The political trading you don't see

When Parliament passed the Organised Crime and Anticorruption Legislation Bill in 2015, it created a new criminal offence—‘trading in influence’.

But, Institute for Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) PhD student James Gluck says, influence trading is not clearly defined in the Bill and further investigation is required to elucidate what activities are influencing New Zealand’s politics, the impact they have and the subsequent implications in light of the Bill.

“Trading in influence is a form of corruption where people influence policy processes. It may take place through activities widely accepted as part of the political landscape such as lobbying, the honours system and other avenues that provide certain groups access to Ministers.”

His research aims to explore, describe and explain the context and behaviour of trading in influence that happens in New Zealand.

It’s not a straightforward task. “Access to politicians is easy to determine; what is less clear is the extent to which this may, or may not, lead to influence.”

His research includes interviewing politicians and those who draft policies, analysing the discourse of public debates on the topic and investigating party donations against political outcomes.

“I focus on lobbying, party funding and political appointments, as these have close relations to internationally well-known examples of corrupt practice. Lobbying occurs all over the world and, particularly in the United States, it is seen as a real threat to democratic integrity.

“In the United Kingdom, there are significant concerns about ties between party donations and granted honours, and how these can translate into influence trading. New Zealand has many close parallels with these nations and so these two activities offer an interesting scope for investigation.

“We must take this issue seriously. The IGPS’s survey last year showed trust in politicians and government is incredibly low. Regardless of the legalities, it damages and degrades the public’s trust in our political institutions.”