Party donations analysis

Written By: - Date published: 7:02 am, June 20th, 2017 - 101 comments
Categories: election funding, Ethics, political alternatives, political parties - Tags: , , , ,

Max Rasbrooke has done an analysis of donations to political parties. Henry Cooke wrote it up on Stuff complete with some pretty graphs:

Over half of major political cash comes from donations of over $15,000

Over half of major political donations come from wealthy individuals able to splash out $15,000 or more, new research shows.

Fully 52 percent of the money from donations over $1500 in 2011-2016 came in chunks of $15,000 or more. …

The breakdown by party is interesting:

National is overwhelmingly the largest recipient of donations, raising $11.7m over the six years between 2011 and 2016, almost three times Labour’s $3.9m. But just 22 percent of their funds come from donations of over $15,000.

(In the Stuff original you can mouse-over the bars to get underlying figures.)

The funding bins are determined by the way the Electoral Commission collects its figures. This process misses donations under $1,500 so its an incomplete picture. Labour and The Greens get much of their funding from numerous small donations.

Obviously National have a huge fundraising advantage, and although that alone is not sufficient, other things being equal it translates into an advertising / strategic advantage.

Large donations are not necessary for success and certainly do not guarantee it.

The Internet Party and the Conservatives both raised more than the Greens and Labour over the period, but neither have MPs in Parliament. And New Zealand First – who raised the least by far over the period, just $319,000 – are polling on level with the Greens and are widely seen as “kingmakers” in the next Parliament.

Edwards noted that parliamentary funding “dwarves” donated funding. New Zealand First will receive $11.6m in Parliamentary funding during the next fiscal year.

Rashbrooke is concerned that donations buy influence. It’s pretty hard to argue that this can never be the case, and the ability of the rich to have more control over the political process is profoundly undemocratic. Rashbrook doesn’t say it but I will, private donations over $100 should be banned, and political parties should be state funded. It’s worth the cost for a transparent process where our politicians are not beholden to to donors.

101 comments on “Party donations analysis”

  1. Cinny 1

    Rule of thumb.. the party with the largest donations are the ones who are being lobbied by big business to stay in power and keep those loop holes intact.

    http://www.elections.org.nz/sites/default/files/plain-page/attachments/national_party_-_annual_return_2016.pdf

    • David C 1.1

      You are right.
      E Tu is a pretty big business and Little Andy is well paid for.

      • Cinny 1.1.1

        54,000 union members helped to make that donation. Compared to sizeable donations from a handful of Real Estate and Housing companies going to the outgoing government who deny the housing crisis while lining their friends pockets via commission on over priced real estate.

        • David C 1.1.1.1

          Cinny.
          Were the Union members asked if they wanted to donate?
          Was there an opt out?
          Was it a separate donation to the usual fees that are deducted?

          • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.1.1

            We definitely need compulsory unionism back: look how much it upsets this creature.

            • David C 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Yip OAB.

              Socialists cant win by reason so resort to gunpoint at earliest opportunity.

              But sadly for you OAB those of my ilk wouldnt be captured by your statist net anyways.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                You are mistaken: I don’t want compulsory unionism for any ideological reason: I just like hearing vile little Toryboys whinging and wailing.

                Certainly it would hinder scum like you from preying on your betters, but that’s a secondary benefit.

                • David C

                  I am pretty sure that “vile toryboys” is an ideological postion 🙂

                  I owned a very successful and happy business for 16 years with over 200 employees. None of the staff ever wanted to introduce union thuggery to improve wages or conditions.

                  • Not if they knew what was good for ’em, anyway…

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    🙄

                    Too funny: yet another centrist parrot who claims to have run a successful business with happy employees (and hates unions). It must be all those other employers that dragged wages and conditions into the gutter (cite: Mr. James Brendan Bolger.)

                    Meanwhile, the OECD says our per capita productivity is a consequence of (among other things that centrists claim to be good at) shit business practices.

