By Eoin O’Malley (15 February, 2012)
SIPO last night released details for candidate election expenses – set out here. They provide useful information as to what candidates spent their money on in the campaign and how much each spent. They are less useful, however, for disclosing where each candidate’s money came from. We can see, for instance, that Gay Mitchell spent €527, 152, making him the highest spending candidate, but still well below the spending limit of €750,000. But we have no idea where the money came from, as none of his donations exceeded €634.87. Martin McGuinness spent just over €300k, but received a bit over €4,000 in disclose-able donations. Much of the money from these candidates will have been raise in the form of donations of less than €634. A lot of it may have come from their parties, and donations to the parties will be disclosed separately (this may benefit parties as a donor can give to a party and to a candidate used for the same campaign but not disclosed as such). And some of the money spent may have come in the form of bank loans.
If we care about the non-disclosure of donations, a reasonably simple measure might be to limit the refund that one can get from the state to the amount raised in disclosed donations. Michael D. Higgins, Seán Gallagher and Martin McGuinness each qualify to receive a refund of €200,000 for their election expenses, but if we had a rule that you can only be refunded as much as was spent from disclosed donations, then the total amount would be just over €150,000. This would incentivise candidates to raise money in a more public way. We could also allow those who wish to donate less than €634 to waive their right to anonymity if they want to allow the candidate to claim back on the basis of the donation.
The full list if donations and expenditure is available here.
3 thoughts on “Presidential election expenses released”
How on earth did Fine Gael spend so much – whether it was from under the counter corporate donations or from its own funds, which of course themselves come from under the counter corporate donations too the amount spent beggars belief when they ran such a shoddy campaign – so much for the best political machine in the country.
The easist and fastest way to reform financing politics is to have a zero limit for all donations, no matter where they come from. The idea that anyone needs to keep it secret that they bought a national draw ticket or sent a donation is ridiculous.
Then again of course Higgins and Mitchell have both creamed off enough in expenses since the last Presidential election to have covered their costs.
Makes you wonder where Mary Davis got the money from to fund her campaign – how many below the limit cheques arrived in Sutton – the poor postman!
We’re back to the age-old question: who should pay for democracy? Our established political parties get millions per annum from the taxpayer to fund their operations; independent TDs and Senaotrs get a hefty allowance to the same purpose and then there are all those allowances for offices, going to work money, mortgage assistance, travel allowances and so on. Political donations, whether personal or corporate, are only a very small part of the overall picture. If money doesn’t come from private sources and fundraising through draws or golf classics or whatever, the only alternative is for the taxpayer to pick up the tab. I think any review of the system surrounding taxpayer support for political activity must include a way of assessing ‘value for money’ through an audit process and publication of much more comprehensive accounts data by political parties and independnets in receipt of such largesse both on an annual basis and in respect of events like elections.
Today’s Independent front page http://www.independent.ie/national-news/how-parties-splash-13m-taxpayers-cash-3023167.html reinforces the point above