Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, or so we’re told. But how much is the cost of democracy? Well, in New York State, it you won’t get change from $US30 million – $39 mil in our money.

The New York Times is reporting “She had only token opposition, but Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton still spent more on her re-election – upward of $30 million – than any other candidate for Senate this year”.

What did Hillary spend it on? Well, according the NYT $17 million went on advertising and fundraising mailings – but it adds “Mrs Clinton also bought more than $13,000 worth of flowers, mostly for fundraising events and as thankyous for donors. She laid out $27,000 for valet parking…”

Thank God it doesn’t happen here. Or does it?

The population of New York State, according the US Census Bureau, is 19,254,630. The ABS estimates that at 11:00am this morning 20,706,900 people lived in Australia. So, we’ve got electorates of similar sizes.

Hillary spent upwards of $A39 million. And in a media release dated 9 December 2004, the Australian Electoral Commission announced it would be dishing out just under $42 million in electoral funding.

What did that pay for? Nothing, maybe. A paper prepared for the ANU’s Democratic Audit of Australia explains:

In Australia… at the federal level public funding is an entitlement: parties or Independent candidates get a fixed amount per vote (now set at A$2.05) when they receive more than 4% of first preference ballots in any division… The parties do not even need to show that they actually spent the money they receive: a group that reaches the threshold can spend the money on a party secretariat or even pocket the difference between the public grant and what was spent.

“The parties do not even need to show that they actually spent the money they receive.”

At least Hillary’s friends got flowers.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey