The Electoral Commission has just published details on its website of the political party declarations of donations received (over $10,000) for 2009. The most obvious observation to be made is the lack of donations declared – only $203,667 in total (which is common for post-election years like 2009). Many parties, including National, submitted ‘nil returns’, while those that did declare donations had very few, and very small donations. The Green Party declared the highest amount of money donated ($147,462 mostly from its MPs), followed by Act ($20,000 from ‘Virtual Bucket’ Ltd?), Progressives ($15,000 from Juken Nissho Ltd, ‘a Japanese owned forestry company operating in New Zealand’) the Maori Party ($11,142 from Pita Sharples), and the Labour Party ($10,063 from Phil Goff). These extremely low amounts reflect the fact that in New Zealand private donations to political parties make up only a small proportion of the overall funding that parties receive. Indirect state funding via parliamentary budgets make up the vast majority of funding. In fact, even in terms of these ‘private donations’ declared to the Electoral Commission, most of the money declared seems to come from MPs themselves, which is quite significant. Most parliamentary parties require their MPs to commit a small proportion of their extremely generous parliamentary salary to the party organisation – normally termed a ‘tithe’, akin to the money that churches require from their members. Essentially, parties like the Greens which demand a tithe of about 10% are able to convert yet another parliamentary-derived resource into state funding for their party organization. And this is why it’s particularly silly for so-called ‘political finance reformers’ to focus so much on regulating private money in politics. As I’ve argued before – see, for example, State funding of political parties is bad for democracy and Myth 14: State funding promotes democracy and strong parties – the current state funding has a much more negative influence on politics, making political parties much more ideological moderate, reliant on their leaders, less interested in recruiting members, and less likely to foster organic relationships with civil society. It means we end up with a ‘political class’ in Parliament that is addicted to state subsidies, building careers, and less interested in changing society in any significant way or offering voters any real choice between them.