They want our money for their campaigns

The hidden agenda behind the Labour and Green parties rants about National party fund raising has come out of hiding – they want our money for their campaigns.

David Cunliffe believes it’s time to consider publicly-funded elections.

It comes in the wake of revelations about National’s Cabinet Club and fundraising practices by all parties.

The Labour leader says it’s time to have a conversation.

“There’s a trade off to be made between investing more taxpayers funding in the political process to guarantee fairness and democracy on the one hand and making sure that every dollar is well and prudently spent.”


Labour has just handed National a large stick with which to beat them.

There is nothing fair or democratic about taking money from individuals to give to private organisations to allow them to sell themselves to us.

That is the antithesis of prudence and would definitely not be well spent.

Political parties have no more claim on public money to promote themselves than sports or service clubs, religious organisations or any of the other voluntary groups of like-minded people.

That parties receive some funds for broadcasting doesn’t make public funding right. The solution to that anomaly is not to give more public funding, it’s to stop it altogether.

I spent the weekend co-chairing the National Party’s Mainland conference.

We had a capacity crowd (in fact slightly over capacity) with good representation from every electorate in the South Island.

Most had travelled a considerable distance to be their at their own expense. They did so willingly because they believe in the party, want to contribute to policy and to the hard work needed to win the election.

That’s grass roots democracy at work and it would be undermined if taxpayers took over from volunteers.

National’s real strength isn’t the generous donations from a small number of wealthy people, it’s the large number of smaller individual contributions in time, effort and relatively small amounts of money each, from its members and supporters.

Labour is trying to cast aspersions about National’s fund raising efforts while ignoring the huge elephant in their own room – the unions which contribute huge sums of money to them in return for which they have huge power within the party.

Once again they’re judging others by their own low standards.

They don’t seem to realise that National’s donors give to the party because they support its principles and policies, not to buy or influence them as the unions do.

Democracy should be by the people, of the people, for the people with the people’s money should they choose to contribute.

To change that to by the parties, for the parties, of the parties with public money far better used on the many high priorities in need of it would be corrupt.

Labour’s put it on the agenda for the election. The Green Party will almost certainly support it.

All I can say is bring it on because that will help National win #3more years.

22 Responses to They want our money for their campaigns

  1. Neil says:

    You summed it up nicely Ele. Its great how a party of a big tent variety can get together , have fun and pay our own way.
    Contrast that to the Labour Party, using union fees, often from members of the union who don’t support Labour. And of the Greens with the Tinkerbelle theory where the good fairy will deliver goods like the “cargo cult” airlifts of World War II.
    Nothing anchors a party so well when it answers to its supporters for support.The hypocrisy of Labour on this issue is so rich.
    The 1987 election saw record amounts of business money for Labour after the Rogernomic reforms. Remuera, blue ribbon plus, was held by National by 627 votes. In those days that was directly
    attributable to policies that affected certain groups pockets.

  2. Dave Kennedy says:

    You appear to be supporting the US approach to campaigning, Ele. Campaigns are won by the size of campaign coffers and conflicts of interest and corruption is rife. If parties were funded based on their previous election result (as is the case with broadcasting) then there could be no charges of donor influence. Parties and candidates could concentrate on presenting themselves and their policies rather than endless fundraising dinners etc.

    This will also stop the huge financial influence that unions have on Labour and (according to John Key) the influence of Phillip Mills on the Green Party. Both the right and the left are claiming that donors do influence politics in potentially corrupt ways, public funding would be the obvious way to stop this.

    Using public money to support transparent and fair democratic processes to elect our governments doesn’t seem corrupt to me. Supporting a system where people pay to have access to Ministers does seem corrupt, no matter which party is involved.

  3. homepaddock says:

    “Campaigns are won by the size of campaign coffers and conflicts of interest and corruption is rife.”
    National spent the most in total last campaign – $2,321,216.06, and got 1,058,636 votes which worked out at $2.19/vote.

    But National also has the biggest membership which helped it raise funds and also helped with the campaign.

    By contrast the Conservative Party spent $1,878,337.22 for 59,237 votes or $31.71/vote.

    New Zealand is the least corrupt country in the world.

    Funding on previous results entrenches the staus quo and seriously handicaps new parties.

    There is nothing corrupt about access, paid for or not. That’s what happens in democracies.

