A handy guide to political foundations

Insights Newsletter
21 February, 2020

Are you a leader of a political party? Do you spend countless hours fundraising while looking after important portfolios? Well, we have you covered.

New Zealand’s hottest trend is ready to knock your socks off: political foundations.

The first question when setting up a foundation is: why do I need one? There are a range of reasons including hiding political donations investing in the future of the party or pretending to be a grassroots movement protecting the privacy of your donors. Your options are endless.

Next you need a snazzy name. Our research interns worked tirelessly to find the magic formula: “The [your organisation here] Foundation.” This keeps it both recognisable and in line with every other foundation. It also supplies plausible deniability. Sure, the political party carries the same name, but one of them is a “foundation.”

Add in few more fine details and you’ll soon be ready to go. But what exactly can this creation do now? Consider the tiered system, recently introduced by some ride-sharing apps, which rewards customers for spending different amounts of money. Why can’t political parties do this as well?

Some political parties have, for the comedic bargain price of $15,000, granted their donors direct access to party leaders (and policy). I recommend, however, a more reasonable tiered donation system. Donors offering over $100,000 could be granted “platinum” status, with direct access to policy development and a nice shiny plaque in some old city building. After all, if someone is so dedicated to the party, it should be that person’s right to write policy development … right?

(Just make sure to split the donations into ten tranches of bite-sized amounts so the pesky Electoral Commission doesn’t get on your tail. Remember, the privacy of donors is more important than any implications for the health of democracy.)

You may be asking if all this is legal. Well, independent advisors confirmed it is indeed “pretty legal.” That’s a quote. Foundations and disguised donations are not technically illegal in New Zealand. And why should they be?

Anonymous donations are a permanent fixture in politics. And solutions like public funding for campaigns or legislation will always be countered by parties looking for new loopholes. Ultimately, this is not about legality, it is an electoral issue. It is up to voters to cease supporting any party they think is behaving reprehensibly.

Yet, with the system of political foundations, isn’t the devil you know a hell of a lot better than the one you don’t?

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