Something for nothing

October 5, 2009

A friend once spent a considerable sum buying absolutely nothing.

It was one of the lots at a fundraising auction for a charity he supports. He has everything he needs and the idea of bidding on absolutely nothing appealed to his sense of humour.

While I’ve seen anyone buy absolutely nothing I have watched people pay a lot more for something that it’s worth in aid of a good cause. Often they’ve bought tickets for a meal beforehand and paid far more for them than the meal itself cost. They might also have bought raffle tickets too. 

All of this is really a donation but if the worthy cause is a political party, would it count as one which needs to be declared?

If there was a set price for tickets to the function and raffles it wouldn’t. I think the same applies to an auction because, although there wouldn’t be a set price, the buyer gets something in return and, as with the meal and raffle, GST is payable on the money received. If I’m correct – and I’m not 100% I am – it would be a very simple, and legal, way to get round a donations limit.

I don’t understand the preoccupation with knowing the identity of donors of sums well below an amount that could possibly be regarded as likely to buy favours. A lot of people don’t have a very high regard for politicians but the idea that an MP, or government, could be swayed by donations of a few thousand dollars is ludicrous.

In spite of this there are calls for very low or no limits on anonymous donations from people concerned about transparency over money donated to political parties. To support their concerns they’ve pointed out that declared donations to Labour and National were well below the amounts they spent at last year’s elections.

But that overlooks the money which comes from membership and fund raising activity which doesn’t have to be declared.

I’ve no idea where Labour got its money but having been an electorate chair for National I know that a lot of small donations and some fund raising functions supported by a lot of members and supporters can come to a very tidy sum.  The people who contribute in this way are, like the friend at the auction, giving something for nothing more than the satisfaction of helping a cause they believe in.

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