How can we marry the concepts of proof of integrity yet freedom of choice and speech in the question of political donations?
I do not like the present situation. It is entirely open to abuse. Yet I do not like the option of taxpayer funded candidates. There are some parties and people I personally do not wish to support and I am sure many in the community feel the same way.
There seems to me to be another option which should not be too hard.
In current parlance, how about the appointment of a “Commissioner for the Integrity of Political Donations”? This could be quite a small office, government administered yet completely funded by a set percentage of each donation and not by the taxpayer. All political donations would have to go through this office. Donations could be directed to parties, to individuals, to factions or even to groups (to give a couple of examples, all women standing for election or all Catholics candidates and so on). The “commissioner’s” job would be to keep records, which would then be available for regulated scrutiny, and pass the donation on to the nominated entity.
However each donation must be accompanied by a witnessed form, much like a statutory declaration in that misinformation on this form would result in a likely criminal conviction for the donor making such a declaration. This would be a very simple process in the case of individual or institutional donations.
In the case of situations such as dinners or other similar functions to raise money it would be a little more complicated. The organiser would be responsible for collection of the money, payment of the expenses and must disclose all of the above in the declaration when the balance raised is donated.
This form would be compulsory for all donations. Even inter familial donations or inter party donations, such as state funds donated to a federal election or vice versa must be declared for this to work. It would also be compulsory for unions which could contain an opt out condition for members.
What would be the exceptions? It seems to be clear to me that people must be allowed to donate their personal services without a declaration, such as publicly handing out How To Vote forms, letter box dropping, door knocking, speaking at rallies. There would need to be some consideration as to when these personal services intersect with donation of professional services, which would have to be declared. For example hand painted signs would be different from donated professional signs.
If the conditions were very specific and all embracing, this should not be too onerous a task for our “commissioner”. But the penalties for non disclosure should be quite strong. This would put the onus directly on the donor, which may take some of the heat out of the issue for the candidate as all he or she would have to ensure is that any donation accepted only comes through such commissioner.