Wednesday, November 29, 2006

No Brash, no cash

That was the threat made by National's rich and rabid ultra-right backers to cuckoo Don Brash into the party leadership in 2003. And according to this morning's Independent [offline], they now seem to be playing the same game again:

Expect National Party funding to evaporate overnight with the new-look Opposition headed by John Key and Bill English.

That's the word from National's multi-millionaire backers who say most of the millions of dollars pouring into the party's coffers in the past 18 months have been donated because of the "Brash factor" - the expectation former leader Don Brash will stay in charge and drive National Party policy.

On Monday afternoon, that all dried up.

Brash's wealthy commercial backers will not offer similar support to Key and English - at least in the short-term. They will spend the next year assessing the new team, and its policies and attitudes to business, and only then decide whether to open their cheque books.

And people say donors aren't trying to buy policy. These people clearly think they are, and aren't afraid to jerk the financial chain when it looks like they might not get what they want. OTOH, as the article points out, Key's personal wealth may have significantly reduced their leverage - and there's an extremely revealing quote about their view of the role of money in politics:

"He could buy himself the [Prime Minister's] job, without worrying about external funding," The Independent was told. "It's [National] never had such a wealthy aspirant [for the Prime Minister's job]. After all, what's $5 million to someone like John Key?"

(My emphasis; their ellipsis)

To these people, public office is for sale. It's not a question of what the public wants - its just a matter of throwing enough money at the problem. It's an anti-democratic attitude, and precisely why we must have spending limits and transparency laws - otherwise, we won't have a democracy, but rather a democratic screen for plutocracy.


The article makes it clear that they will make donations after policy is announced, depending on what they make of it.

That's not buying policies, that's making donations to causes you agree with.

Posted by Michael : 11/29/2006 01:43:00 PM

Does it bother you, I/S, that Union support for Labour is conditional on their policies? Or do you only worry about conditional support for policies with which you disagree?

Personally, I think that National's supporters are correct to withdraw support. Key is a 'third way' socialist and welfare state advocate, & English is a religious pain-worshipper who refused to support voluntary euthanasia.

Posted by Duncan Bayne : 11/29/2006 01:54:00 PM

This looks like someone interviewing their typewriter. Who are these backers? Weren't they anonymous? How does this writer know it is true? Sounds like a whole lot of ego driven supposition. Any idiot can have an opinion


Posted by Anonymous : 11/29/2006 02:05:00 PM

Two points:

- Unions don't - and can't - contribute anywhere near what big business can.

- Unions are transparent and democratic organisations that represent 370,000 ordinary working New Zealanders. Business is not.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/29/2006 02:31:00 PM

Michael said

"That's not buying policies, that's making donations to causes you agree with."

And when fat Tony walks in to bar and say "Nice place you got here, be a shame if anything should happen to it", he is merely admiring the decor and showing neighbourly concern.

The 'no brash no cash' deal was taken up by the Nats, in what can fairly be described as selling their parliamentary leadership. (Certainly the roundtable and/or other donors thought the leadership was for sale, made a tender, and got the guy they wanted).

This is just negotiating status of the deal. Brash is gone, so it's now "No policy, no cash" on the table.

The only thing that remains is to see whether the Nats accept. It is safe to assume we wont be told their policies (which are on permanent review as far as I can make out). So if the money starts flowing back in, and we get to know about it flowing back in, then we will know the deal is back on.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/29/2006 04:30:00 PM

Or better still we now have a potential PM whose personal fortune was made in currency speculation; and who is now in a position to leverage both his wealth AND possess the insider knowledge to increase that wealth.

Whose checking his Merryl Lynch shares every morning then?

Posted by Anonymous : 11/29/2006 04:49:00 PM

What ellipsis?

Posted by Anonymous : 11/29/2006 10:50:00 PM

Money doesn't stop democracy in our system it is just one of many ways to expose a flaw in it.

If he publics vote can be bought with advertising money what else is it being influenced by? the looks of the candidates? their ability to lie convincingly? the size of their party aparatus? the election bribe?

Posted by Genius : 11/30/2006 07:11:00 AM

You say: "To these people, public office is for sale. It's not a question of what the public wants - its just a matter of throwing enough money at the problem. It's an anti-democratic attitude."

Funny, you could say the same about the student loan bribe and the constant, pointless "rescue packages" for public health.

At least National tries to buy elections with its supporters own money rather than the taxpayers!

Posted by Anonymous : 11/30/2006 08:40:00 AM

"So if the money starts flowing back in, and we get to know about it flowing back in, then we will know the deal is back on."

