Not quite right

Matt Nippert writes:

An analysis of electoral finance declarations shows more than 80 per cent of donations to National Party candidates were channelled through party headquarters in a loophole described as akin to legal “laundering”.

This statement is not correct. They did not go through party hq at all, or even near party hq. Some people donate to the *local* electorate committee and the local committee, if it has excess funds are paying the levy to hq, will partially or fully fund the local candidate’s campaign. It has nothing to do with party hq.

Electoral law requires candidates to reveal the identity of donors who contribute $1,500 or more, but political parties can keep donors secret even if they give up to $15,000.

There is a case for a lower disclosure limit for donations to electorates, rather than the main party. However it would be difficult to word such a law, as they are part of the same legal entity.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow strongly rejected any suggestion that donations to candidates from the party were used to obfuscate the source of funds.

He said the practice had more to do with time-frames around candidate selection and a longer-term fundraising cycle. “National is fundraising pretty actively throughout the three-year election cycle. People are donating to support a race before there’s even a candidate selected,” he said.

Mr Goodfellow said these donations were therefore impossible to tag to candidates and, “as our people often really give to the party”, were not be subject to the $1,500 declaration thresholds for candidates.

That’s a fair point. Even sitting MPs are not confirmed as candidates until election year – sometimes only three months before an election. So any donations prior to then *must* go to the party.

But it is fair to say that some donors prefer to give to the local party, rather than direct to a candidate’s campaign fund, because it does mean they can donate more than $1,500 without disclosure. However if they do so, they can not dictate how the electorate uses that donations. It might just as much go towards paying their levy to National HQ, their contribution to the party vote campaign, to covering local expenses or towards the candidate’s campaign.

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