in the last paragraph of her post on the rt hon winston peters, anna states that she doesn't like the idea of political party presidents seeking six figure donations from millionaires. that's all well and good, but the question then arises as to where the money is supposed to come from. i can assure you that it's not possible to raise the kind of money required to mount a serious political campaign by holding cake stalls and selling raffle tickets.
the fact is that participation in political parties has been declining for years. parties on the left have more difficulty in raising funds because they tend not to have members of the business roundtable giving them large sums of money*. but they have to compete with parties on the right, who are awash with such funds. unions do provide some help, but unions don't have anywhere near the kind money that big business has.
the reason that the left has managed to win the last three elections is because they have been working smarter as well as delivering some damn good policies. but these parties still have to come with annual funds to pay for staff, to pay for the functioning of the party and to mount a campaign. a lot of the work within the party is carried out by volunteers, but you still need cash to buy the hoardings, print the leaflets and so on.
i know that significant effort is put into fundraising. i've been involved with the garage sales, the dinners, the art auctions, the membership drives. every team in every region works extremely hard to raise funds to run a decent campaign. but that is not enough to compete effectively.
of course high spending doesn't necessarily win elections. we witnessed that in the waikato earlier this year when ACT party president gary mallett's team was soundly defeated in the WEL energy trust elections. not only did his team spend large amounts on advertising, they were also offering the highest cash rebates to customers while scrapping community grants.
despite that example, we know that spending large amounts of money does make a difference. that's why we have spending caps for local body and national elections. for a national election, the caps are $20,000 per electorate and $10,000 per list candidate. on top of that is the allowance for the spend on the nationwide party campaign. and that cap is only for attributable spending, so it doesn't include, for example, the wages of a campaign manager**.
realistically, there is no other way to come up with these funds without seeking some large donations from those that have serious money. it's even more difficult when you're looking for donors who won't have strings attached, like for example the insurance industry wanting privatisation of ACC.
if we want to prevent large private donors influencing political parties, then we have to find another way to fund them. state-funding is the obvious answer. another possibility is to have corporate donations going into a central funds and being allocated to all parties. in any case, there's no point in criticising parties who are put in the position of having to solicit for funds, yet not advocating for an alternative source of funding.
one thing you can say about labour is that they were honest in disclosing the donations from mr glenn to the party at the time he made them in 2003 and 2004. none of the parties on the right have been made that kind of disclosure. labour is also open about the support received from unions. and they are the only party to publicly publish annual financial statements - copies of these are provided to journalists and all party members at annual conferences. i think it's high time that other parties were equally transparent.
*largely because parties on the left will not take on the privatisation and low-tax agenda favoured by the BRT. even national tries to avoid admitting that they favour such policies.
** not that i know of any candidates on the left who can afford paid campaign managers. i can't say the same for candidates on the right.