Saturday, December 01, 2007

Coming soon to campaigns near you....

Limits on donations to campaigns.
Restrictions on what can be said over the public airwaves during the election cycle.
Restrictions on groups who contract for advertisements for or against a particular piece of legislation slated to be put before candidates, if they were elected.
Restrictions on individuals who contract for advertisements for or against a particular piece of legislation slated to be put before candidates, if they were elected.
Laws which weaken the ability of a newcomer to challenge an incumbent.

Sounds a bit like the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform, don't it?

Toss in taxpayer funded campaigns, restrictions on publishers, and a slew of other convoluted regulations, including some which might restrict anonymous bloggers, and you get New Zealand's proposed Electoral Finance Bill (EFB).

I've read parts of the bill, editorial writeups on the bill, from both sides, and I can't say I understand it. I want to though, so I'm going to keep reading.

Why am I so interested in NZ politics? For the same reason(s) everyone in the U.S. ought to be interested. Many of the regulations are beefed up versions of things found in our own Campaign Finance Reform (CFR). And if not in CFR, it's being discussed by candidates for the presidential nomination in 2008.

The Fairness Doctrine would force radio and television stations to provide equal time to all candidates. While news programs do this as part of their regular jobs, can you imagine having to track down the opponents to answer to the mere mention of a particular candidate during a call-in show? And what of the political ads? Will stations have to give away time to offset the purchase of time by others?

And publicly funded campaigns? We have a matching system now, which has a slew of criteria to meet before a candidate can access funds. There's a limit of $2300 per individual on donations. Non Profit entities have been set up for the express purpose of political advocacy. Big frakking mess.

Take it to the next step. Government provides funds for all campaigns. Government then gets to set the rules for how much money the candidates get, as well as the rules controlling the spending of said money. And who runs the the government? Why, it's the same folks who are taking the cash for campaigning. If it's tough for challengers now, how much worse can it get? And third party candidates who are already having to struggle for ballot access?

Since the natural tendency of government is to grow, and to increase the scope of it's power, this is something we should all worry about.

A growing number of New Zealanders have got it right though. They've been taking their protests to the streets, while they still can. And each protest has been larger than the one before. The support crosses the demographic and political spectrum. From Peter Cresswell, at NotPC:

Momentum is building. Yesterday, five thousand of us took to the streets in Auckland to protest the Clark/Peters/Fitzsimons/Dunne Electoral Finance Bill: protesting the speech rationing, democracy rationing and electoral corruption that this Bill entails: protesting now while it's still legal...
More pics and commentary at MikeE's, including this pic above and the accompanying potent observation:
The above photo shows that freedom of speech and the EFB is no longer a beltway issue. Today we had conservatives and liberals, left and right, maori and pakeha, anarchists and statists marching side by side in disgust at the EFB. Some might claim that this is a National and ACT thing. It wasn't, I spotted: National, Act, Labour, [Libertarianz,] Socialist Workers, Free Palestine, Maori Sovereignty movement, Tuhoe Anti-Terror Bill protestors, war veterans, mothers, accountants, lawyers, students, anarchists, businessmen and women all marching against this disgusting piece of legislation. They will not stop, this bill will will be the end of those politically who support it.
He's dead right, and more mongrel MPs should be listening. As a few free-speech-supporting green friends have said to me, a few of whom marched yesterday, "We didn't vote Green for this!"
5,000 people. In one city. That's beautiful. I don't think we could get 5,000 people in the Atlanta metro area together for a protest for free speech, and the population in this region is greater than in all of NZ.

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