So people who give money to National are corrupting democracy and buying policy, people who give to Labour are noble citizens supporting social justice.


Posted by Michael : 11/30/2006 09:20:00 AM

At least National tries to buy elections with its supporters own money rather than the taxpayers!

I thought all parties with the exception of the Progressives were guilty of this corrupt practice? The only difference was in the magnitude of the offending?

Posted by dc_red : 11/30/2006 09:48:00 AM

dc_red - no.

Only Labour's use of public money was found to put it over the campaign spending limit (which, if done knowingly, would be a corrupt practice).

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 11/30/2006 10:29:00 AM

I find Billyboy's anti-euthanasia politics to be just as nauseating as you do. However, I'd disagree profoundly with the "I'm Really A European Christian Democrat" spin of his. Hello? Bolger appointed him Minister of Health in '96, and Shipley made him Treasurer in '98/9. He was fully signed up to the New Right agenda back then.

Sorry, but I'm cynical that he's really changed, for some reason.

Craig Y.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/30/2006 11:17:00 AM

Graeme, that last comment was not up to your normal rigirous standards.

The evidence we are seeing now is that National, through various proxies, knowingly spent vastly more than its cap on the election. It also seems it knew who its anonymous donars were, which is also an illegal practice.

The AGs findings about what was election spending from PS funds caught everyone by surprise, including people like David Farrar who seems to have let his candidate use $10,000 from PS funds on election spending. To put that in context, that is about 25% of what an electorate candidate is allowed to spend. As an agent, did DPF "steal" $10,000 from the tax payer :-)?

Posted by Anonymous : 11/30/2006 02:10:00 PM

Anonymous at comment 14:

National was found by the Auditor-General to have overspent $10,588.17, spread across 7 of its MPs. I consider it highly unlikely that $10,000 of this came from one candidate, with the $588 spread across six others.

I also consider it next to impossible that DPF or Blumsky were among those 7 at all. Foremost because Blumsky was not an MP during the last campaign, and had no access to Parliament Services funds. If DPF did use $10,000 of PS funds during Blumsky's campaign then yes, he would be a thief. Exactly why the PS would pay out on invoices from someone who was not employed by National on behalf of someone who was not an MP is something you're going to have to convince me of before I consider this anything more than a fantasy.

$10,000 is half of the campaign limit of a constituency candidate.

I still have yet to see evidence that National directed the Exclusive Brethren or any other campaign (and I have Hager's book). If they had the power to put a stop to it, this might be a point, however, what appears to be the suggestion is that I could, at the next election, email the PM and other high-ups in the Labour Party and tell them that I was intending to spend $2.3million asking people to vote against National by putting out a dozen solid-gold pledgecards in the mailboxes of 12 lucky South Aucklanders, and that this would somehow prevent Labour spending any money of their own at all. The law cannot possibly mean that.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 11/30/2006 04:01:00 PM

good Idea,
I might just do that for all the political parties just to reduce the number of annoying billboards and ads.

Either that, or to expose some hypocrisy.

Posted by Genius : 11/30/2006 06:38:00 PM

Graeme - if Blumsky used campaign material paid for by PS then he certainly was part funded by them. I did read he was one of the MPs fingured but I accept that it would not have been for the whole $10k.

Your example of ambushing a leader in the future is a straw man, and again, not up to your usual standards.

It does not matter if National "directed" the EBs campaign. What matters is that the campaign was judged to "get the vote out" for National *and* National knew all about it *and* despite that knowledge did not declare it in their returns.

If they did not want it in their returns the correct actions would have been to prevent the EBs from campaigning, inform the CEO of the breach and, if necessary, take out an injunction against them.

DB claims crystal clarity of the law so the above should have been obvious.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/01/2006 11:10:00 AM

There is no way Blumsky can have been among the National MPs caught by the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General investigated the pre-election period. Any money misspent by an MP - National itself was not caught, seven MPs were. Even if Blumsky had used campaign material paid for by an MP with their PS funds, they would have been caught by the Auditor-General, he would not. The Auditor-General investigated spendin, not advertising.

You can't get an injunctions to prohibit the commission of an offence.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 12/01/2006 12:09:00 PM

"At least National tries to buy elections with its supporters own money rather than the taxpayers!"

"Election winning behaviour requires you to slosh those funds around and buy your way to the Treasury benches..."

Brian Sinclair to Don Brash

Posted by Anonymous : 12/01/2006 01:12:00 PM