The Electoral Commission documents the political donations given to our political parties and posts them on their site in, frustratingly, pdf format. In light of recent events I went through and added up how much the four largest political parties have received in anonymous donations (ie. donations that are less than $15,000) over the last three years.
Why are these donations anonymous? I think the argument is privacy: ordinary kiwis should be able to give a few dollars to a political cause they believe in without it being made public. Only, the number of people giving a small amount of money to our political parties is so small you can’t really graph it. Most people who donate anonymously to National and Labour seem to donate in the $5000 range. Bust most of the cash is made from donations of about $10,000. Just to put this into context, according to this BERL report using data sourced from IRD, the average New Zealander donates about $133/year to charity.
The other point to make here is that the amount the big parties – and National especially – raise through declared donations is tiny in comparison. Almost all of the money entering our political system is anonymous and undeclared.
Update: Andrew Geddis writes in the comments:
Only, the number of people giving a small amount of money to our political parties is so small you can’t really graph it. Most people who donate anonymously to National and Labour seem to donate in the $5000 range.
Not necessarily. You’ve misunderstood the data.
By law, parties must each year disclose a bunch of info to the Electoral Commission. This includes:
(1) Names of everyone who gives more than $15,000 in that year and how much they gave.
(2) Number and total amount of donations received between $5000 and $15000.
(3) Number and total amount of donations received between $1500 and $5000.
(4) Number and total amount of anonymous donations received under $1500 (where “anonymous” means that no-one in the party knows or has good reason to suspect who the donor really is).
Note, then, what parties don’t have to disclose (and so don’t in practice do so): how much they receive from not anonymous donors who give the party less than $1500 in the year. So, when I give my annual $1000 to the ACT Party by way of a cheque with my name on it, the ACT Party doesn’t have to include my donation in any public filings with the Electoral Commission or anyone else.
Point being, the data you are working with is incomplete. So it makes it look like parties are getting the vast majority of their money in chunks of $1500 or more. And maybe they are. But we can’t know for sure, because a whole lot of the necessary information is missing.