draco T Bastard

            But does the agglomerated money count towards the total donation by a single person that needs to be declared?

            A series of donations, or contributions of more than $1,500 to donations, made by one person that adds up to more than $15,000 must also be declared.

            Because if it doesn’t then individual donors could remain anonymous despite the rules saying that they need to be declared.

            • alwyn

              I assume you are suggesting that someone gave $12,000 in their own name and $5,000 via a meal?

              I think that they would have to be declared, if the total by any individual came to more that $15,000. If they didn’t have to we would still have the situation where you could have something like the Waitemata Trust (I think it was called) that could simply gather up donations and pass them on in bulk.
              That has been banned and I don’t see any difference to the agglomeration by the restaurant owner. (I’m not a lawyer so I don’t claim any particular authority for this argument).
              There might be a debate about who supplied the goods I suppose but I will definitely leave that argument to the lawyers. He might run a good restaurant but I can’t believe that $5,000 was not above fair market price. Again that not counting as a donation to the party would allow a Trust to accept the donation money in return for a lollypop and keep secrecy wouldn’t it?
              ps. I originally suggested 11 donors. If the amount was $5,000 each and the total was over $100k there would have to have been at least 20 wouldn’t there?

              • Draco T Bastard

                So what we’d need to see is the records of the restaurant or National showing that did actually keep those details of the agglomerations (there was more than one instance of this type of thing).

                Then there’s the fact that we have to confront the ethics of such raising of monies as it really is face time with the minister. IMO, such needs to be banned because people should not get preferential treatment to see ministers because they happen to have made a large donation/went to an expensive organised event.

      • Murray Rawshark 3.1.2

        Once again, you guess wrong.

      • Stuart Munro 3.1.3

        Perhaps – National though has clearly long since SOLD it’s last shreds of dignity – cuddling up to pedophiles… selling NZ to China… whoring our soldiers out to the phoney war in Syria… National has become an abusive party suitable for a country with low self-esteem – and its traditional supporters must be ashamed of them.

  4. Tracey 4

    ACT is still the Gibbs party I see…. Between Jenny and Alan…

  5. Anne 5

    There is clearly an arms race going on where the largest party is trying to spend everyone else into the ground.

    Of course. Its gone on for decades and is the reason why National is in power more than Labour. It’s a case of the rich whose chief obsession is to grow richer… so they ply the party who is going to make them richer with even more money. While Labour tries to play the same game they are always going to be on the losing side.

    …this creates a perception of corruption and cynicism about our democracy. If we want to protect the latter and ensure a level playing field, we need to eliminate private money from the political system and replace it with public funding.

    To begin with, only politicos care about democracy. The masses don’t really know what democracy is. As a result, cynicism of the system is applied by them across the political spectrum. The Labour Party and its allies have been rabbiting on about the need for public funding since the beginning of time. Nothing happens.

    Labour can’t and never will be able to match the Nats when it comes to money. But what Labour does have is a diverse across the board membership (and supporters) including many very clever individuals whose expertise in various fields could be of great value to them. Problem is they rarely get a look in, and their advice is frequently ignored. After a month of major controversies you would think the Opposition parties would have had a ball in the House yesterday. Instead, Labour was insipid and I’m not sure the Greens and NZ First were much better. Andrew Little started so well but he has not been firing on all cylinders for a long time now.

    Time to get going again Andrew otherwise you’re going to be left behind!

    • jenny kirk 5.1

      Zero hours for workers at Parliament – 9am this morning.
      Gone by 5pm this afternoon. Andrew Little on the ball !

      • Anne 5.1.1

        I’ve been out most of the day jenny so if that is correct, I’m really pleased to hear it. Don’t let up for a minute Andrew. There’s plenty of punches to land on the bastards. Don’t give em a chance to come up for air from now through to 2017!

  6. Puckish Rogue 6

    This is bollix, if people thought Labour were worth supporting they’d support it, hell even the Greens managed to raise more but now you want public money to make it fair?

    How much money did Labour raise in the 60s, 70s or 80s, more or less than today? I’d guess more so it suggests that Labours chickens have finally (finacially) come home to roost

    You want to raise more than you better go out and ask for it, Mike Williams managed it for Helen Clark or are your collective memories so bad you forget that?

