Monday, June 20, 2022

An admission of guilt

Stuff reports that the National Party opposes greater transparency for political donations because it might have a "chilling effect" on donors:

National says officials have underestimated “the aversion of donors to being publicly identified”.

The party says only a “small fraction” of donors who currently give between $1,500 and $15,000 would still be prepared to do so if their privacy were not protected. The submission points to recent electoral returns, which showed only 14 donors giving amounts of more than $15,000 to the National Party in 2020, and 25 to the Labour Party.

“The chilling effect ... will have a significant impact on parties' ability to support candidates, meet regulatory requirements, and run effective election campaigns, with no alternative funding mechanism proposed or in-place to make up for this loss of income,” the party argues.

Think about this for a minute. The purpose of donation transparency is to prevent donors from buying influence, and parties from selling it. If we can see who is donating, then we can judge whether any sudden change in policy or intra-coalition advocacy - like a party suddenly pushing for an exemption in the interests of a large donor, say - is corrupt or not, and we can punish parties who fail basic political hygiene at the ballot box. The National Party saying that increased transparency will deter donors is basicly saying that this sort of corrupt secret influence is exactly what donors are seeking. Its an admission of guilt. And that makes their opposition an excellent reason to demand full transparency - so we can see exactly what they're selling, and who to. And if that means that rich donors donate less, and therefore have less influence over policy, then that seems to be a benefit, not a drawback.

[Also, where the hell does the Ministry of Justice get off by refusing to proactively release the submissions? Submissions to public consultations are ordinarily released, and there needs to be an exceptional reason to withhold information on why is attempt to influence policy and why. But then, they tried this as well with the 2019 public consultation on the OIA. It seems like MoJ has an appetite for secrecy...]