                  • Psych nurse

                    Maybe a little thuggerymay have helped any of the five workers to have died in workplace accidents over the past week. Was it Unions or market forces who have had most effect on health and saftey.

                  • left_forward

                    Was it union thuggery that facilitated the recent increase in the wages and salaries of thousands of care workers in NZ? E Tu used reasonable argument and were successful in achieving this fantastic outcome for their members.

                    I guess that your staff would have just meekly suffered, and tugged their forelocks and returned a false smile when the boss walked by.

          • Wensleydale 1.1.1.1.2

            Union members are asked if they wish their fees or donations to be used for political purposes, and have the option to opt out.

            No one is hauled into a cramped room, manacled to a chair and told that if they don’t pay their protection money, Mr Little will have their knees smashed with a tyre iron.

            Hope that clears that up for you.

          • Cinny 1.1.1.1.3

            DC… Yes lol !!!

            “In New Zealand, E tū is affiliated to the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, and the New Zealand Labour Party. Our members are able to choose that no part of their membership fee goes towards political campaigns.”

            On reflection.. do company shareholders have a say on whether their company should donate to a certain political party? Or does one person make that decision on their behalf?

            • David C 1.1.1.1.3.1

              Cinny,
              If someone opts out of payment to Labour it follows that their fees would be lower as they all should pay the same fair share toward running the union.
              Are their fees lower?
              If their fees are not lower then they subsidize all the other Labour Party followers, which is just forced support of the LP by stealth.

              Are their fees lower if they opt out?

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                🙄

                This useful idiot David C will continue to spew the smears that were spoonfed to him whether or not anyone rubs his face in the facts.

                That is why acting as though the National Party can behave honourably is a mistake.

                Kick them until they break. And then kick them some more. Privilege, like rust, never sleeps.

              • Cinny

                Read the links DC, it’s all there, all the answers to your questions. Maybe give them a call and find out even more?

                Are you able to answer my question? I’ve answered all of yours.

                • David C

                  Cinny.

                  No you havent come close to answering my questions.
                  The link doesn’t tell me anything helpful.

                  in reply to your thoughtful question the answer is yes, a shareholder does get a say and choose if they wish to donate.
                  Can stand up and talk at shareholders meeting or have a proxy do it in their place and then if they cannot persuade others that their point of view is correct then they have the option of selling their shares and removing their money from the revenue stream.

                  Do Union members have similar rights? or are they forced to donate by stealth?

            • James 1.1.1.1.3.2

              Surely it should be an opt-in not an Opt-out which is normally deliberately done to ensure a greater success rate because people often don’t get around to the opting out.

    • Enough is Enough 1.2

      Yep.

      Follow the money. The corporates throw their cash at the main party that they think will lead the next government.

  2. James 2

    “Rashbrooke is concerned that donations buy influence. It’s pretty hard to argue that this can never be the case, and the ability of the rich to have more control over the political process is profoundly undemocratic.”

    Does this go also for the unions funding labour?

    Are the unions buying influence? If I recall correctly if it wasn’t for the union vote Roberson would have been the leader of labour (I might not have this exactly right).

    • The labour movement helps fund the Labour Party because it’s the labour movement’s party, and the unions administering that represent large numbers of people. Employers help fund the National Party because it’s the employers’ party, and the rich people contributing represent no-one but their own interests. Spot the difference?

      • Wayne 2.1.1

        PM
        There is no difference.
        Unless you believe, as the socialist you are, that unions are inherently good and business is inherently bad.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1

          Yawn. Haven’t you got better flamebait than that, troll?

          Business isn’t “inherently bad”, it just represents a much smaller section of the community, and wields disproportionate influence over the National Party.

          • Stunned Mullet 2.1.1.1.1

            Is Wayne “a troll” or “being a troll” or just “trolling” ?

            As the resident expert can you provide an update as I’m losing track.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Dr. Mapp usually includes a little flamebait in his remarks. In this particular case, he bears false witness about what Socialists believe.

