Guest Post: Bryce Edwards has an agenda

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via ODT

 

I’m not usually one to call out political commentators, but the disingenuous line run over the weekend?by Otago University Political Professor Bryce Edwards regarding electoral finance is disgraceful and should be corrected.

On the front page of Saturday’s Weekend Herald, under a story headlined ?Loophole: Nat Donors Stay Secret? Mr Edwards uses the term “laundering” to describe the process of the National Party giving large donations from the central party coffers to particular candidates just before the election. ?

The biff is that donations made to parties, as opposed to candidates, have a higher threshold ($1,500 vs $15,000) before they are required to be publicly disclosed. The justification for the higher amount applicable to parties is presumably that it is much harder (or more expensive) to have a potential undue influence on a party, than an individual candidate.

I have some experience in electoral law, having advised individual candidates from the Greens through to National and have some experience in how political fundraising works.*

?Laundering??is the process of transforming the proceeds of crime into ostensibly legitimate money or other assets. The Herald and Mr Edwards use the term to imply what the?National?Party?has done is wrong. In reality the money would relate to the various fundraisers hosted by each?individual electorate (think cake stalls and social gatherings) subsequently donated to the candidate for his or her campaign after they are selected. How is that in anyway?illegitimate, unethical or counter to the spirit of the Electoral Act?

Mr Edwards described this as ‘laundering’ on the basis that donations made to parties have a higher disclosure threshold. But that?s the law – instead of criticing the Electoral Act framework, he takes a cheap shot at one of the parties following it!

Mr Edwards’ comments suggest a severe political bias in other ways.? Not a single mention is made of the Labour Party and its process of channeling political donations through its co-opted unions. That is a far more offensive practice. ? National Party donors choosing to donate to the party (rather than waiting for the last few months before the election to donate to the candidate once they are chosen) are quite legitimately subject to a higher threshold before they need to disclose the support publicly.? In comparison, donors to the Labour Party can completely avoid disclosure no matter the amount by donating to a union, knowing that there is a high probability that the money will be forwarded to the Labour Party and/or spent supporting Labour?s campaign.

Further, (and the Herald doesn’t cover this) if a donation is made to a political party with an expectation or understanding that it is to be passed on to a particular candidate, the party would be what the Electoral Act terms a ?transmitter?. That rules out precisely what Mr Edwards is alleging ? that candidate donations are being deliberately funnelled through the Party.

Saturday?s comments from Bryce Edwards are partisan, alarmist, and either misinformed or mischievous for someone who is an apparent expert.? He should apologise to the National Party, or be identified by the Herald as someone untrustworthy for independent political comment.

 

– Southern Barristor

* For the purposes of disclosure I am not acting for any politician, party, nor am I a current member of any party.

 

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