Wednesday, May 06, 2015

There is too much money in our politics

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 developers 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.