The political etiquette of envelopes

Last updated 16:30 31/07/2012

There is no such thing as the envelope of anonymity.

Down at the Off-The-Record Bar last week, I found myself perched on a stool next to a senior party functionary, and the talk turned to donations, anonymous and otherwise.

He started with a story about the day a generous donor handed him a sealed envelope, which he quickly opened in the nearest cafe. (''Because the first thing you do when you get an envelope is open it.'')

Inside was a cheque for his own party, as well as one twice as big for his main opponent.

Embarrassment all round when he called the rich donor and offered to pass it on to his counterpart in the other party.

The conversation then turned to how it was logically impossible to receive, in person, an anonymous donation in a sealed envelope.

1) First you have to make a call on whether to open it.
1a) If you open it, you know it is a cheque and the gift is not anonymous.
1b) If you don't rip it open it means you have a strong suspicion it is a donation, but you want it to be ''anonymous'' - though at that point it is not really anonymous. Then:

2) If you don't open it and instead pass it on to - say - your campaign treasurer to open, then either:
2a) He opens it, finds it's a cheque and does not tell you. Then you can be sure it is a donation, so it is not anonymous.
2b) He opens it, finds it is, oh, a birthday card, or an invitation to a night on the pokies, and passes it back to you, at which point you know it was not an anonymous donation.
2c) He opens it, finds it's a card or an invitation and forgets to hand it back, at which point you should:

3) Not trust him, and certainly not sign any election return he puts in front of you, if you find out his error, or
3a) Not sign the return, because you think it was a donation, even if it wasn't, so it was not anonymous.

Which is all very well in theory, but no one banks on that ever happening in real life, eh?

17 comments
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to win political influence...   #1   04:44 pm Jul 31 2012

so if politicians are in the habit of not opening envelopes even though they know who they are from, then the way to win political influence would be to hand them an envelope with a cheque for $10.

brian   #2   05:04 pm Jul 31 2012

A good point, there is certainly no such thing as an anonymous donation, someone,sometime must account for it.I guess that we can expect little else from someone whos whole claim to fame is having a cup of tea with the opposition.Just a comment on the tea party,I was stongly reminded of the times thatI had been to the Wellington zoo, and watched a similar performance, put on for our amusement by the zoo chimps.Makes you wonder dont it.

Dean   #3   05:19 pm Jul 31 2012

"no one banks on that"

I see what you did there

Don Juan   #4   06:03 pm Jul 31 2012

As a general principle, folk who accumulate considerable wealth achieve this situation by focussing on "self interest" When these same folk become involved in the world of politics,it is unrealistic to presume that their self interest no longer is applied,, When the above conditions are considered it would need a denial of reality to think that ethics could ever overcome self interest in the above opinion piece ??

joanna_jo   #5   06:05 pm Jul 31 2012

Some very pertinent questions were asked of Mr Banks this afternoon at questions time; ................ Oh Mr Banks you are an absolute tosser if you think any honest person in this country has any respect for you.

Alan_Wilkinson   #6   06:31 pm Jul 31 2012

Not very relevant when someone deposits a cheque into your campaign account at a bank in Queenstown.

Kimbo   #7   07:20 pm Jul 31 2012

"Which is all very well in theory, but no one banks on that ever happening in real life, eh?"

Indeed, but the fact remains no one can ever prove Banks opened the envelope.

All the more reason to change a ridiculous unenforceable law.

Peter   #8   09:38 am Aug 01 2012

Bank's must resign, it's the only honourable thing to do.

Rolly Atreides   #9   10:07 am Aug 01 2012

Yes, like a number of politicians before him Banks SHOULD resign... but won't because he will have self-justification and righteousness in overdrive. Change the law. Disappointing that he didn't get sacked... just like some before him.

PS   #10   10:16 am Aug 01 2012

Unless it is a bank(s) cheque it is not anonymous


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