              In doing so, he also somehow manages to avoid answering Psycho Milt’s point about representation.

              In short, Dr. Mapp responded with two ad hominem arguments, at least one of which was an attempt to smear an entire group of people.

              I hope that helps you get a grip on it.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1.1.2

              …as for what we should label him, his flamebait is quite poor, so perhaps he is more imp than troll 😀

        • Carolyn_nth 2.1.1.2

          The difference includes that of power in society.

        • Psycho Milt 2.1.1.3

          There’s no difference between a large number of people pooling their resources to have an influence as a collective, and a rich individual using money to achieve the same level of influence as all those other people combined? Only to someone who doesn’t grasp the basic principles of democracy, there isn’t.

          • RedLogix 2.1.1.3.1

            While zombie agendas like de-regulation, privatisation and trickle-down were the public face of neo-liberalism … perhaps their most insidiously corrosive idea was that collective action is a right reserved for the state and the corporation only.

            • Gosman 2.1.1.3.1.1

              Noone is stopping people organising their Labour on a collective basis.

            • greywarshark 2.1.1.3.1.2

              Another aspect of zombie economics is of giving the power of an individual person to a corporation, business or other, so that it has both the power of its finances and friends in politics.

              http://www.npr.org/2014/07/28/335288388/when-did-companies-become-people-excavating-the-legal-evolution
              But for 100 years, corporations were not given any constitutional right of political speech; in fact, quite the contrary. In 1907, following a corporate corruption scandal involving prior presidential campaigns, Congress passed a law banning corporate involvement in federal election campaigns. That wall held firm for 70 years.

              The first crack came in a case that involved neither candidate elections nor federal law. In 1978 a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled for the first time that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend money on state ballot initiatives.

              Still, for decades, candidate elections remained free of direct corporate influence under federal law. Only money from individuals and groups of individuals — political action committees — were permitted in federal elections.

              Then came Citizens United, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 First Amendment decision in 2010 that extended to corporations for the first time full rights to spend money as they wish in candidate elections — federal, state and local. The decision reversed a century of legal understanding, unleashed a flood of campaign cash and created a crescendo of controversy that continues to build today.

              Further – our clever minds have managed to erase in our law, the idea that being a person is anything special at all.

              A great deal of confusion stems from the fact that occurrences of the term “person” in legal rulings are not understood as referring to a term of art with its own distinct technical meaning, but are interpreted using non-legal understandings of the term. In his classic article on the topic the philosopher John Dewey warned:

              What “person” signifies in popular speech, or in psychology, or in philosophy or morals, [is] as irrelevant, to employ an exaggerated simile, as it would be to argue that because a wine is called “dry”, it has the properties of dry solids; or that, because it does not have those properties, wine cannot possibly be “dry”. Obviously, “dry” as applied to a particular wine has the kind of meaning, and only the kind of meaning, which it has when applied to the class of beverages in general. Why should not the same sort of thing hold of the use of “person” in law?[24]

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_personhood

              How that works:
              http://money.howstuffworks.com/corporation-person.htm

              Wikipedia on being a ‘legal person’
              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_person

              And The Atlantic heading says what many people are thinking.
              https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/02/if-corporations-are-people-they-should-act-like-it/385034/

              (And r)b in the beginning of your post you have missed the ‘h’ in Rashbrooke. At the end there is an ‘e’ missing. I know you are busy. It proves that I have read it!

      • John 2.1.2

        Bang on the money there. Just ask the aged care workers who are finally getting paid for the job they do on 1 July 2917 despite the govt fighting and losing in the courts to screw their wages down

    • Tamati Tautuhi 2.2

      … ie Pay to Play like National underfunding the Rail Network and subsidising the Road Transport Operators

    • adam 2.3

      Love the james logic, a pittance is worth complaining about. When the raw numbers show more corruption by your beloved…

    • Cinny 2.4

      Union members are aware of where their fee’s go. Break it down, how many union members donations make up the Union donation?

