Monday, November 10, 2008

Election funding: the cost of democracy

When Labour passed the Electoral Finance Act, the right decried it as an attack on freedom of speech which would prevent anyone from speaking out or having their say on the election.

They lied.

Over the past two months, the Vote With Both Eyes Open campaign ran a nationwide campaign, with posters, banners and leaflets in 29 urban areas, from the big cities like Auckland and Wellington to small towns like Otaki, Bulls, and Morrinsville. While it obviously didn't swing the election, they had their say and presented their case against National from the grassroots. The cost? Just over $3,000.

What this tells us is that democracy doesn't cost the earth, and that you do not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get your message across. Neither do you need to register as a third party. Vote With Both Eyes Open showed that you can run a large campaign while spending a fraction of the spending cap, let alone the third party limit. The only people whose freedom of speech is limited by the EFA are those who would use their money to give themselves an unfair advantage and buy victory. And as someone who believes in equality for all, I think that's a very good thing indeed.