The 2016 Kapiti local government elections are now over. This article reflects on the system of electoral donations that candidates may receive for their electoral campaigns.
Donations are a type of gift. The root word for gift in ancient German and Greek means both gift (as in English) — and poison. This is no coincidence based on the obligatory nature of reciprocity of a gift (or in ancient times, the threat of harm that was believed to befall a recipient who failed to reciprocate).
The gift places the recipient in a position of debt; owing a favour, being obliged to reciprocate. The gift in fact, can poison the relationship, moving the balance from one of neutrality and evenness, to one of an obligation to the donor.
Translating this principle to Kapiti local government politics we see that two sitting councillors received gift or donations for their electioneering campaigns. Councillor Angela Buswell received a total of $9,300 and Mayor Guru $11,000.
Analysing these totals Councillor Buswell received $7,500 from her mother and $1,800 from a fund raising event where 40 tickets were sold at $45 each. In terms of influencing Ms Buswell’s neutrality and impartiality as a Councillor, no serious problems seem apparent. Obvious. We all have bias and partiality towards our parents and 40 donations of $45 is not going to unduly poison a person’s natural neutral reciprocity towards those forty people.
With Mayor Krisnasamy, this is another kettle of fish. He received three donations totalling $13,000–quite a large sum in Kapiti local government politics. Gillian Thomas donated $4,000, Tony Gan $4,000 and Don Little $5,000. These generous gifts may be seen to disturb the healthy balance of neutrality and equality with the donors. When in a position of having received a favour, a subconscious obligation having to return the favour is created.
The author is not suggesting any improper or incorrect influence. Rather, the current system allows for donations to interfere with the healthy balance of even-handedness, neutrality and impartiality, factors essential for open and fair democracy.
Deputy Chair, Raumati/Paraparaumu Community Board
89 Leinster Avenue, Raumati South
04 9040789, 021 2624645
We’re relaxed about donations to candidates — as long as they are reported. Readers will remember the fuss that resulted from then Auckland mayor John Banks reporting a $50,000 campaign donation as ‘anonymous’ when he knew the source (Kim Dotcom). The issue of ‘donations’ (read bribes and backhanders) while in office is something else again. — [Eds]