The Irish Times leader is on ethics and standards in public life today. Good piece. Ending paragraph;
It is not just Fianna Fáil that has behaved badly over ethical legislation and transparency. Because political donations below a certain limit do not have to be disclosed to the standards commission, many donations were set below the limit.. The commission also suspects that large donations may be split up into small amounts to avoid disclosure. Last year, when local, European and byelections were held, not a single donation was publicly recorded by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or the Labour Party. This is a disgrace. Ethical standards and political funding mechanisms require fundamental reform.
Interesting bit in bold there.
Parties use various methods to effectively bypass the donations system. We’ve written about this pretty extensively in the past. Two pieces maybe worth re-reading if you’re interested in the topic. This one on a prior Times leader on funding reform which I disagreed with…
One oddity of the current system for donations to individuals is related to declaration thresholds. Despite being obliged to open an account once they receive a donation exceeding €126.97, politicians don’t have to declare full details of any donations less than €643.97 to the Standards in Public Office Commission. This means the bank account, for the purposes of transparency, is effectively useless unless a donation exceeding €643.97 is made. Reducing the declaration threshold from €643.97 to €126.97 while ensuring all transactions below the lower figure are on record anonymously would be beneficial to the transparency of the funding process. This would mean the public could inspect the credit and debit side of the donations account upon declaration and see if there were excessive amounts of donations made for more than, say, €100. If this was the case and SIPO suspected several of these may have come from one individual, SIPO should have the right to inspect the account in detail.
Of course a significant increase in the level penalties imposed against those who breach the above would also be warranted also. That almost goes without saying.
And one of the first posts on this site from way-back-when, when I tended to adopt a more cynical radical tone; Want to bypass our donations system? No problem.
The dreamer in me has been telling for while not the write this post. “Don’t tell the good politicians how the bold ones work the system”, it screamed. The other 99% of me said, “fuck it, they all know about this anyway, it’s whether they chose to work it or not is the question”. So here, dear reader, I tell you how I understand our public representatives can work the donations system…
Pretty much a how-to, that one, but perhaps insightful.