Thursday, September 11, 2008

Election funding: the benefits of the EFA

For the past two years, the National Party has been conducting a hate campaign against the Electoral Finance Act, claiming that it infringes freedom of speech and is an "attack on democracy". It is neither. Rather, it enhances and protects our democracy by allowing us to know who is trying to buy influence in our political system by donating to our political parties.

One of the changes introduced in the EFA was progressive declaration of large donations. If a donor's cumulative donations to a party exceed $20,000, they have to tell us. Which is how we know that the Road Transport Trust, which seems to be an alias for the Road Transport Forum (slogan: "cheap roads for big trucks"), gave National $30,000 last month.

I have the donation return here [PDF]. It identifies no contributors, but they don't have to. Under s24, contributors must be identified to the party - but the party only has to identify those contributors to the public in their annual return if their cumulative annual donations exceed the $10,000 declaration threshold (see s51 (1) (b)).

We would not have learned this under the old regime until well after the election. And now that we know it, we can act on it. National has not yet released its transport policy. but when they do, we can take a careful look at it, and see what, if anything, the RTF has gained for its $30,000.

[Hat tip: The Standard]