      It’s not like it’s all coming from one real estate mogul like say.. Garth Barfoot of Barfoot & Thompson Real Estate, or how about Lewis Holdings Ltd/Quadrant Properties Ltd and their sizeable donations, they are into property management and advisory. How’s that housing crisis? Who cares when you are in the real estate business, it’s golden times for those National Party donators.

  3. Right-wingers always say “Money can’t buy an election” and point to Kim Dotcom and Colin Craig (and, by November, Gareth Morgan). Like all the best propaganda, it’s true but misleading.

    It’s true that money can’t buy an election, but that’s like saying advertising can’t buy customers. Sure it can’t, but that’s not its purpose. Advertising’s purpose is to influence customers, not buy them. Likewise, campaign finances are about influencing voters, not buying them. Companies commit big money to advertising to influence consumers’ decision-making, and they commit big money to National to influence voters’ decision-making. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp but a lot of people seem to struggle with it.

    • Cinny 3.1

      Well said PM. That’s how I see it as well, money in this case political donations buys advertising, persuasion, influence. It’s all brain hacking.

    • Gosman 3.2

      Volunteers also influence decision making. Should we ensure that the number of political volunteers is managed by the State as well?

      • Stuart Munro 3.2.1

        No, because political participation is a human right. (article 21)

        Money doesn’t have that right.

        • Gosman 3.2.1.1

          Except there are legal precedents such as the Citizens United case in the US that suggest otherwise.

          • adam 3.2.1.1.1

            If you hate NZ so much Gosman, and love the USA, why don’t you go live there?

            • Gosman 3.2.1.1.1.1

              Eh??? Who states I love the US or hate NZ?

              • adam

                Didn’t your comment mean you love the USA and their worship of money, that’s how it read. Sighting a law most here find distasteful or revolting. And just in case you missed it most of the people here have been arguing in favor of strengthening our democracy. You want to weaken it. So lets add anti-democratic to the list shall we.

                • Gosman

                  The reason for citing (not sighting) the ruling (not law) was to highlight how restrictions on political donations CAN be regarded as restrictions on free speech. It will certainly be spun that way if it is ever tried here.

            • James 3.2.1.1.1.2

              To be honest – it’s mainly the lefties on this site who are moaning about everything NZ and the righties who are more positive about the country’s

          • DoublePlusGood 3.2.1.1.2

            Let’s not use the United States of America as a precedent or guide in determining what human rights are, ok?

            • Gosman 3.2.1.1.2.1

              THE US has one of the World’s great Constitutions. I think most people interested in Constitutional law would use it as a reference point for determining how to protect human rights.

              • McFlock

                The constitution’s pretty good.
                Interpretation of it and living up to it? Not so much.

                CU was a fucking stupid split decision that legitimised corruption and confused money with speech.

                • Gosman

                  So you think. Others obviously think differently. What is indisputable is that it can be successfully argued that political donations are a form of free speech.

                  • McFlock

                    What is highly disputable is whether it could be successfully argued in front of an unbiased judiciary.

          • Stuart Munro 3.2.1.1.3

            They are aberrant – the US political system is paralysed by corruption – one reason their real economy isn’t recovering.

      • Psycho Milt 3.2.2

        Volunteers also influence decision making. Should we ensure that the number of political volunteers is managed by the State as well?

        No, and again there seems to be a fundamental failure to understand the difference between individuals who share similar views and interests getting together to promote those interests in a democratic society, and a rich person using his money to achieve the same or greater level of influence as all those other people combined.

  4. Andre 4

    “Over half of major political cash comes from donations of over $15,000

    Over half of major political donations come from wealthy individuals able to splash out $15,000 or more, new research shows.

    Fully 52 percent of the money from donations over $1500 in 2011-2016 came in chunks of $15,000 or more. …”

    Take out the Internet Party and Conservatives, that were massively funded as vanity projects by their founders and got precisely zero result for all that cash, and the above statements no longer hold.

