The Democracy4sale project is an initiative of Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon on behalf of the Greens NSW. The Greens took a leading role in the campaign to reform political donations because we believe donations taint the democratic process - they allow big business to buy a level of access to politicians that ordinary people can't afford.
In 2002 then Greens MP Lee Rhiannon and Dr Norman Thompson, Director of the Democracy4sale project, began a small research project to classify the top donor companies by industry sector to see what influence political donations were having on the major parties. They estimated the project would take about 30 hours. Read about the project's history.
Ten years and thousands of research hours later the Democracy4sale project analyses all political donations made to the NSW divisions and Federal divisions of the major parties, and local government in NSW, and presents this data to the public in a simple website that sorts donations to political parties by donor industry category.
Although details of donations have been available from the Election Funding Authority since 1981 it was only with the establishment of the Greens Democracy4sale.org research project in 2001 that the public could readily access information on the quantity of money coming from individual donors and from categories of donors such as property developers, the finance sector, clubs and hotels and the finance sector. This website has proved to be an invaluable tool for journalists, community groups and concerned individuals wanting to highlight the impact of political donations on the democratic process.
Democracy4sale has been the centrepiece of the Greens campaign for far reaching reform of political funding. The campaign has also included private members bills, public meetings and the preparation of many briefs on donation stories for journalists. Former NSW Premier Iemma's decision in 2009 to begin reform of the political funding regime was certainly linked to the growing number of scandals that dogged both the Coalition and Labor parties. Without a massive public outcry the major parties would have happily continued to pocket the millions of dollars from corporate and group donations that have become the lifeline for their exorbitant election campaigns.
The success of the project has been the raised public awareness about the corrupting influence of political donations and the need for reform of the system. Years of research and campaigning culminated in 2008 with the NSW Upper House Donations Inquiry and the undertaking by the Government and the Opposition to clean up donations. The NSW government finally banned donations in February 2012 with the support of the Greens in the Legislative Council.