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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Keeping to the rules

It is a common problem faced by all parties that political campaigning costs money and we all take every opportunity to maximise our income for that purpose. It is only natural therefore that when one party launches a particular campaign on an issue with limited but nevertheless enthusiastic support then they will use it to raise cash as well.

All of that is of course legitimate but the minimum expectation in this process is one of transparency. Indeed the relevant Act of Parliament demands such transparency. It is of some concern that this does not appear to have been achieved on the new Plaid Cymru site on Independence.

Today's Western Mail suggests that the Wales Can website may not be fully compliant with electoral law. Donations are requested for Wales Can not Plaid Cymru and it is not clear that the money will go to the party, though a spokesperson suggests that it will.

In addition on the donations page there is a drop-down menu which invites the donor to indicate which of 200 countries they may be from even though there are clear guidelines on accepting donations from abroad. It is not forbidden but it is regulated and there are maximum limits on how much can be given by a non-British resident.

All of this can be overcome of course with some tweaks to the site explaining the rules to potential donors and making it clear that the money will go to Plaid Cymru and not some putative independence campaign. Given the problems Plaid Cymru have had on their own site recently in not putting data protection warnings onto on-line petitions, it is an area that they need to clear up.

In the meantime we will all be looking at Electoral Commission reports to see if this site on Independence attracts any substantial donations for Plaid Cymru.

from what I understand it is the responsibility of the party to check the donations once they are given. If they are seen to be illegitimate i.e. the donor has given over £200 but has not been registered to vote in the UK then the money must be returned.

I do not know if there is a particular rule about accepting money from someone who is later convicted of fraud and then absconds their bail but I'm pretty sure if Plaid had received £2.4m from a fraudster and had then used this money in the 2005 election to spend a record £250,000 in Wales then they'd be a bit more careful before throwing such foolish accusations. Shame on you Peter!
I am not throwing accusations just reflecting valid criticisms of the site. It is the party's responsibility to check donations, hence my last paragraph but it also their responsibility to be clear about what money they receive is used for and where it goes.

As for the £2.4m you know as well as me that there was no indication at the time that the donor was a fraudster and the electoral commission is satisfied that the donation was legitimate. If they change their mind on that we will address that point at the time but at present there is no sign of that happening. There is no shame in that.

Do you have any other sources apart from the Western Mail's website for Welsh-related topics?

Are you on commission?
Well despite its low circulation it is still the paper of record in Wales. However, I also refer to the BBC, other newspaper sites and other blogs.
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