The problem with referendum spending caps

The Herald reports:

Campaign members had gone through submissions to the committee and found that 80 per cent recommended spending caps.

The current bill contains no limit on advertising spending for the . Dr Grey suggested a cap of $350,000.

“We don’t think freedom of speech is about allowing everyone freedom to spend on advertising and to spend freely on advertising.”

Challenged on how a spending cap could be administered, she said it would be best for it to apply to campaigning for each option: Mixed-Member Proportional, First Past the Post, Preferential Voting, Single Transferable Vote and Supplementary Member.

She conceded it would be much harder to have a cap of $350,000 per group or individual, as a group could simply splinter into smaller groups if it wanted to spend more.

A spending cap on each option would be a horrendous breach of the right of freedom to speech.

Let us say you wish to spend $500 in your local newspaper promoting STV. But alas the “Campaign for STV” groups has already spent $350,000 on promoting STV. That means that even though you have nothing to do with that group, their spending means you are banned from being able to spend any money promoting your views.

If you go the other option, of a spending cap per group – then it is trivial to get around it through said splintering.

I wish people would devote more energy to the pros and cons of the various options, that the spending cap debate. As it happens, I suspect there will be very little spent by any third party as the Internet will be a major source of information and debate this time around – unlike in 1993 when you had to spend lots of money to get your view heard.

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