Don’t let politicians bury political donation scandals – put voters first!

This is the time of year when governments make unpopular announcements or issue press releases when they want to bury public debate on a sensitive issue. This is sometimes accompanied by ineffective howls of protest from the opposition, but most of the public’s attention has shifted to Christmas celebrations, gift shopping and vacation planning.

Last week, the government released a consultation paper on proposed changes to political donations for the 2023 general election with comments open from Dec. 3 to Jan. 25 – perfectly covering the run-up to Christmas and the summer recess.

But nothing to complain about this time. For National and Labor and New Zealand First – who each have a long history of shameful behavior by hiding the identity of their political donors – the less it is talked about, the better.

The public is not happy, so the government must seem busy doing something – so what are they proposing? This is from the Department of Justice:

Proposed changes to disclosure rules and thresholds:

    1. Lowering of the threshold for public disclosure of donations to $ 1,500 for parties
    2. Increased frequency of donation reports
    3. Elimination of the obligation for the parties to publicly disclose, within 10 days, the amount of the donation and the identity of the donor, in cases where the donor has made a donation of more than $ 30,000 in the previous 12 months
    4. Introduction of requirements for parties and candidates to disclose more details on in-kind donations.

Proposed changes to report:

    1. Introduction of reporting requirements for non-anonymous donations under $ 1,500
    2. Introduce an obligation for political parties to publicly disclose their financial statements
    3. Introduce a requirement to publicly report candidate loans.

We are also interested in your point of view on whether or not to introduce a ban on anonymous donations, which could have impacts on transparency as well as on compliance and reporting requirements.

Overview of changes

TDB recommends

The proposed changes are described in this document:

Summary of proposed changes to the political donation rules

This Report includes information on the background and rationale for taking these particular changes into account.

The proposed changes are minimal and cosmetic – “put lipstick on a pig” type of changes. They will not tackle the threat to our 1% democracy and their political representatives in the major political parties.

For example, there is nothing in these proposals that would address the cynical and blatant behavior of Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, who filed an election report that declared her husband as a donor for $ 1,000 in auction property ( mostly bottles of wine) and the $ 39,100 raised through the auction.

When challenged by myself and the local media, Dalziel ultimately produced a list of six donors who paid over $ 1,500 for bottles of wine.

Wei Min Lu (donation of $ 17,850)

Yong Jiu Chen (donation of $ 3,920)

Zhi Cheng Tan (donation of $ 2,800)

Jianping Wang (donation of $ 2,350)

Grandland Investment / Bing Chen (donation of $ 2,950)

Yang Xia Wu (donation of $ 1,750)

These names should have appeared on Dalziel’s election report. In the investigation that followed, the Serious Fraud Office said it could not identify any evidence of intent to deceive Dalziel and refused to prosecute. This despite the mayor’s explanation without the slightest credibility.

Simply put, our election donation laws are weak and easy to get around and when politicians are caught off guard they are not taken seriously by our watchdog organizations.

I think ALL political donations should be publicly notified – down to the last dollar. Our election commission should keep a spreadsheet for each registered political party that the party is required to update weekly and daily during election campaigns.

As voters, we need to know who pays for broadcasting political messages BEFORE we vote. Currently, donation and expense declarations are filed several months after the election, when it is too late to be useful to voters.

And we should follow Canada’s lead and set a maximum annual amount for any individual or corporate donor – $ 1,000 would be a reasonable amount for Aotearoa New Zealand.

The question of a party “borrowing” money to run an election campaign is not acceptable. Such “loans” could be repaid by large anonymous donors long after election expense returns have been filed and voters have been duped without anyone knowing.

The argument used by the Election Commission to counter all made public donations is that our secret ballot elections mean people do not have to reveal which party they are voting for and that could be compromised if people were to reveal a minor donation. to a political party.

It doesn’t wash off – our electoral system is too important to be undermined by donors and political parties who go to extraordinary lengths to keep their donors hidden from us. We should know all of their names. If this means that political parties have a harder time raising funds, which is not a restriction on democracy, it just means that they will have to spend the money more carefully and come up with decent policies to get it. political support. In any case, their hands are already sunk in the public purse to pay for their political advertising.

Forty years ago, Labor and National were mass parties with hundreds of thousands of members. Today, they’re hollow shells that rely on large corporate donations to run election campaigns rather than the cake stalls and raffles of the past. Now as never before, our democratic values ​​and our political policies are for sale to the highest bidders. It is time to get our democracy out of the hands of our political parties and their corporate friends and put the voters first.

The main political parties hope that you will not challenge them on this issue. Ignore them. Have your say here before you jump into the holiday season.