Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election funding: an honest donor

Previously, our electoral finance culture has been one of secrecy. Donors would buy or reward policy by giving money under the table, and if we were lucky we would learn about it a year later (in the case of National, ACT and NZ First, they would launder it, allowing the influence to be exercised in secret). Progressive disclosure has opened up some of this, but there is still a fundamental problem that large amounts of money - up to $10,000 - can be given without any disclosure at all to the public. This allows influence to potentially be exercised in secret; the problem is that without full transparency, we just have no way of knowing.

Which is why its so refreshing to see the EPMU be up front and issue a press release about its donations. To some extent this was forced on them by the progressive disclosure regime; news of the donation appeared on the Electoral Commission's website today, so there was no way of keeping it secret. But they went beyond the minimum to announce the smaller, non-declarable donations they had given to other parties as well. We should welcome their honesty, and hopefully this will set a pattern for similar honesty from other large donors.