Political Parties & Dues

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Political Parties & Dues (Part 3)

In looking for case studies around the world to show examples of the need to impose dues on political party members, we were able to find a case study in the United States and one in Canada. We have gathered evidence showing how party leaders and scholars have lambasted the decisions to either lower dues, get rid of them, or not collect them enough. We have also shown how these instances affected these parties, and what happened in one instance when the dues were re-implemented. There was an effort to find another example from another country but we were unsuccessful. There was also no success in giving deeper insight into how dues helped Republicans win in 2014. We explain our methodology below, and discuss the case studies we have found.

Methodology

To find the case studies we needed, we searched for pre-compiled case studies of political parties failing to set up a dues-paying system or not charging enough. We set our parameters wide enough to catch case studies from around the world and found reports in the International Idea and some academic websites. However, these reports mainly spoke about political financing on a whole, and the report in International Idea used African countries to say how dues would not work in many of those countries. Because of this, we changed strategy.

In this strategy, we decided to search by country in Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia, and a few other countries for their most popular political parties, and find the dues on each political party website. With this information, we were hoping to use this to look for instances where there was criticism of the collection of dues from a party leader. In our search, we did encounter one instance of the Conservative Party in the UK raising their dues in 2016, but when we looked to find why they had done so, we found that they reversed their decision. Eventually, we happened upon a website which lists how each political party charges fees in Canada. We found that only Canada had a political party, the Liberal Party, that didn't charge any dues. We then found out that the decision not to charge dues ultimately backfired, and there were criticisms from political experts about that decision. This example was used because it fits all criteria, but because we only found this example, we changed strategy.

Our next strategy was to look through news reports and interviews of political leaders that spoke of party dues. This search brought us through sites like The Financial Times, US News, and others that published stories of Congressional dues and more stories about the dues system in the UK, and after more searching, we happened upon the news section of The Center for Responsive Politics, which is a nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C. It published a story about the GOP going on a drive to push for payment of membership dues by Congressional Republicans to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Because this story met the criteria, we decided to include this example.

With the example from Canada and the US, we gathered more quantitative and qualitative data to explain these two scenarios. During this time, we found everything we needed to answer all criteria for Canada, but for the United States, we were missing a definite link between membership dues and their failure or success. Our first method in finding this was to do a straightforward search for how membership dues helped the Republican party. This search brought up articles that we found before, so we switched strategy to look through the FEC to see if we could find a breakdown of the NRCC in 2014. What we found instead was a breakdown from 2013-2014, and they lumped both donations and dues into "individual contributions". With this information, our next step was to see if we could find what percentage dues make up "individual contributions" so that we could calculate the due total, but we only found more political pieces which didn't help. We used what we had to answer as much information as we could. We believe that there may be more instances outside of North America that can be found through more searches with adequate time.

Republicans Crack Down on Dues Delinquency

In 2014, the National Republican Congressional Committee was facing a multimillion-dollar shortfall in fundraising compared to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The NRCC was actually behind the DCCC by $22 million and by the end of May 2014, the DCCC raised $113 million compared to $91 million by the NRCC. It had long been known that Republican caucus members were delinquent on their dues. As a matter of fact, out of 234 GOP members in the House, there were only 120 that paid their dues in full. Near the end of April 2014, NRCC Chairman Greg Walden put Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) in charge of making sure dues are paid. He said:

"The NRCC is a member-driven organization and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come in marshaling the resources needed to make sure Nancy Pelosi is never speaker again. With Tom now leading the effort to encourage and grow member participation on the way to November, I’m confident we’ll be welcoming many new Republican colleagues to Congress."

Even though Chairman Walden's message was positive and hopeful, the fact that John Boehner, who was then Speaker of the House, moved to ensure that dues were paid shows how much they were serious about it that time, as they needed to get the money for November. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a strong Boehner ally and former NRCC chairman, said that the speaker was so concerned about dues to the point that:

"He thinks we are risking our majority for not giving our best effort. I think he thinks the conditions are pretty ripe for us. We think we have the opportunity to pick up seats. But if you go into an election with a major cash disparity, then we run the risk of losing the majority that really shouldn’t be in jeopardy. That’s what he’s said, and I agree with him 100 percent."

The Politico story about the dues problem was published in August of that year and embarrassed certain House members who were large recipients of donations from the NRCC but were delinquent, such as Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania. Goodlatte's campaign eventually transferred $468,450 by the end of July, and Shuster's campaign and leadership PAC ultimately gave $245,000.

Seeing Boehner's push and their subsequent win goes to show how important these dues were to the functioning of the NRCC. Not only that, but those who donate the most have been on a fast-track to sit on Committee seats. In total, in the period January 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014, the NRCC received over $125,000,000 in dues which include dues from Congress and funds from other members. It shows they spent $93.6 million, showing that they had a surplus of cash to spend. Even though Republicans were raising money through PACs, dues are what enables the NRCC to help run campaigns for representatives. The Republicans wound up retaking both Chambers of Congress in November.

