Campaign donation returns for the Auckland mayoral race were filed yesterday and Auckland Mayor Len Brown is taking a bit of heat here and here for channeling $499,000 in campaign donations through a trust. His unsuccessful opponent John Banks accepted $520,086 in anonymous donations.
I think there should be openness about donations to political campaigns. Local government electoral law needs to be changed so donations are transparent, there are sensible spending limits, and limits on third party campaigns.
The parties have argued over these issues in recent years in relation to central government but I don’t think anyone has worried too much about tightening up the rules for local government. With the creation of the Auckland Council the power and resources at stake make it essential there are rules to limit the influence of big money.
Local Government Minister Rodney Hide says he doesn’t want to see any transparency requirements.
To be fair to John Banks and Len Brown, they have both operated within the law. The National Party has a history of using secret trusts. It was pretty obvious John Banks would rely on big anonymous donors. Len Brown would have been tying one hand behind his own back if he hadn’t been willing to accept anonymous donations too. The rules need to be changed so there is a level playing field.
National should have included transparency for campaign donations when it passed the Auckland super city legislation, as well as a lower spending cap, and limits on third parties. Now would be a good time to review the Local Electoral Act to get this sorted out.