The donation disclosure limit

August 17th, 2014 at 8:21 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In a Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll commissioned for the Sunday Star-Times, 68 per cent of respondents say they would welcome a law change to make all public.

Anything under $15,000 can be donated anonymously, and other loopholes exist to keep donors’ names out of the public domain.

Not quite correct. You can only donate up to $1,500 anonymously (where the party does not know your identity). $15,000 is the threshold at which a party donation must be disclosed publicly, and $1,500 the threshold for a candidate donation.

Today, the Star-Times launches a campaign calling for every donation, big or small, to be disclosed.

Labour leader David Cunliffe is one of the MPs open to something like that.

He could start by disclosing the donors to his secret leadership trust. The gall.

But the laws could be tighter. Greens co-leader Russel Norman would like a cap of $30,000 a year for individual donors and a $1000 anonymity threshold.

Absolutely against a cap. People have the right to donate if they believe strongly in a cause. Also caps do not work. They have them in the US, and caps just turn off the “good” donors and incentivise the others to find ways around then, such as PACs or third parties.

What the Greens want is to force taxpayers to fund their political party, rather than their own supporters.

At present, says Otago University political lecturer Andrew Geddis, our threshold is high, both in international terms, but also given that our size means elections are comparatively cheap to contest.

I’m not sure about the international comparisons, but I look at the disclosure limit as a % of a party’s funds needed for a campaign. National in election year will spend probably $4.5 million in total. So a disclosure limit of $15,000 means anyone who gives over 0.3% of the party’s income gets disclosed. Are you likely to buy influence for that amount? I doubt it.

I do personally think $15,000 is a bit on the high side.I thought the old limit of $10,000 was fine, but Labour and National agreed to lift it to $15,000 in exchange for maintaining restrictions on third party campaigns.

But National President Peter Goodfellow said disclosing all donations would have a “hugely damaging impact on genuine involvement in political participation and party membership”.

I thought Labour were upset that their donations database has been exposed on the Internet? Shouldn’t they welcome it, if they now agree with the Greens?

The Electoral Finance Act reforms removed some of the biggest wheezes – in particular, the Waitemata Trust, a blind trust long used by National to collect anonymous cash.

But there remain ways. On Wednesday, National will charge admirers $1350 plus GST a head to dine with the prime minister at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

Stupid article. The fact it is a fundraising dinner does not change the disclosure requirement. It is a red herring. If the tickets were over the disclosure limit,then they would be disclosed. The issue is the disclosure limit, not the method of fundraising.

But an events industry organiser said it was likely National’s costs for even the swishest event would be $200 a head. The rest, then, is really an anonymous donation.

No, no, no, no. The names are recorded by the party as donations, and if they exceed the limit are disclosed. Theey are NOT anonymous. They are just below the limit.

The Astle dinners, says Norman, are wrong: “I think it is basically circumventing the spirit of the law, because the idea of the law was to make large donations transparent to the public.”‘

Norman is basically lying here. The dinners do not circumvent the law. Again if a ticket is over the disclosure limit, it would be disclosed.

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16 Responses to “The donation disclosure limit”

  1. duggledog (1,496 comments) says:

    Whatever changes Norman wants here are nothing to do with fairness or the best interests of democracy or New Zealand, they will simply be a way to improve the Greens’ chances of getting into power so they can wreck the country.

    They can’t even win an electorate. MMP was the best thing that ever happened for the Greens

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  2. FeralScrote (176 comments) says:

    It is fascinating that Cunliffe can`t fathom that it is his gobsmacking hypocrisy that sees` his undesirability to be PM skyrocketing( currently 92% of voters don`t want him as PM).
    He has secret trusts managed by his lapdog leftwing attack blog owner and then calls for transparency?
    The only thing consistent from Labour is their incompetence.

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  3. EAD (943 comments) says:

    No, No, No, No – as long as the donation is voluntary and from a registered voter why must it be disclosed? Does anyone remember the Mozilla Firefox CEO who was hounded out of his job for making a donation to a political organisation that dared to oppose gay marriage?