    Little says Labours good for business, well let him prove by raising some money or is he all talk?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      That’s me convinced: get the bribery out of politics. This witless gimp thinks it’s ok for MPs to do their own fundraising.

    • Tracey 6.2

      ” I’d guess”

      rather than google or try to find the truth…

      LOTS of people donate to Labour and greens but they donate less, primarily because they earn substantially less. You can probably see how that can make for a disparity that is not related to numbers of donors per se?

      Ever wondered why the VERY wealth donate to National and ACT PR consistently and for huge amounts? Cos they know that 1 person 1 vote doesn’t work for them as well as 1 person donate enough money to manipulate lots of votes.

    • dukeofurl 6.3

      The Greens ‘raised more’ as they have compulsory tithing from their MPs.

    • Charles 6.4

      “…if people thought Labour were worth supporting they’d support it, hell even the Greens managed to raise more but now you want public money to make it fair?…”

      No one said it was fair, or that it had to be fair. There is no universal equivalence of value between what people morally support and what they throw money at – either one way or the other. The idea of public funding is to reduce the propensity to “game the system”. In this case, risk reduction doesn’t make something “more fair”, it makes it “less easily corruptable”.

    • DoublePlusGood 6.5

      You assume that people who support Labour have enough money to support a particular party. Essentially the end result of your ideology is that politics gets to be only for the wealthy.

  7. Sanctuary 7

    You can’t bitch about Whanua ora getting large amounts of public cash and then turn around and support political parties getting large amounts of public cash with a similar lack of oversight.

    State funding of politically parties will simply reinforce their current status of cut off, elite cadre organisations and make them even less dependent on voters and even more remote from the concerns of ordinary citizens.

    Sure, ban ALL funding off political parties from third parties. But then if you do bring in state funding link it to total, paid up membership. So cap the total you can charge for membership (say $100 PA) and for, say, every member you might get a $50 top up from the taxpayer every year. 20,000 members paying an average of $25 PA each = $500,000 plus an additional $1,000,000 top up plus something for poll figures ($10K per percentage point averaged out over the year? So Labour would get $250,000, National $500,000 extra?). ACT would lose out big time – 550 members would get them $55,000 plus $5,000 for their .5% in the polls. No more Alan Gibbs for them…

    FORCING political parties to recruit new members, and keep them happy, will automatically lead to better parties and bigger parties, and better and bigger parties will have better candidates and better policies.

    • lprent 7.1

      Agreed. If a political party has no members then it doesn’t exist.

      But I’d go for an even more radical procedure. Only allow money to be raised from members, and cap the amount at something that is very low, like a few percent of median income per annum.

      Make the membership lists and the donations public, or at least given to the electoral commission (in the latter case make any commission employees or past employees get a mandatory year in prison for a conviction for disclosing details, and for any person receiving, reading, or processing those details).

      Don’t allow *any* other fundraising including fund-raising of goods and services.

      I’d bet that would tend to clean up undue influence issues and to provide an incentive to improve median incomes.

      • b waghorn 7.1.1

        Full transparency is the only way to stop power/money hungry shit bags twisted the system and buying influence. Imo

      • Pasupial 7.1.2

        That proposal seems quite thorough. But it does miss the situations where ex-MPs (and other former government office holders) get high paying employment at the end of their period of “public” service, in lieu of a campaign donation upfront. Also, any change to political donations will have to be instituted by politicians who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo cash flow.

      • Liberal Realist 7.1.3


        In addition, a public transparent registry of all lobbyists, full disclosure of what is being lobbied for, why, when and who they’re lobbying for.

        • gsays

          here here liberal,
          i have long said a transparent lobbying register of who where when and how much.
          this is to include meals trips and bottles of wine etc.

      • RedBaronCV 7.1.4

        I’d modify that a bit to allow parties to take heavily capped donations from individuals only and maybe those who are citizens and eligible to vote in the next election or something similar.
        Personally to get elected I think you should have to traipse around every two bit freezing hall in the country to speak to real people. Not just stay in that sanitised TV studio.

    • Gosman 7.2

      Why would anyone on the right of the political spectrum support that proposed change to electoral finance laws?