  5. Tamati Tautuhi 5

    NZF do particularly well with limited funding and little support from a biased MSM

    • David C 5.1

      NZF do well with the donations that are reported.
      Its the stuff Winnie forgets about that pays the bills. He has form.

  6. adam 6

    I like how national have in larger donations more than any other party gets. Even with the dot bomb donation the left barely get the same as the national party. If you add in the conservatives and act the the picture looks more unbalanced. We now have the seconded best democracy money can buy?

  7. saveNZ 7

    Ban private donations. About time there was an equal playing field and look at how donations from the roading industry to the Natz, have hampered public transport… Hagamans donate $101,000 to the Natz and then “coincidently” they get awarded foreign aid money to scenic hotels.. etc etc.

    We need a BIG clean up in NZ. Starting with the swamp, and not fake Trump style either.

    • David C 7.1

      Save.
      Got a link for “foreign aid money” to Scenic group?

      • saveNZ 7.1.1

        As reported by Granny… also part of the swamp of the Natz, $18 million of ‘aid money’ being spent on a hotel…. not what the public expects our ‘aid money’ to go. And not to then go on money to private hotel chains to ‘manage it’.

        I’d kinda expect NZ taxpayer aid money to go to rehousing the people of the Pacific Islands after disasters stuck, maybe hospitals, schools, water treatment plants.. ummm $18 million hotels, not really. Then the lucrative awarding of ‘management contracts’ for them.

        But it seems hotels are one of the National party specialities as it seems like how the homeless are being houses in ‘hotels’ in Auckland too.

        Sky city also benefited from money for a ‘conference and hotel’.

        The $101,000 donation was made on 18 September, the last week of the election campaign in 2014. A month later Scenic Hotels won a contract to manage the Matavai Hotel on Niue, which is owned by a trust appointed by Foreign Minister Murray McCully on behalf of the Niue Government….

        Mr Fitzgerald is one of four board members appointed by the Niue Tourism Property Trust to oversee the running of the hotel, which $18 million of New Zealand aid money has been invested in. The agreement was negotiated and signed between Scenic Hotels and the board rather than the Trust itself.

        http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11625901

        • David C 7.1.1.1

          NZ aid invested in a hotel hat scenic manages? So?

          • saveNZ 7.1.1.1.1

            So, most people expect their $18 million of aid money goes to people in need, not corporate welfare and off shore real estate speculation.

            • Gosman 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Yes the father of the Deputy leader of the Opposition should answer questions about possible corruption here. /sarc

              • Stuart Munro

                Bugger answering questions – NZ aid should not be managing hotels. Countries requiring aid need to be developing the management experience among their own people.

              • DoublePlusGood

                Yes, yes he should.

            • David C 7.1.1.1.1.2

              I expect that aid actually helps people. Building a hotel and providing lots of jobs helps people. Pretty hard to have tourism when there is no where to stay. Tourism helps people and creates a lot of jobs.
              That marvelous man (Sir) John Key was a fantastic Minister of tourism for NZ for many years.

              • Cinny

                Yeah just like how NZ sent monetary aid to North Korea for the last eight years, and how’s that working out?

                Did they build a little farm? Did they build more missiles?
                Maybe they spent it on paying wages to those in charge of torture?

                Whoops the public found out.. no more donations for North Korea from the tax payer, I wonder what almost a quarter of a million dollars did for them under the outgoing national government? Surely Kim Jong-un would be honest with it’s spending, aren’t they transparent as over there?

  8. Gosman 8

    Try pushing this and see where it gets you. You will find there will be a campaign labelling this policy a restriction on freedom of speech and association.

    • dukeofurl 8.1

      Spending money is a restriction on freedom of speech ?

      An individual can spend his money on a full page of the Herald to speechy all they like. There is no individual right to speech infringed here.
      The US has a limit of around $2700 per federal candidate from each individual and they are the home of money and politics.

