by Frank Schnittger
Tue Jun 30th, 2009 at 02:23:20 PM EST
I am not one to dance on other people's graves, but the collapse of Libertas post the European Elections has been truly spectacular.
Libertas on brink of extinction after poll disaster costs 40m - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie
LIBERTAS has sunk into oblivion after forking out up to 40m on its disastrous European campaign, an Irish Independent investigation has found.
In Ireland alone, the party spent between 600,000 and 700,000 during the 30-day campaign. That figure is much higher when the major billboard campaign -- run at an estimated cost of 200,000 before election spending limits came into effect -- is factored in.
Libertas claims all these bills are accounted for from donations and fundraising, with the exception of between 20,000 and 30,000 which will be paid off through "dinners and golf tournaments", one source said.
But after running 532 candidates across Europe, just three countries are considering continuing with the Libertas banner -- Britain, Estonia and Slovakia.
The only candidate out of 532 candidates who won election for Libertas, French MEP Philippe de Villiers, confirmed he was no longer a member of the organisation.
The party's offices in Dublin, Brussels and London were all closed when the Irish Independent attempted to contact them this week.
Remaining Libertas members in Ireland are expected to meet in the coming weeks to decide if the party should be wound up, whether a new leader should be elected or if it should return to the status of a "think tank".
The Irish Independent doesn't really detail how they arrived at their figure of 40M, but if the figure is anything near true, it begger's belief that it could have been raised by popular subscriptions alone. There simply is no tradition of the public donating to a political party on anything like that scale - in Ireland, in any case.
The Annual reports of the Standards in Public Office [SIPO] typically disclose donations amounting to a few tens of thousands, if any, although it should be noted that donations below 5,000 by an individual to a political party need not be reported to SIPO. However it shouldn't be too difficult for a rich organisation or individual to find surrogates who will allow 5,000 to be donated under their names.
Had Ganley et al succeeded in being elected, there is no doubt that we would have never heard the end of them decrying the "unelected elites" of the EU and their undemocratic policies and practices. But will we ever find out where all this money really came from? I very much doubt it.
Fortunately, true to the pattern of "Führer led" parties, the party seems set to disappear now that its leader's credibility has been undermined by a lack of electoral success. But it could so easily have been otherwise, and the whole episode shows just how vulnerable our democratic institutions are to subversion. Unfortunately party finance reform is going to go to the bottom of political priorities now that Ganley is gone. It shouldn't be thus, of course. But the other parties are hardly going to focus on this important issue now that the elections are over and funding is so hard to come by.
Just how private funding of political parties is supposed to be compatible with public accountability and democracy has always been beyond me. If you want a democratic political system, you have to pay for it. Otherwise the "democrats" will dance to someone else's tune. It's time the taxpayers started paying the piper to ensure he plays a public tune.