Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The end of Holy Week...

There is a strange thing about holidays - especially religious observances - in NZ. For some reason they have this propensity for triggering the "release" of all manner of little governmental embarrassments. This past week, culminating in the Easter break, has been no exception.

This time around it is the topic of election spending that has come to the fore in the form of a "leaked" report in Granny Herald. But before I start on that quarter, this is a topic close to my heart as can be seen here, and here, and here, here, and finally here.

At the time of writing, Herald sports this page of links which give a useful course through the continuing STOOORY of Auntie Helen and the funding of elections.

First a brief recap -
  • The problem centres upon (intentionally) vague law that leaves (hopefully) a bigger hole for your mates and a smaller hole for your enemy.
  • The problem centres upon (the same law) having unintentionally vague holes in it that the enemy can drive trucks through.
  • There is a need to persuade the electorate that the playing field is still level, even though the southwest corner still floods every time there is a shower and the northeast corner has never had a try scored there.
  • There are some considerable amounts of money siphoned out of the public purse into Paul's wallet for electoral purposes. There have been solemn undertakings from all parties that they will raise their hands and reimburse what was "inadvertently" taken through "changes to the rules", and misinterpretation of the CAG's pre-electoral pronouncements.
  • The current laws concentrates upon funding through "donations". It does not in any stretch of the imagination cover "third party electioneering" (for Americans the equivalent of the "Swift-boat committees").

The Herald expose last Monday started thusly -

Labour plans to restrict third-party election spending to $60,000 by any one group in its "payback" electoral law reforms - a move that will effectively outlaw campaigns such as the Exclusive Brethren's $1.2 million effort last election.

It also plans to attack an important source of money for National by limiting anonymous donations from anybody, including trusts, to $5000.

National received $1.8 million in 2005, all but $140,000 of it from six trusts.

Then follows...

The Herald has learned more of the detail, which includes measures to:

* Require any third party (a group or individual other than a candidate or registered party) to register its intention with the Chief Electoral Officer if it plans to spend more than $5000 nationally and $500 in an electorate.
* Restrict any third party from spending more than $60,000 nationally or $2000 in an electorate.
* Restrict any third party to New Zealanders or New Zealand-based organisations.
* Make it clear that advertising does not have to state the party or candidate's name to be subject to restrictions. Advertising attacking a party can count too.
* Exempt from the new third-party rules groups such as unions or companies when they are communicating directly with their members.
* Require whatever the third party spends to be counted against its $60,000 limit and the limit of the party it is supporting.
* Lower the threshold for disclosure of donations from $10,000 to $5000 for parties and from $1000 to $500 for individual candidates.
* Ban foreign donations except those from expatriate New Zealanders.
* Include in the definition of donations loans at non-commercial rates, and a party's goods or properties sold well over their valuation.

Go read the whole thing so that I don't get into strife for breaching copyright PLEASE!!

But the greatest change is the proposal to fund parties directly from the General Fund (that is my money!). Dish it up, lads and lasses!!! Two sweet young lambs on the spit. Pipe in the haggis and gie it a good addressin'!! Fire up the old copper with watercress, cabbage, pork and mutton; kumara, spuds, pumpkin in flax baskets stacked over the wild boar and two haunches of venison in the hangi. This is who gets the dough!!

Cash For Votes

What parties would get:
* Labour $1.14 million
* National $1.14 million
* NZ First $260,230
* Greens $241,042
* United Future $121,720
* Maori Party $96,526
* Act $68,938
* Progressives $52,882
* Destiny $28,420
* Legalise Cannabis Party $11,496

The formula being proposed would give parties $2 for each party vote they receive up to 20 per cent of the vote, and $1 a vote after that to a cap of 30 per cent.

Whakapohani! Auntie Helen!!

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