Another wealthy businessperson is throwing their money into this year's general election campaign. It's been revealed today by the NBR's Jason Walls that the leader of the nascent People's Party, Roshan Nauhria, intends to spend between $500,000 and $1 million funding his campaign to get into Parliament.
Walls says "Mr Nauhria joins an increasing list of New Zealand businessmen taking the plunge into politics. Last year, millionaire philanthropist Gareth Morgan launched The Opportunities Party and has been holding meetings across the country. The 2014 election was contested by millionaire property manager Colin Craig's Conservative Party" - see: Another cashed-up Auckland businessman lines up run for Parliament (paywalled).
Of course, Kim Dotcom's Internet Mana campaign could be added to that list. And with news that this party is back - see the Herald's Internet Party plans 2017 election campaign - there will be questions about any lingering funding and influence from its beleaguered founder.
Such money given to new parties is often seen as a waste, given their lack of electoral success. And it's unlikely the People's Party will be any different. As Jason Walls reports, "Nauhria funded his own campaign in the Roskill by-election as well, which he says cost him roughly $80,000. He came third, winning 739 votes - meaning he spent about $108 per vote." And, "He also funded Vin Tomar who placed fourth under the party's banner in February's Mt Albert by-election with 191 votes".
Nauhria has a history of financial links to various political parties. Back in September, it was reported that he donated $3000 to New Zealand First at the last election - information that came out after Winston Peters claimed Nauhria had attended a National Party fundraiser and "offered $20,000 in a bid for the Prime Minister to have breakfast at his place" - see Jenna Lynch and Patrick Gower's Revealed: Winston Peters in $3k Indian donation controversy.
Nauhria also says he donated $10,000 to the Labour Party back in 1984 - see Audrey Young's NZ First received donation from founder of immigrant party slammed by Peters.
Big donations declared for the political right
The National Party appears to be getting in a lot of the big money at the moment. The annual declaration of donations to the Electoral Commission were recently published, and they show the party to be fairly flush - see Vernon Small's National tops donations with almost $2m given to the party in 2016. This report says, "National received almost $2 million in donations last year compared to just $564,000 given to Labour, according to returns supplied to the Electoral Commission."
This annual declaration is for all donations given to parties over the $15,000 threshold. However, the parties must also publicly declare more regularly if they receive anything more than $30,000, and so there have also been a lot of recent individual donations declared.
Most of these have been on the political right. For instance, last week Claire Trevett reported that "New Zealand's only chess Grandmaster" had given money to Act - see: Chequemate! Act Party's $35,000 chess Grandmaster donation. And a few weeks earlier, Nicholas Jones reported that the Prime Minister had "helped swell the Act Party's election year war chest by about $70,000 at a fundraiser held at one of John Key's favourite restaurants" - see: Bill English star of Act Party fundraiser that raises $70,000.
Does the big money only go to the parties of the right?
It's not only National and Act getting donations from wealthy individuals. Labour and the Greens, receive some hefty donations too. The most notable is the large donation to Labour from retired High Court judge Robert Smellie, reported this week - see Nicholas Jones' 'Socialism closer to Gospel than free enterprise': donor on why he gave $115k to Labour.
The article says Labour's party president is spending "three or four days a week working on fundraising", and leader Andrew Little says "the party had raised considerably more than at the same point before the 2011 and 2014 elections." See also, Nicholas Jones' Mr Wolf and the retired judge: National and Labour get big donations ahead of election.
And for more on Labour's targeting of wealthy individuals, see Lloyd Burr's Labour launches exclusive 'President's Club'. This reports that the club has "the primary role of luring in big cheques from wealthy Labour supporters. It's Labour's version of National's Cabinet Club, which sees exorbitantly-priced tickets sold for exclusive dinners attended by Cabinet ministers of the Crown". But, Labour's president says, "You can never buy policy in the Labour Party."
The Green Party also seems financially comfortable lately. Late last year they received what was "the largest donation to any political party since 2014" - see Isaac Davison's Greens say big donation a mystery. But apparently, the donor had no prior links with the party.
And in the most recent annual donations declarations, the Greens once again declared a greater total than Labour. As blogger No Right Turn put it, "the big news is that the Greens once again out fund-raised Labour, $860,746 to $563,915. This is the third year in a row they've done this, and it looks to be becoming a trend" - see: A shift in power.
But so far it's actually Gareth Morgan's TOP leading the donation race in 2017. You can see the aggregated detail for the big donations this year in David Farrar's 2017 donations.
Morgan has donated $400,000 since the start of March. But Act's David Seymour warns that this might be more of a problem: "I just think funding your own political party is a recipe for disaster, as has been proved by Colin Craig most recently and many others throughout history... At some point, having too much money and not broad enough support does actually make you look out of touch with the voters. I suspect that's what happened in Colin Craig and Kim Dotcom's campaigns and it will also happen with The Opportunities Party" - see Chris Keall's NBR article, Gareth Morgan's sizeable donations to his own party revealed (paywalled).
Keall, himself, comments: "Seymour's theory that money can't buy you votes seems to stack up if the last election was anything to go by. The (then) Conservative Party leader Mr Craig and Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom both donated about $5 million to their own parties during the 2014 election cycle. The Internet Party, aligned with Mana, received just 1.42% of the vote and the alliance's only sitting MP, Mana's Hone Harawira, lost his seat."
There is also a presumption that advertising by the various interest groups who get involved in the election campaign will normally favour the parties of the right. As Heather du Plessis-Allan said back in March, "Big money tends to favour parties on the right, so National and Act supporters are more likely than Labour and Green Party supporters to have the means to buy ads" - see: Let's not go American in election.
But refuting this, Kiwiblog's David Farrar argued that "Almost all the big third party money in NZ politics is on the left through unions" - see: Heather wrong on big money in NZ politics. Farrar says: Look at those who have spent over $100K in third party spending from 2008 to 2014: 1. NZEI $445k; 2. PSA $267k; 3. Family First $133k; 4. Aged Care Assn $132k; 5. CTU $104k".
The Electoral Commission's unequal election advertising allocations
It might be expected that the unequal patterns of private fundraising wouldn't also be seen in the way that the state gives election advertising money to the political parties. But they are.
Every election, the Electoral Commission divvies up $3-4 million of advertising for the parties to spend on radio and TV advertising. This year the amount has increased, because the parties will no longer get free opening and closing statements broadcast. Instead they're being given the equivalent in cash, and the parties can spend it more broadly on different types of advertising, including online.
But, as usual, the Electoral Commission has divvied up that cash in a way that favours the big and existing parties. For the details, see Isaac Davison's Nats, Labour given $1m broadcasting money. It seems that the bulk will go to parties already established: "National will get $1.3 million, Labour will get $1m, the Greens will get $498,000 and NZ First will get $394,000."
Meanwhile, minor and fledgling parties have cause for unhappiness with their lot, which is typically, only about a tenth of what the Green Party receives. And The Opportunities Party, in particularly, might feel aggrieved at only being allocated $41,478 - which is less than the Conservative and Internet Party, which both got $51,900.
See also, David Farrar's calculation of the percentage allocations for the parties, and how these have changed since 2014: 2017 Broadcasting allocations.
Finally, another type of resource is being utilised by the Labour Party this election - comrades from the US and UK. The party is currently importing dozens of young leftwing activists who are staying at an Auckland Marae, and pounding the streets for Matt McCarten's drive to get the vote out. Some of this was foreshadowed in a Herald report back in April - see: Fresh from Kim Dotcom, Hone Harawira attacks Labour getting campaign help from foreigners.