    Corruption is breaking the law to use taxpayers’ funds as Labour did with its pledge card in 2005 and other parties, with lesser amounts, then changing the law with the support of the Green Party to make it legal.

  4. RBG says:

    “New Zealand is the least corrupt country in the world.”- this National government seems hellbent on changing that!
    Sky City, Judith Collins & Orivida, Maurice Williamson .

  5. petermsalmon says:

    Sky City no evidence of corruption, Judith Collins no evidence of corruption, ill advised behaviour. Maurice Williamson, bad judgement not corruption. RBG your comment is what used to be called ‘tosh”

  6. Dave Kennedy says:

    It is unlikely that very new parties can grow the structures and membership that would make them a truly representative party over a few months or couple of years. Parties would have to be self funding for their day to day management and internal operations and communications between elections.

    There is always the danger of personality and cult parties to develop and have influence well beyond their actual substance if they are backed by large donors during campaigns. It creates instability in Government when small parties with limited democratic structures are allowed into Parliament. National, Labour and the Greens are not reliant on single individuals for their continued existence and they all have fairly comprehensive national structures that can engage at local/community levels.

    The Act Party is a good example of where large donors have helped a minor party with limited voter support to remain an influence in Government. To continually prop up a party that has averaged 2% support over the last three elections and having 50% of it’s MPs over that time being involved in embarrassing scandals is not good for democracy. I realize that one reason for Act’s ongoing influence are flaws in the MMP system and National’s support in Epsom, but I am using it as an example of why grass roots support builds credibility and why state funding of election campaigns based on past vote would work.

    Parties coming from nowhere with huge resources are likely to lack credibility or stability. The ability to build a strong membership base and structure beforehand is important as you rightly point out.

  7. bennettleton says:

    “public money” every time I hear that phrase it churns my stomach, there is no such thing as “public money”, there is money appropriated from the citizens to fund agreed societal needs, funding political parties by any measure is not one of those needs, Dave Kennedy’s argument is nonsense, is he seriously suggesting our legal and regulatory systems are so feeble we need instead to fund political parties to avoid the risk of corruption!, I don’t whether to laugh or cry

  8. Captain Fantastic says:

    Hear Hear ! As sure as God made little green apples, the ratbag labour party are finding out that no one wants them.
    A further sign that clear thinking New Zealanders are unimpressed by a shrinking group of pathetic small minded socialists. The message should be clear.
    And I don’t want to be forced to bank roll lost causes and warped theories and jealousy through my taxes.
    No one wants the labour party or its product.
    Simply supply & demand. Cunliffe should try and absorb the message.

  9. Mr E says:

    Tax is your solution? No surprises there.

  10. Dave Kennedy says:

    So all of you would wipe the state funded broadcasting time that exists now and leave it open to those parties that can afford to pay for it. Based on data from the last election it would mean that the Conservative Party would have almost as much airtime as Labour (they had very similar budgets) and Act would have three times the air time as New Zealand First.

  11. JC says:

    So how did the greens with essentially the same share of the vote ie, around 5-6% get these broadcasting allocations?

    1990: $83,250
    1999: $43,250
    2002: $166,000
    2005: $200,000
    2008: $240,000


  12. TraceyS says:

    “There is always the danger of personality and cult parties to develop and have influence well beyond their actual substance if they are backed by large donors during campaigns. It creates instability in Government when small parties with limited democratic structures are allowed into Parliament.” (Dave@1.15pm)

    I shall remind you of your caution should your Green Party, together with Labour, consider bringing the Internet Party into the fold.

    Yes indeed “personality and cult” parties create instability….but you will put your arms around them in order to get at power.

    National wont. Election decided.

  13. Dave Kennedy says:

    JC, I aren’t sure how the allocation works, but you are looking at much earlier elections. Perhaps averages in polling could be taken into account as well. It is certainly something that needs discussion. It may actually mean if state funding was used that the Greens would have less air time.

    Tracey, it is extremely unlikely that the Internet Party will have a major bearing on this election. I would be happy if it did, there is a lack of detail around who its members are and very little policy.

    However the does seem to be a little e bit of a cult following around John Key, he is only one member of cabinet and his portfolio responsibilities are minimal.

  14. TraceyS says:

    “However the does seem to be a little bit of a cult following around John Key, he is only one member of cabinet and his portfolio responsibilities are minimal.”