Canadian Liberal Party

In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put forward a proposal to his Liberal Party that they should open it up by making the membership cost-free. He made the suggestion based on a survey which found that 96% of respondents endorsed opening up party membership more broadly. Also in 2013, when Trudeau won as Canadian leader, non-members were invited to vote without first getting a membership, which resulted in an additional 300,000 people registering to vote. Before the fee was cut, Liberals were paying $10 a year for membership. This move came at the same time when the Conservative Party raised their dues to $25.

A year later, annual filings by Elections Canada showed that Conservatives outraised Liberals. They received $18.8 million, compared to the Liberals' $13.9 million, a decrease of $3.3 million from the year before. Conservatives earned $3.5 million in dues in 2017 alone, compared to the zero that Liberals earned.

Political writer and broadcaster Tasha Kheiriddin said that the Liberal party's move has serious implications not just for them, but politics on a whole in Canada.

"But don’t kid yourself — free membership isn’t free. It comes at a price, and that price is your personal information. In the age of Big Data, your email address is far more valuable than your $10."

She continues to bring up more ethical problems that surround the free membership to the Liberal party. Even though they have not yet gone back on their position, the data shows that the fees were very important when you look at the way that in 2016 Conservatives raised their dues while Liberals removed theirs, and a year later Conservatives earned a bigger profit than before while Liberals lost money compared to the year before.


Part
02
of three
Part
02

Political Parties & Dues (Part 2)

Four political parties that where membership dues serve as the majority or significant portion of party revenue are Labour party, Green party, NDP and Fine Gael.

The Green Party of England and Wales

For the Green Party of England and Wales, membership depends on personal wage. The standard membership cost and renewal are at 36 Euros a year (paid either 3 Euros per month or a one-time pay of 36 Euros for the year), while for those with low wage or for those who live outside England or Wales, the cost is 12 Euros per year. Meanwhile, for students and the unemployed, the price is 6 Euros per year. The membership dues are 23% of the party’s total income, making it a significant part of the party’s overall revenue.

A member in the party gives privileges such as the ability to vote in house elections, updates on political campaigns, an invitation to the party’s events, a chance to participate in the party’s issues, and being a part of a political party that works to eliminate criminal justice.

Labour Party

The standard membership and renewal cost for the Labour party is 15 Euros. However, for students, the youth, and the elderly, the party asks only 10 Euros for a standard membership. Moreover, it was reported that in 2017, the party raised almost 10 million Euros because of a surge in membership. It was also higher than what the conservative party raised during the year.

Membership in the party gives privileges such as having a part in party policies and internal elections, access to tools and resources for the party’s events and campaign rallies, being a part of a group with like-minded individuals, and an invitation to become an official candidate for the Labor party.

NDP, Canada

The cost of party membership and renewal in NDP, Canada is between $20 and $400 above. It is one of Canada’s most influential and leading political parties because of its membership and support.

Privileges for members include the ability to vote for the members of the EDA Board of Directors, the next delegates for the delegate selection meeting, and the EDA’s official candidate for the next federal election. The party also gives members the ability to run for various positions such as an EDA Board of Director, a delegate for the party’s next national policy convention, a member of the party’s national council, and a party candidate for the next federal election.

Fine Gael

The standard membership and renewal cost for Fine Gael is 20 Euros. However, for students and OAP, the price is 12 Euros. The party is considered to be the 2nd strongest political party in Ireland because of its membership.

Member privileges for the party include access to the member’s hub (a hub that contains exclusive content for members), email updates from Taoiseach and Ministers, the ability to choose candidates for the party, party connections, and an invitation to party events such as Ardfheiseanna, National Conferences, and the Presidential Dinner.

Part
03
of three
Part
03

Political Parties & Dues (Part 1)

Political party dues imposed to its members is a common practice implemented by all parties. In the US, a leaked document obtained in 2014 detailed the contributions that Democrats imposed for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif to contribute $800,000. The Republicans had their dues leaked in 2011 when Politico reported the names and outstanding bills of some GOP lawmakers. On the other hand, UK political parties draw very different proportions of their income from membership subscriptions; for example, Greens and SNP are parties for whom membership fees count as a primary source of income.

How Often Do Political Parties Impose Dues on their Members

The UK political parties draw different proportions from their membership dues. UK parties such as the Greens and SNP rely on membership subscriptions as their primary source of income. When it comes to the political spectrum, the conservatives are in the bottom, while the Liberal Democrats are in the near-bottom. The Labour, Plaid Cymru, and UKIP are in the intermediate group. Additionally, easy membership, low-cost fees, and post-general election changes like the structure found in the SNP promote people joining into the party. It is one of the reasons why SNP the party is gaining more members throughout the years. Having a structure that promotes more people joining the party is important because the revenue gained from membership dues is a way to compensate for the funding and advertising in parties.

Moreover, in 2016, a report has shown the percentage of membership dues in the revenue of various UK political parties. The Labour party’s membership dues constitute about 29% of the party’s overall income, while in the conservative party has its membership dues constitute around 25% of the party’s total income. Liberal Democrats reported that membership dues constitute only 11% of the party’s income, while both the Green Party and the SNP has the highest revenue coming from their membership dues, with 40% and 53%, respectively. The UKIP has their membership dues constituting 25% of the party’s overall revenue, while the Plaid Cymru has the same value.

