Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Time to fix electoral donations

Jami-Lee Ross' explosive allegations that National Party leader Simon Bridges criminally laundered donations to hide their origin has put the issue of electoral donations and transparency back int he spotlight again. In a background piece, Stuff highlights the horrific fact that the 'least corrupt country in the world" has virtually no transparency at all in this area, with 80% of donations to parties happening in total secrecy:

In 2017, it was reported at least four out of every $5 donated to the two big parties is given secretly.

More than $31 million has been donated to registered political parties in the past six years, most of that to National.

Smaller parties like the Greens publicly disclose who provided most of their funding, but the big parties are secretive. 83 per cent ($8.7m over six years) of the money donated to National is from anonymous donors, and 80 per cent ($2.8m) of that donated to Labour.


The worst offender is NZ First: Most years, it allows every single one of its donors to remain secret.

The reason? Because self-serving politicians set the disclosure threshold at a level where they would hardly have to declare anything, and then launder donations to flal under it to boot.

As for how to fix it, the answer is simple: align both the party and candidate disclosure thresholds (to prevent Bridges' trick of laundering candidate donations through his party), and significantly lower them to a level where we actually get transparency. $500 seems about right - more than any normal person would give a party, but small enough that splitting becomes too much damn work. Plus of course we need to actually enforce the law, and prosecute any party or politician who attempts to evade disclosure.

But of course, we have the fundamental problem: why would those corrupt, self-serving hypocrites in Wellington ever vote for any curb on their own behaviour?