    • RedLogix 8.2

      “Freedom for the pike is death for the minnow”

      • Gosman 8.2.1

        You can try make this a campaign issue but you will be painted as anti-democratic Statists.

        • RedLogix 8.2.1.1

          Oh look … I’ve got this tin labelled “Murky Elitist Policy Purchase tinted with Double Filthy Lucre”

          • Gosman 8.2.1.1.1

            How did it work out for the left the last time restricting monetary support to political parties was tried?

            • marty mars 8.2.1.1.1.1

              No one is scared of your threats cowboyhatkid. You are a nobody with even less influence.

              The left will make decisions in the interests of fairness – only idiots will worry about actoids like you.

              • Gosman

                It isn’t me you have to worry about. As I asked you before – what happened the last time political donations were restricted by the governing party in NZ?

        • adam 8.2.1.2

          “anti-democratic” says Gossy when we know full well letting money into politics unchecked leads to corruption.

        • Psycho Milt 8.2.1.3

          I’d love to see the question of whether or not voters should have as much influence as they can afford made a campaign issue.

  9. Draco T Bastard 9

    Rashbrooke is concerned that donations buy influence. It’s pretty hard to argue that this can never be the case, and the ability of the rich to have more control over the political process is profoundly undemocratic.

    Well, there’s the declaration from the Road Transport Forum that political donations are to buy access to politicians:

    Trucking lobby group Road Transport Forum gave nearly $100,000 in donations to political parties and candidates for last year’s election, saying it was to help get access to MPs to discuss their issues.

    And that equates to getting influence above and beyond what the normal person can get.

    Rashbrook doesn’t say it but I will, private donations over $100 should be banned, and political parties should be state funded. It’s worth the cost for a transparent process where our politicians are not beholden to to donors.

    If we allow donations then they shouldn’t be above $1000 for an entire year and it needs to be recorded with name and IRD number.
    If we’re going for state funding of political parties then donations shouldn’t be allowed at all.

    The problem will be the backroom deals that form a large part of the corruption. We’d need a way to detect them and then prosecute the corruption.

  10. timbeau 10

    I still can’t get over the fact that the so-called “Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry” is the Nats’ largest donor in the past two years. I think if more voters knew that, there’d a few more raised eyebrows at the polling booth.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11875950

  11. NZJester 11

    A lot of this is starting to reflect what has happened in the US where they have made it legal to bribe politicians calling it lobbying. They have had judges rule that money in politics is free speech and corporations are people so can use their money for free speech. Donald Trump ran on a policy of draining the swamp, but as he is a swamp thing himself, far from draining it he has enlarged it and brought in more swamp creatures to inhabit it. The corporations are getting more and more say behind closed doors that the general public is locked out from. Just look at the TPP for instance where big corporate interests were allowed into those closed sessions to advance their interests, while everyone else was locked out. It is a surprise that because they got allowed into the negotiations and the public was not that the deal heavily favors them over the citizens of the countries they want to sign it. We need to take back our democracy before it is fully brought out from under us. In the US they are trying to get money out of politics there by bringing an amendment to their constitution. What we need in New Zealand is some changes made to our constitution act to lock out the influence of the money of a few to influence our lawmaker’s decisions against the will and best interests of the majority.

  12. The Chairman 12

    Does the Government represent the people?

    It would be good to see a similar study done for New Zealand.

    • NZJester 12.1

      There is another group called Wolf-Pac in the US that is trying to get an amendment to their constitution that has supporters from both political parties. Such a change would actually be beneficial to every country outside the US as it would cut down the amount of currently legal arms being sold to prop up dictators and meddle in other countries elections. The US has stifled and helped snuff out democracy movements in a number of countries since the end of the second world war. All in the name of stopping the spread of communism. Instead, the installed right-wing governments that have propped up have followed practices similar to the Nazis. Those policies have also included attempts at genocide also.

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