Money doesn’t buy elections

February 17, 2010

The ink was hardly dry on the media release about electoral funding when the usual suspects started raving about rich people buying elections.

Some thoughts which have escaped them:

* The only buying of an election in recent times was Labour’s with the pledge card paid for by public money.

* Spending more doesn’t necessarily win elections. Kiwiblog analysed the four elections from 1996 to 2005 and found

The impact of money on elections is relatively insignificant compared to policies, party reputation, leadership and media treatment.

Complaints aren’t just about election spending but spending on referenda with lots of derogatory references to Peter Shirtcliff and the money he spent campaigning against MMP.

A thought which has escaped them:

* He lost the campaign.

Money doesn’t buy elections or referenda.


Electoral Finance law reform announced

February 16, 2010

Justice Minister Simon Power has announced the government’s reform package for electoral finance law.

He said:

 “The package comes after extended consultation with all parliamentary parties and the public.

“As a result, Cabinet has decided to progress reforms only where there is broad public and political support.

“If we are to have a system which is fair, workable, enduring, and in place before the 2011 election, broad consensus is essential.”

Proposal in the package include: 

  • Require disclosure of the total amount of donations that parties receive in bands.
  • Increase the amount of money that parties and candidates can spend on election campaigning at the rate of inflation for each general election.
  • Require people who spend more than $12,000 on parallel campaigning to register with the Electoral Commission. The register will be publicly available to ensure openness and transparency concerning the identities of parallel campaigners.
  • Bring more certainty to what counts as ‘election advertising’ by modernising the definition and requiring the Electoral Commission to issue guidance and advisory opinions about election advertisements.
  • Clarify the relationship between the Electoral Act 1993 and Parliamentary Service legislation.
  • Maintain the regulated campaign period to be three months before polling day.

The acknowledgement that broad consensus is necessary is a very good start. One of the many problems with the mess Labour made of electoral finance changes was bulldozing them through without wide support.

Increasing the amount which parties and candidates can spend with inflation is sensible.

So is bringing more certainty to what counts as election advertising and requiring the Electoral Commission to issue guidance and advisory opinions. Confusion about what was permitted and what wasn’t and fear of getting it wrong restrained free expression before the last election.

Returning the regulated period to three months before polling day rather than from January 1 of an election year is also a good move. Although I’d add, or from the announcement of the election if that is less than three months from polling day.

Related to that is clarifying the relationship between the Electoral Act and parliamentary Service legislation – we must not have a repeat of the pledge card and other rorts where parties and MPs campaigned with public money.

More information ont he review is available at the Justice Ministry.

UPDATE: Kiwiblog says consensus is the right way to approach the issue reform but it kills most meaningful electoral finance reform.


Electoral finance reform

September 29, 2009

The process for the reform of electoral finance is so much better than it was for the now ex-Electoral Finance Act.

Aiming to get good law rather than handicap the opposition is a good start; and consultation, discussion and genuine attempts to get cross-party support ought to result in something fairer and enduring.

Justice Minister Simon Power has released a proposal document for discussion.

* Broadcasting allocation – I don’t support any public funding of political parties and their activities. Whether or not there is any public funding, parties, other groups and individuals should be free to spend their own money on broadcasting should they choose to do so.

* MPs’ work vs electioneering:

The Parliamentary Service Commission is considering these issues as part of the process for developing a permanent definition of funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes in the Parliamentary Service Act 2000; in addition, the Speaker of the House has recently convened a cross-party committee that has developed a public disclosure regime for Parliamentary Service funding.  

 The Government proposes to ensure consistency between the Parliamentary Service Commission’s work and the work undertaken as part of the electoral finance reform by raising the suggestions made in the submissions with this cross-party committee for further consideration.

It is often difficult to distinguish between parliamentary activities and electioneering. During the election period any advertising which is paid for by Parliamentary Services should be restricted to factual information which helps constituents such as electorate office hours.

* Campaign expenditure limits haven’t changed since 1995. they need to be raised to take account of bigger electorates which were established by MMP and be adjusted for inflation.

* Regulated campaign period – should not advantage the governing party and should not be retrospective.

* Disclosing identity of promoter – requiring a real name is reasonable. I am not sure why it is necessary to also have an address on the material, especially for parties which all have registered offices.

Other discussion on the proposals can be found at Kiwiblog  , SOLO (where Lindsay Perigo is not impressed),  Not PC (who agrees with Lindsay; and Monkeywithtypewriter (who applauds the cross-party approach)


Should the taxpayer fund political parties?

July 9, 2009

David Farrar has given his usual intelligent and considered response to Labour’s submission on electoral finance at Kiwiblog.

The only thing I want to add is a very loud no to Labour’s self-serving and unprincipled suggestion that the taxpayer should fund poltical parties.

We have a very low hurdle for registration as a political party – just 500 members. The idea that any other organisation with as few members as that and as little accountability as most poltical parties have would get taxpayer funding as of right would never be countenanced and there is no reason why political parties should be treated differently.

Democracy is supposed to be of the people, for the people by the people not of a party, by the taxpayer for a few political groupies.

The Orange Man puts it succinctly at No Minister.


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