The donation disclosure limit

Stuff reports:

In a 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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