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Can democracy survive big money and professional spin
9 September - By Brian Baggott

Experienced and respected social commentator Brian Baggott looks at the vexed question of Campaign Funding and asks if corporate funding is killing democracy.


Politics have undergone a massive change over the last two or three decades. This is true of central governments from Westminster to Canberra to Wellington and also for local government everywhere, nowhere more so probably than Auckland.
That change is caused by money.
If you want to win an election you must advertise widely and in doing this the truth must be massaged so that electors are deceived without the candidate telling lies. This requires high grade specialist assistance. Such people are expensive.
So you want to be Prime Minister or a Mayor? The necessary money is no longer available from party political membership or cake stalls. It is no longer available from The Trade Union movement which everywhere has been largely emasculated. The only source is business, and in national politics this means big corporate business. This accounts for the worldwide swing to the right of all political parties (New Labour in UK and the Roger Douglas years here are examples) as the alternative is obscurity and failure. If you want to win the Mayoral election for Auckland Super-City they say a million dollars is necessary, where is that going to come from? Three guesses!
Closer to home in Kāpiti a record for expenditure for a Mayor was said to be $14,000 four elections ago funded by an "anonymous group of business men". The next election cost the winner an amount said to be $40,000 and rumoured to have been raised by the family of a large developer. I refuse to believe that these substantial sums were raised in the philanthropical interest of free democracy.
In previous elections I have asked candidates about the source of their funds and have always got the answer from a few ill financed people that they were self financed which I believe and from others some variant of the chinese-wall story which I don't believe. I suspect that the actual truth is that there is a system set up which the Americans call "deniability".
Please everyone, if attending an electoral meeting or talking to a candidate, ask about funding and if the answer is not open and convincing don't vote for them.


 
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