      • Macro 7.2.1

        Because they want to live in a democracy?/sarc

        • Gosman

          Ummm… denying people the right to support the politicial party of their choice through a monetary donation of an amount that they want to give doesn’t seem to be terribly democratic. Neither does the State funding existing political parties leading to any new parties having a barrier to entry.

          • Macro

            On the contrary allowing the wealthy to buy elections is precisely undemocratic. But allowing everyone an equal voice through equal funding is precisely what democracy is all about. As always you have very little understanding of what it means to live in a truly democratic society. Your perception is based upon your experience of living in what we now have which is an oligarchy, if not a plutocracy.

  8. Rosie 8

    Ha! What did I say yesterday? Developers- cabinet -club- palm- greasing- b*stards!

    Open mike 05/05/2015

    No wonder Nick Smith had his grumpy face on yesterday threatening to over ride the council and go ahead with SHA’s in Akld. Might as well be honest and say”we have a responsibility to our shareholders, er, um I mean developer mates who fund us”.

  9. dukeofurl 9

    Strangely Key, donated $30,000 in 2008 but doesnt seem to have repeated the offer

  10. Wayne 10

    Although National had the most money, the majority of it was not big donations.

    The reality is that National has a large membership base, significantly more so than Labour. Most of the money comes from members, not just the annual fee, but campaign donations, lunches, breakfasts, etc. It is simply expected that if you perceived as a person who can contribute, then you should. Peer pressure and all that.

    But you don’t expect anything for it other than that National will win, Not guaranteed of course.

    But no-one is going to support National (or indeed any other party) unless the party’s policies and values largely align with their own.

    So it is not that National is cravenly doing the bidding of property investors or anyone else for that matter. National for 80 years has opposed a CGT, because National is a relatively low tax party and believes in free enterprise. People know that and support it accordingly.

    Of course those more on the right think National is too centrist and therefore support ACT, a point made vociferously to me by ACT supporters.

    Naturally I don’t expect any of the usual contributors to believe any of this, because you all know that National is evil and corrupt.

    • Skinny 10.1

      Human nature says what is in it for me, your piss taking about Nat donations, Judith Collins rewarded her sponsors.

      Of note is the vast difference of who benefits most from political donations given by business and Unions (workers). Individuals from the business sector stand to gain significant profiteering while workers achieve minimal gains, crumbs in comparison. It is quite sickening the way the Right howl at Unions funding Labour, the Greens and too a lesser extent NZF.

    • Such a quaint view you present here for us, Wayne.

      I know how corrupt Nats can be and witnessed first hand the appalling shenanigans that ensued in Levin many years ago in early 1970’s to keep useless Nat Minister Allan McCready in office when he was challenged for electorate nomination by a very able Shannon constituent whom I was vocal about supporting.. (Shame to say I was then a young Nat, out of sheer boredom.)

      I was threatened in person and by phone. Businesses I and another colleague were closely associated with had large orders for rural equipment worth thousands of dollars cancelled the day of the electorate meeting. Anonymous phone calls said it was just the beginning of our problems unless we voted for McCready to maintain the Nat nomination in the electorate.

      Neither of us voted. MacCready was re-nominated as votes were disguised and mis-counted.

      Please don’t get me started on the filth of it all. Keep your quaint view going Wayne .. I’m sure you are a decent man, but open your eyes for heaven’s sake !

    • DoublePlusGood 10.3

      “The reality is that National has a large membership base, significantly more so than Labour”
      Actually it means that National has a larger membership base of people who can splash a $1000-plus donation without worrying about whether that means they now can’t afford to live.

    • freedom 10.4

      “not big donations”

      Not sure what world you live in any more, most kiwis still live in New Zealand, but perhaps you have residency now on Planet Key? For folks in these parts, $100,000 is a pretty big donation. Antoine’s really loves NAtional huh!

      But it wasn’t really from Antoine’s was it Wayne? Even after Antoine’s admitted selling individual seats and no doubt clawed back every cent of tax it could from the costs of the event, it still got listed as a lump sum donation from Antoine’s.

      I wonder if the IRD ever got around to checking up on that situation? nah, probably too busy chasing lawnmowers and window-washers and anyway, what does John key call it… oh yeah – “legitimate tax avoidance”!