    If we make disclosure of individual donations compulsory, it’s not a running leap to imagine with our NZ media/political elite stitchup between the 3 main parties on fundamental issues (Maori Privilege, smacking, referendums, “green policy”, smoking, breathe testing, nanny-statism in general) something similar happening here. Dare to make a donation to a party that wants to represent the majority of the publics views on such issues, and the MSM pack dogs will be onto you ala Colin Craig,

    And when you see the names behind it “Andrew Geddis” and “Grant Duncan” who are both “political lecturers” (i.e. left wing indoctrinators), that tells you all you need to know.

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  4. Linda Reid (412 comments) says:

    Is the Press Council the right place to complain about inaccurate articles like this?

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  5. OneTrack (2,970 comments) says:

    EAS – “Does anyone remember the Mozilla Firefox CEO who was hounded out of his job for making a donation to a political organisation that dared to oppose gay marriage?”

    Yes, we do. And that is exactly why the left want the disclosure. So they can call for utu on anybody who donates “incorrectly”. They are so “tolerant” ™ like that.

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  6. peterwn (3,238 comments) says:

    So the Sunday Star-Times thinks that parties should effectively publish their memberships. This goes right against the concept of secret ballots. Perhaps journos should think harder before shooting their mouths off.

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  7. Other_Andy (2,563 comments) says:

    Linda Reid says at 9:12 am

    “Is the Press Council the right place to complain about inaccurate articles like this?”

    Complain to the media outlet first.
    There are set media standards and you have to tell them which one they have breached and what you want to have done about it.
    All complaints have to be dealt with within a certain timeframe.
    If you don’t get any satisfaction from them within the time limit you can go to the Press Council.

    Been there, done that.
    A long-winded process dragged out by the media which will always respond reluctantly and always at the last possible moment.

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  8. martinh (1,164 comments) says:

    DPF By my calculations $1350 plus gst is over $1500 so the legislation must exempt the gst component specifically?

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  9. martinh (1,164 comments) says:

    If Norman thinks $1350 plus tax is a large donation it goes to show how little, people who support the Greens, are willing to give.

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  10. Reid (16,192 comments) says:

    This issue always brings to my mind the truism I personally see in action every single day:

    There is nothing so vigorously defended as a vested interest disguised as an intellectual conviction.

    The vested interest here is of course as DPF says: getting taxpayer funding for those parties who struggle financially: i.e. all of those on the left. Clark used to munt on about this all the time.

    The execrable thing here is that swine like in this case Wussel isn’t doing this subconsciously which is where I most often observe the truism operating, he knows like Clark knew precisely what they are aiming at and yet they play it out quite innocently as if they’re coming from a respectable stance of simply wishing to enhance the democratic process and once again the blatant facts of their motivation quite escape the media morons who with all the sophistication of your average ten year old pass it on verbatim to the public as if there was and never could be any vested interest at all. Which of course means that the media morons either really are morons or they’re, like the politicians, operating a hidden agenda which makes them, like those politicians who are doing it, evil, because they’re lying. So which is it, media morons? Are you evil, or just thick? There isn’t a third alternative.

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  11. EAD (943 comments) says:

    Evil

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-13/orwell-would-be-proud-us-media-admits-divine-right-decide-what-public-needs-know

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  12. backster (2,140 comments) says:

    Surely if the Star Times is going TO launch a campaign it should check statements they elicit from (untrustworthy) politicians to ensure that the facts are right. Sadly they prefer to print anything that suits their bias.

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  13. Other_Andy (2,563 comments) says:

    “Are you evil, or just thick? There isn’t a third alternative.”

    Yes there is.
    Both….

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  14. Disaster Area (41 comments) says:

    Why not make all donations anonymous? Would it not be possible to set up bank accounts so that the party does not know where the money comes from? This wouldn’t get round the ‘cash for access’ style arguments, but it would be a start. After all, what reasons does a donor have for the party knowing who they are, other than to get something in return?

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  15. greenjacket (451 comments) says:

    dpf: “Stupid article”
    Sunday Star-Times – what did you expect? Do you really expect Sunday Star Times writers to fact check?

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  16. SPC (5,537 comments) says:

    Requiring parties to have bank accounts for donors managed independently of the party, to preserve the anonymity of donors, is the best way to manage “influence”.

    Large donors will still exist, but merely to support the party due to its policies.

    However some donors might be more inclined to donate to third party lobbying methods to retain the suggestion of having independent influence.

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