Public funding of political parties political poison

The Taxpayers’ Union says the idea of public funding of political parties must be nipped in the bud :

Responding to the terms of reference for a new review into electoral laws, the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is calling on politicians to rule out supporting taxpayer funding for political parties.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “Taxpayer funding for political parties is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, the criteria for allocating funding will necessarily benefit incumbent political parties, amplifying those already in power and drowning out political outsiders. This goes against the spirit of our liberal multi-party system.

How would the funding be calculated – the vote at the previous election, the number of members  . . .?

There is simply no way taxpayer funds could be allocated fairly.

“Secondly, shifting away from private funding towards public funding will shield party leadership from accountability to their grassroots supporters who currently pay campaign bills. In other words, politicians will get sucked further into the Wellington bubble.

Good MPs value and listen to party members, understanding the important role they play in helping them win elections and also keeping them in touch with issues and concerns in the real world.

“Thirdly and most simply, taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund the promotion of views they disagree with or find abhorrent. It’s one thing to fund MPs to do their jobs in Parliament – it’s another thing entirely to fund their propaganda.

If parties can’t attract sufficient funds from people who support them, there are absolutely no grounds for giving them funds from people who don’t through taxes.

“Instead of pouring more public money into the political process, we should be taking this opportunity to scrap the archaic ‘broadcasting allocation’ which funds election night broadcasts from fringe political parties too hopeless to fundraise for themselves.

Yes. If parties wish to broadcast advertisements they should be able to do so but only at their own expense.

On the potential for restrictions on private donations to political parties, Mr Houlbrooke says:

“Limiting donations to political parties won’t stop the wealthy from influencing elections. It risks the rise of American-style ‘super pac’ organisations with shadowy funding sources campaigning on the parties’ behalf. At the very least, wealthy donors may simply redirect donations to advocacy groups like the Taxpayers’ Union or Greenpeace. Even if we would benefit from such a change, we cannot in good conscience support it.

Current disclosures of larger donations from groups of individuals is part of an openness and transparency in the democratic process, but as long as that is robust, there is no need to place limits on the donations, especially when, as is the case now, there are limits on how much parties can spend in the regulated pre-election period.

Contrary to the concern that money can buy elections, post-election disclosures show that often more money per vote is spent by parties which lose.

Political parties are voluntary organisations.

There are no more grounds for taxpayer funding of them than there would be for funding service clubs or religious groups.

If National and Act are true to their principles they will be opposing this vehemently.

I have no doubt they will because the idea is political poison.

Opponents to it have only to rank the many, many high priorities for taxpayer funding, including the frontlines of health and education, and then ask where taxpayer funding of political parties comes in.

It won’t even make the list.

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