    Oh that is just sour grapes!

    Get over your own leader’s unpopularity or find a better one.

  15. TraceyS says:

    Dave, parts of your comment are either incoherent or unbelievable. Do you really mean you’d welcome a party with very little policy, unclear of whom it represents, to have a major bearing on this election?

    Wow that’s reckless!!

  16. Dave Kennedy says:

    No I meant ‘wouldn’t’!
    Oh dear, I often seem to be caught out by commenting in a rush. I quite agree it would be reckless. However it does emphasize how a party with no substance or infrastructure and based around an individual with lots of money would be cause for concern.

    As for sour grapes around Key, hardly, I would just feel more comfortable if parties didn’t have to rely on just one person to pull them through. We all know that National would struggle if he wasn’t there, it takes a while for a new leader to get established and known.

  17. JC says:

    DK, you really need to look around the Liberation site to get a feel for Bryces and others concerns about the way the party structure has declined from half the population to less than 2% of the voting population today. Compare that to that den of fascism the US where a full 60% of the population are members of either the Dems or Repubs.

    We no longer have a democracy of the decades past because of the tiny party political affiliations, rather its an oligarchy.. and one in which the left half wants to kill off the last party members to concentrate on state power to determine all policy.

    What little life there is in party membership is owned by the Nats with 2-3 times the membership of Labour, 4-5 times that of the Greens.. so yes, the Nats are that much more forced to consider their members’ opinions and who so much fill the party coffers.. its quite surprising how several tens of thousands can fill those coffers with an annual membership fee and a few funders costing an (anonymous) $20 and the other occasional (anonymous) donation.

    I can’t speak for the Greens but the inevitable conclusion is that its several thousand members share a fanatical desire to get the taxpayer to fund their party.


  18. RBG says:

    Petermsalmon, ‘no evidence of corruption’, nothing to take to court perhaps (this government aren’t that stupid) but there is a definite bad smell around the Sky city conference centre deal and now that its gone through there’s going to be more pokies and the problem gambling foundation has lost a large chunk of funding. Coincidence? Yeah right. Anyone who still thinks that Judith Collins acted appropriately, in relation to Oravida when on a taxpayer funded trip to China, is not paying attention. As for Maurice Williamson, the efforts he went to to help out Mr Liu are extraordinary. How many constituents did Mr Williamson phone the police for on other occasions? Such a lot of help for a generous donor to the party , not so much help for the average punter. You call it bad judgement, I’m guessing you are a dyed-in-the-wool National supporter, to those of us that aren’t looking through blue tinted glasses it looks very dodgy.

  19. Mr E says:

    Under Dave’s preferred system, I reckon I could start up a political party. Don’t tell anyone, but it will be a front for shameless self promotion of ME.

    Despite what the missus, family and friends say, I reckon I could have a career singing. Once I promote myself of the back of the tax payer, I will record an album called “Mr E shower favourites”.
    I’ve been practicing all the greats in anticipation including, ‘Your so beautiful’, ‘I’m too sexy’ and ‘Islands in the stream’

    I’m already imagining what I am going to do with my millions.

    You lot have it all wrong, you should be supporting Dave.

  20. TraceyS says:

    Sorry to beat up on you Dave.

    “it takes a while for a new leader to get established and known”

    True of any situation. Succession is rarely a smooth event in my experience.

  21. Judge Holden says:

    You want our money for irrigation schemes. Where did you get “your” money?

  22. Dave Kennedy says:

    JC, if you look back I did state that the day to day management and organisation of parties should be self funded, I don’t have an issue with that. I am only talking about the campaign and there may be specifics around what that will involve that may need to be addressed. You are quite correct about the drop in membership of the main parties, I can remember the speaking tours of Muldoon and Lange that attracted packed halls. Everything now is smaller meetings and TV debates.

    Good on National for maintaining a strong membership, and i think Labour has doubled theirs since the leadership contest. However I happen to know that National’s policies are decided by the leadership and on the ground activity is limited compared to past years (I have friends in most parties and we compare notes). It is one thing to consider opinions and another to actually consult.

    It’s a bit extreme to say the Greens have a fanatical desire to have our campaigns financed by the taxpayer (our fundraising capacity is actually alright) we are more motivated by limiting undue influence and the corruption that riddles the US system that ours is starting to resemble.

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