Wednesday, May 24, 2006



The Brethren: New Zealand's third largest politcal party?

Yesterday, Tevor Mallard tabled papers in Parliament showing that the Exclusive Brethren had budgetted more than $1.2 million to boost National during the election campaign. Comparing this with party election expense returns, that's more than the Greens, more than NZ First, more than ACT (who even in a very bad year, spent almost a million dollars for their paltry 1.5% of the vote) - in fact, more than any party bar National and Labour. From this, you'd think they were New Zealand's third-largest political party - but instead its just seven very rich, very conservative men trying to buy the New Zealand they want. Who, looking at that article, lied to the public about how much they were spending to get it (I guess their wierd little cult doesn't bar lying. Or maybe its OK in the name of helping god to ordain the right government. Who knows?)

Now, under electoral rules, they're perfectly entitled to run their own campaign provided they say who they are and don't explicitly tell people who to vote for (though its worth noting that they couldn't even do the former properly - more lies for the cause, I guess). At the same time, I think its perfectly fair to point out just our dubious and freaky National's friends are, and just how far they're willing to go to buy victory. To paraphrase the campaign for MMP back in 1996, if you're looking for a reason to oppose National, just look at who supports them.

15 comments:

But Trevor Mallard still can't prove any degree of co-ordination, which strikes me as the point. Hey, I don't like some of the more *ahem* illiberal churches and community figures Maori and PI Labour MPs curry favour with. But it's really drawing a long bow to say they're in the pockets of religious fundamentalists.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 5/24/2006 11:21:00 AM

Coordination? Maybe not. But if anything I've seen about the police report into the Nats is true (I haven't looked) then the Brethren repeatedly tried to get an endorsement from Brash (bad idea from campaign spending POV) - so the Nat campaign DID know it was coming.

Given the Newspaper Publishers Association made Labour sign off on union ads supporting pro-union parties generally - and that to me the brethren's campaign we 'obviously' supporting National at least as obviously as Labour's Pledge card was electioneering - I can't help thinking they should ALL have been prosecuted.

That's the bulk of a post I did bother writing recently, BTW.

On a peripheral point, lately I've been wondering what National's spending outside the campaign period adds up to...

Posted by Lyndon : 5/24/2006 11:35:00 AM

I too have unease over any group spending that much money. I do not want to restrict free speech, but if we can put spending limits on parties, then spending limits on third parties might also be justified. Of course one can just do it throughn multiple people.

Posted by David Farrar : 5/24/2006 11:46:00 AM

Lyndon:

Well, that's admirably consistent. Now, if Trevor Mallard wants to propose a law change banning the publication of ANY third-party endorsement during an election campaign, I'd oppose it but at least he's being equally consistent. Instead we have the farce of Labour trying to play the virtuous whore on this - just as they rake in anonymous donations while Trev rails about shadowy "Yank bagmen".

Interesting tid-bit about the NPA, because doesn't Labour swear blind that the CTU's electioneering is terra incognita?

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 5/24/2006 11:54:00 AM

DPF: I'm uneasy about it, but I think on balance that I'm far more uneasy about further limiting the public's participation in election campaigns, particularly with rules that are trivially easy to get around (as you say, you could simply use multiple groups). The problem we're trying to solve is preventing parties from getting around spending limits (buying your way to victory being regarded as a Bad Thing here) - and the current rules don't seem to do that too badly, or at least wouldn't if they were strictly enforced.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/24/2006 12:06:00 PM

"but instead its just seven very rich, very conservative men trying to buy the New Zealand they want"

What exactly were the Unions doing then?
I also notice you fail to mention that no Brethren advertising actually asked people to vote for National (rather, supporting Opposition parties), something that Unions did quite openly (in advertising for Labour).

Posted by Anonymous : 5/24/2006 12:53:00 PM

But we knew who the unions were and what their specific interests were. The EB didn't fess up to their involvement until pressed by the media - the whole thing would have been far less controversial if the 7 businessment got up and said "hello, we are concerned citizens who want these traits in the next government, here's why.."

The issue isn't necessarily who does the spending, but how it's done.

Posted by James : 5/24/2006 01:21:00 PM

Anon: and building on that, their attempts to mask their identities (by using false or vacant addesses) make it worse.

The disclosure rules on political advertising exist for a reason: to stop parties evading their spending limits. The Brethren's secrecy suggested that that was exactly what they were trying to do.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/24/2006 01:31:00 PM

You haven't addressed the fact that the Brethren never asked for a single vote for National. They asked for a change of Government and never once said Party Vote National, something the Unions did repeatedly on behalf of the Labour Party.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/24/2006 02:32:00 PM

I really don't understand people talking about the unions as if they are shadowy closed organisations with hidden agendas.

They are opt-in, and by and large decisions are made within them in a democratic and open fashion.

There's no 'secret' interests there. They represent the workforce's interests because that's what people pay them to do, and they act on the behalf of union members.

Posted by Sam Vilain : 5/24/2006 02:44:00 PM

In reply to Anonymous;

You haven't addressed the fact that the Brethren never asked for a single vote for National. They asked for a change of Government and never once said Party Vote National, ...

I like Harvey Wasserman's term for this: "riding the wave of popular discontent into power". Encouraging people to vote against a party is skipping the fact that you're supposed to vote for a party that represents your views, not just for any party you think will help ease your feeling of discontent. This finding adds substantial strength to this argument; their objective was to get votes for national, and they decided that the best way to do this was to get votes to "Change the Government".

...something the Unions did repeatedly on behalf of the Labour Party.

Did you read the Union pamplets? The one I saw just compared the way that the major parties have voted historically on issues through parliament. It actually recommended several parties as good to vote for. I was surprised that the fair and balanced material on them ended up being attributed to the Labour party only, as it even recommended the Greens.

Posted by Sam Vilain : 5/24/2006 02:54:00 PM

This story exposes a serious threat to what remains of our democracy. The National Party is prepared to take money from or work with anyone in order to attain power. It will climb into bed with the bigots in order to do it. We must never forget this sinister episode.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/24/2006 04:39:00 PM

The unions acknowledged that they wanted a centre-left government, and background details were visible on their pamphlets. The EBs did not disclose their actual identities until their stealth campaign was publically exposed. There is a differemce.

Craig Y.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/24/2006 04:53:00 PM

"the Brethren never asked for a single vote for National"

anon,

If they had said "Vote National", after their contacts with Brash, they'd have been breaking the law.

Publishing pamphlets that attack the Greens, attack Labour, ask for a change of government (when there are obviously only two choices of govt) and feature a big tick in National-party-blue on them is legally okay. But it's really obvious to any reasonable person that it's an attempt to spend money to convince voters to vote National.

Compare the EB to what NZ Forest and Bird, for example, did. NZ Forest and Bird took a range of environmental issues and compared various parties on them. That the Greens are overall the best for the environment was obvious from their pamphlet. But they also made obvious that the Maori Party rated well in many environmental issues. And if you were tossing up between (say) NZ First and National, their pamphlet gave you data about relative strengths and weaknesses of both on environmental issues. Nor did Forest and Bird try to hide who they were when they produced their pamplets.

The problem is that balance between
groups trying to inform the public (like Forest and Bird were) and campaigning for a party. I think the EBs were on the wrong side of that line.

Posted by Icehawk : 5/24/2006 05:14:00 PM

Isn't it weird that the Bretherens themselves don't even vote? At least they know how to if they did.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/24/2006 05:31:00 PM