It cost on average €3,728 to get elected to Kildare County Council in last May’s local elections, according to figures seen by the Leinster Leader.
The document, with the unwieldy title ‘Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure, Spending Limits and Political Donation Accounts at the Local Election on 23 May 2014’ reveals a total spend of €149,152 by all of the successful candidates. All councillors are required to reveal how much they spent, what they spent it on (in broad categories), and how much of it was from their own resources vs how much was donated to them from the resources of others.
Some members were more forthcoming in where the donations came from than others.
It is clear, broadly speaking, that spending equals votes. While political commentators may feel that the election worked out as they expected, this document reveals clearly that another factor is at play.
Something the commentators could not have known at the time but which is laid bare in this document is that the average spend of those who were not elected is much lower than those who were.
While some of those who lost spent as much as the more successful candidates, in one case, candidate Jean Berry, only spent €90. And it’s not unusual to see candidates spending less than €1,000.
To put that in context, the least that any of the elected candidates spent was Ide Cussen’s €1,098, just behind Sean Power’s €1,116 - and a figure of somewhere between €2,000 and €4,000 is quite regular.
The standout figures in this document come from two candidates - Fiona McLoughlin Healy (FG) spent €9,756 and Frank O’Rourke (FF) who spent €9,268.
Cllr. McLoughlin Healy emphasised that she was a new face in politics and was anxious to get her name out there, as well as distinguishing herself from Cllr. Fiona O’Loughlin, a long standing public representative with a similar name.
She also wondered how other candidates managed to get such great deals for advertising space.
Cllr. O’Rourke said he had done everything “100% above board”.
He said he was conscious that as a relative newcomer to politics that he needed to work hard to get his name out there.
“I noticed that everywhere I had a poster, other candidates also had a poster and at €6.50 a poster I’m not certain how they could get away with spending as little as they did. But that’s a matter for them.
“It was my own money. I wanted to get myself elected. I was in a very strong field of candidates in that District. I feel I ran a very good campaign and I had an excellent team and we wanted to be able to say that we did everything we could.
“As they say ‘we left it all on the dance floor’ and do our best to get elected and that’s what the cost reflected.”
Sinn Fein’s Ide Cussen was somewhat bemused to find herself at the bottom of the spending league.
“You don’t have to spend a lot to get elected. And I wouldn’t have access to a lot of money - that’s just how it worked out for me.
“We ordered x number of posters and x number of fliers and that was it.”
However she was conscious that geographically speaking, she didn’t have a number area to cover, unlike councillors in other districts.
Her campaign was targeted at the Celbridge, Leixlip and Ardclough areas.
The document reveals that generally speaking Fianna Fail members spent a third more than the average.
Martin Miley spent €3,050, all of which he raised himself; Naoise Ó Cearúil spent €5,259, €3,000 of which was donated to him; Fiona O’Loughlin spent €5,493, €2,200 was donated to her; Frank O’Rourke’s total spend was €9,268, €6,154 of which was donated to him; Robert Power, like his father, is on the lower end of the scale with a total spend of €1,795, €1,400 was donated to him.
Daragh Fitzpatrick’s total spend was just under the average at €3,678, all of which was his own money.
James Lawless spent €7,423, €5,175 was donated on his behalf.
Mark Dalton spent €5,576, €3,526 was donated to him.
Sean Power only spent €1,116, perhaps being less concerned with the recognition factor than others.
Paul Ward spent €6158, and all by €1,500 was his own money.
Suzanne Doyle spent €3,270, all of which was her own money.
Willie Callaghan spent €6,042, €2,000 of which was donated from a fundraising event for him.
With the exception of Fiona McLoughin Healy, Fine Gael members came in more less around the average figure.
Billy Hillis spent €2,151, all of which was donated to him according to the form he filled out.
Ivan Keatley spent €3,906, with only €405 of it from his own resources.
Tim Durkan spent €3,851, with €2,101 being donated to him.
Fiona McLoughlin Healy spent €9,756 with €7,565 being donated to her.
Joe Neville spent €4,003 with €2,100 being donated to him. He identifies this as being from the party.
Mark Stafford spent €5,887, €3,370 of which was not from his own resources.
Darren Scully spent €2,101, all of which was donated to him.
Brendan Weld spent €2,446, €2,096 of which was donated to him.
Fintan Brett came in at the lower end with a total spend of €1,860, with €250 of his own resources.
All but one of the Labour party members are notable by the fact that they were all well under the average.
Anne Breen spent €3,942, which included €2,572 of her own money. John McGinley spent €2,721, which included €1,471 of her own money. Mark Wall spent €2,930 which included a donation of €339.
Kevin Byrne spent €2,877 including €1,000 of his own resources.
Aoife Breslin spent €2,684 with only €339 being donated to her.
The Independents were a mixed bag with some spending way more than others.
Padraig McEvoy spent a total of €3,719, including a donation of €219.
Teresa Murray spent €5,607 which was mainly her own resources but included a €1,000 donation from the INTO.
Naas’s Seamie Moore spent €8,377 which included a donation from a golf classic fundraiser of €3,377.
Joanne Pender spent €3,113 and explained that fundraising had raised €3,450 and that she retained the small balance.
Brendan Young spent €3,982, all of which was donated to him.
Paddy Kennedy spent €4,658 which included a donation of €1,000
Anthony Larkin, spent €3,408, which included a donation of €219 from Catherine Murphy and €600 from a table quiz.
Willie Crowley spent €5,200, all of which was his own money.
Bernard Caldwell’s total spend was €1,350, all of which was his own.
Sinn Fein’s councillors spending came in at the lower end of the spectrum.
Thomas Redmond spent €2,169, all of which came from his own resources; Sorcha O’Neill spent €1,692 which included €317 of her own funds. Reada Cronin spent €1,535, all of which was donated. Ide Cussen spent €1,098, again all of which was donated to her.
Finally Mark Lynch spent €1,219, €500 of which was his own money.