      It must be nice to afford real accountants. Too bad for the hard working Jo working three jobs and juggling bills to find $50 for the mate’s kid who knows how to work MYOB. What a sucker eh! Working so hard to meet broken promise G.S.T. rates, and find the cash for the growing ‘donation required’ total at their kid’s school, only to be hit with a roughly 300% increase in the govt cut of the annual hospo manager’s licence that helps the family scrape by. That spruce goose surplus sure has a lot to answer for.

      Yet there they are, day after day, still doing whatever it takes. Trying to pay the sky-rocketing rent, fill the car, or simply allow themselves three minutes of peace and quiet to figure out why a litre of milk is now $3.35 at the supermarket. Yup! 1 litre: $3.35. Lucky thing there are no dairy farmers who are members of the National Party. They could be seen to be profiteering from the intensification of Dairy eh! People might start to think all sorts of things. Oh is the payout dropping again? Those poor farmers who overstocked and planned on greed not common sense. That’s ok though, the silver lining is as tough to remove as the seal on that $3.35 litre of milk. What silver lining ?? the one where the costs of losses and gains both get covered by the modern consumer. Which of course means that extortionary retail price of $3.35 for one litre of milk is about to jump even higher. Too bad for the farmers who can’t handle the drop though, but that’s ok, those lovely new banks that Jenny and Don run will be there to catch everyone, so that’s nice.

      Meanwhile, back at Antoine’s, the money donated was collected from the anonymous donors who simply paid $5k a head for a dinner. Or was it $10k? Or was that the other dinner a couple of weeks later? Maybe it was the Cabinet Club lunches the previous Tuesday I am confusing it with.

      It must be easy to tell yourself these are just small donations, and they are of course, when looked at as individual acts. Who doesn’t have a spare $5k to throw into the bucket every few weeks. But they are not individual acts are they Wayne, they are complex and manipulative programmes of deception, where hundreds of thousands of dollars are donated time after time after time. Often from the same persons or organisations and the millions of dollars that accumulate are filtered through numerous similar opportunities so as to remain anonymous. How they keep track of it all and stay within the rules is really quite impressive. That is the bit your hypocritical Party Members really love though, to be seen to be following the rules.

      From dairy farming to building supplies, from water theft to insurance scams, from vertically integrated agricultural industries wholly owned by foreign interests to billionaires who need a hand building boats, it’s all golden and everything is fine, as long as you are seen to be acting within the rules.

      • thank you, freedom. as it is. exactly as it is.

      • Wayne 10.4.2

        Don’t know where you all get your image of the National Party from. But it is a long way from reality.

        The National Party has many tens of thousands of members. A very large percentage pay around $50 per year, but in election year will pay anywhere from around $100 to $1000 depending on their circumstances and their enthusiasm. So it is pretty easy to see why the donations return has the great percentage of money coming from people (mostly members) paying less than $1000.

        Of course there are some large donors just as there is with all other parties (possible exception of NZF) but they are all disclosed. Basically anything over over $1000 is disclosed.

        The current legislation on electoral finance and disclosure is essentially a consensus result of the parliament as a whole, though of course the Greens could have voted against.

  11. reason 11

    National like the torys in England is the party that looks after tax dodgers and rich criminals …… http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/8515361/Money-trail-leads-home-to-New-Zealand

    What the Nats say and what they actually do are two totally different things in many cases …..

    Pretending to be tough on crime yet opposing laws which would harm pedophiles ( and themselves ) is one of their worst examples ……. http://nzfirst.org.nz/news/government-spikes-removal-paedophile-name-suppression-bill

    Its hard to say if all the booze money which flows to National had anything to do with roastbusting not being a crime under this National Govt ………………

  12. SMILIN 12

    On the article its called” buying power” not funding or supporting your party as a democratic right
    All this old language that the nats use to create a sense of security for
    the SHEEPISH voters is BS a con and lies
    People such as Key are born liars and manipulators just look at his history and the Nat party is full of them.
    We need to be demanding about having all donations logged and in everyone’s face as NEWS so that the slimy bastards who manipulate the elections are tracked to the max and that the situation outlined about the housing boom are jammed as far up Keys butt until he tells the truth.

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