Meanwhile, the US political system relies on party memberships heavily as a way to shore up funds. In addition to this, the current campaign rules do not limit how much a member could transfer into the party’s funds, and the more prestigious is the party, the higher the party “dues” would be, and these “dues” are usually used to make the party competitive in the given electoral system.

Party dues are essential in the US political system because the structure is bipartisan, where both parties are meant to impose party dues to its members. Additionally, it is promoted because when a party knows that the other party asks each member of its party for contributions, the other political party is then inclined to follow suit. That creates a vicious cycle of a “mutually assured fundraising destruction.” Moreover, these party dues are usually asked from people sitting on congressional committees and from those seeking a seat in the government. This phenomenon can significantly be seen in the members of the House, and even the Senate. In addition to this, both the Republican National Congressional Committee (RNCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) have fundraising quotas on elected representatives. These quotas are usually hidden from the public, and it heavily factors as to who will run the government.

A leaked document which was obtained in 2014 showed how much the Democrats imposed on their members. An example of this would be the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, who was asked to contribute $800,000 to the party. Moreover, different lawmakers have different tabs. It was found that ranking Democrats in “exclusive” committees have to contribute $500,000, while the top Democrats in less powerful committees are asked $250,000. The Republican also had their document leaked in 2011. The Politico reported on this leak, and the names and outstanding bills of some GOP lawmakers.

Sentiments Around the Practice of Political Party Dues

UK political parties have received an increase in membership ever since its low base in 2010. About 950,000 people are part of a political party, in a population of 65.6 million. The Labour Party and the SNP have shown strong recent growth.

US former representative Zach Wamp reported that party dues are a form of “virtual extortion,” in the US political system. Representative Thomas Massie agrees with this sentiment stating that party dues are “likened to extortion.” Representative Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, defined it as a “corrosive system of public begging, and colleague-luring.” Other critics about the system state that the more a political member gives to the party, the more chances he or she gets a political seat in the government. It is seen in the most powerful committees, and because of the negative view of party dues, many members of the Congress are rebelling on the imposed costs they received during their time.

Nonetheless, many lawmakers still state that party dues are not compulsory and are not linked to committee assignments. Moreover, in 1964, it was reported that 30% of the US government was run by a few with big interests, while 70% said that it was for the people. In 1990 the percentage increased to 50% who stated that a few with big interests ran the government. In 2000, 65% said that few with big interests ran the government, and in 2018, the perception received its all-time high, with 92% believing that the government is run by people with big interests.
Sources
Sources

From Part 02
Quotes
  • "We are proud to do politics differently but we need determined, caring people like you to help us make it happen."
Quotes
  • "In 2014 membership income was 23% of Green Party income, 15% of Labour Party income, 9% of Liberal Democrat Party income but just 2% of Conservative Party income. "
Quotes
  • "By submitting this form you are agreeing to the following statement: I am not a member nor supporter of any other political party. I declare that I accept and will abide by the Constitution, principles, and policies of the NDP of B.C. and of Canada."
Quotes
  • "In Ireland and Germany, over one-third of total party income derives from membership fees. "
Quotes
  • "The members are the lifeblood of the Party. As a member of Fine Gael, you will be part of a 30,000 strong organisation that’s focused on protecting the economy and making people’s lives better, particularly hard-pressed working families."
Quotes
  • "The UK Labour party raised close to £10m more than the Conservatives last year, after a surge in membership under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn."
Quotes
  • "to join the NDP federally, you must join provincially since there is no legal difference between the NDP federally and provincially and thus the membership rates differ depending on which province you reside in. "
From Part 03
Quotes
  • "Political parties in the UK are normally stable organisations. Their vote shares and party membership levels typically alter only moderately from one period to the next."
  • "Party membership in the UK has increased from a low base in 2010, but it is still low. Around 950,000 people are party members, out of a population of 65.6 million, with Labour and the SNP both showing strong recent growth. Conservative membership is now perhaps the most elderly of all the parties and remains small relative to Labour’s renewed mass membership"
Quotes
  • "A leaked document, obtained in 2014 by Buzzfeed News, detailed the dues that Democrats impose on their House members. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was expected to contribute $800,000 that election cycle to the DCCC. Lawmakers who served as the ranking Democrats on "exclusive" committees had tabs of $500,000, while the top Democrats on less powerful committees were billed $250,000."
  • "The Republicans had their own dues leak in 2011, when Politico reported the names and outstanding bills of some GOP lawmakers in a story that suggested party leaders had admonished them for failing to pony up."
Quotes
  • "Every single member of the House, of both parties, is given a target they are expected to raise for the party. For example, a DCCC internal document itemizes every Democratic member’s party dues and the amount expected to be raised on behalf of the DCCC. Knowing that the opposing party mandates party dues forces the other to follow suit, thereby creating a vicious cycle of mutually assured fundraising destruction."