Electorate candidates in 2008 spent a combined total of $2.26m trying to get elected. They also declared receiving donations totaling $1.26m. Winning candidates spent on average $12,836 to get elected. But expenditure varied greatly: Russell Fairbrother spent $19,704 failing to win Napier, while Maurice Williamson won Pakuranga by apparently only spending $1,591. There appears to be quite a discrepancy between what some of these candidates have declared in donations and what they have official spent - for example, Pita Sharples received $35,000 in donations but only spent $8,473, and Allan Peachy received $46,250 but only spent $15,102. This blog post analyses these figures and tries to highlight some of interesting details from them. [Read more below]
Winning electorate candidates in 2008 spent on average $12,836 to get elected – not a huge amount of money. In fact, only in 38 out of 70 electorates was the winning candidate also the largest spender. This is significant, because proponents of EFA-style electoral laws are inclined to repeat a mantra that ‘money buys elections’ and yet it seems that in 2008 there was a large number of candidates who won despite spending less than rivals (32 candidates).
The EFA extended the regulated period during which the state’s restrictions on political communications apply. Previously the limits on party and candidate election spending applied for only the three months up to polling day, but in 2008 it meant that the regulated period ran from 1 January to 7 November – that is 317 days or 44 weeks. There were also anecdotal accounts of reduced spending by candidates in marginal electorates. Some were apparently incredibly cautious in avoiding spending too close to the $20,000 expenditure cap in case it sparked post-election legal challenges. We can see that in the marginal electoral of Auckland Central, for example, Nikki Kaye only spent $11,901.
In some electorates the spending was particularly high – in places like Tauranga, Rimutaka, Mangere, and Ohariu, there were more than two high-spending candidates.
Some high spenders stood out as interesting: Peter Brown (NZF) spent $13,107 failing to win Bay of Plenty, Paul Adams ($19,424, Family) likewise in East Coast Bays, Roger Douglas ($18,139, Act) in Hunua, Philip Field ($15,128, Pacific) and Jerry Filipaina ($17,817, Family) in Mangere, Matt Robson ($10,588, Progressives) in Maungakiekie, Russell Fairbrother ($19,704, Labour) in Napier, Paul Tew ($16,484, Independent) in Rangitata, and Ron Mark ($18,810, NZF) in Rimutaka.
Some low spenders stood out as interesting: Maurice Williamson (National) won Pakuranga by apparently only spending $1,591 – unless there has been some sort of typo! Similarly, Pete Hodgson ($6,481, Labour) in Dunedin North, Rodney Hide ($6448, Act) in Epsom, Winnie Laban ($6273, Labour) in Mana, and George Hawkins ($5751, Labour) in Manurewa. Even multi-millionaire John Key only spent $9903 to win Helensvile! So perhaps our electoral system isn’t entirely awash with money.
How did the candidates spend their money?
Overall, of the $2.26 million of candidate expenditure, 23% was spent on newspaper advertising, 5% on radio and television advertising, 2% on internet advertising, and 70% on ‘other forms of advertising/publicity’.
Candidate spending categorized by political party
Spending for candidates can also be aggregated and averaged in terms of political party.
Green Party candidates spent a total of $40,816 (which added to the party’s other election expenditure takes its total 2008 spending to $1,746,938. The average spending for Green candidates was $1,020.
Labour Party candidates spent a total of $718,331 (which added to the party’s other election expenditure takes its total 2008 spending to $3,982,172. The average spending for Labour candidates was $10,262.
Maori Party candidates spent a total of $83,551 (which added to the party’s other election expenditure takes its total 2008 spending to $554,674. The average spending for Maori Party candidates was $11,936.
National Party candidates spent a total of $854,612 (which added to the party’s other election expenditure takes its total 2008 spending to $4,061,448. The average spending for National Party candidates was $13,565.
New Zealand First candidates spent a total of $132,868 (which added to the party’s other election expenditure takes its total 2008 spending to $1,165,939. The average spending for New Zealand First candidates was $6,039.
Donations to candidates
Declared donations to candidates amounted to $1,263,778. There were no overseas donations declared by candidates. This was a new requirement of the EFA. Also, there was only a total of $5100 in anonymous donations.
Some donations declared figures seem surprisingly high. The following is a list of candidates who declared receiving donations amounting to over $10,000:
There appears to be quite a discrepancy between what some of these candidates have declared in donations and what they have official spent. Of course some expenses are exempt (such as transport or opinion polling), or they may simply have chosen not to spend all of their funds, so this discrepancy might quite feasibly be explained. Nonetheless it’s interesting that Pita Sharples received $35,000 in donations but only spent $8,473, and Allan Peachy received $46,250 but only spent $15,102.
The information in this post is based upon the just released preliminary figures of candidate expenditure in the 2008 general election from Electoral Commission. The commission is still waiting on some candidate returns, and so these figures will change – I’ll update the data in this blog post when the very final figures are in, as well as adding some further analysis to this spending data in the future.