The lobbying of politicians to support better business conditions has, and always will be, an integral part of the democratic system.
In the case of property development, the stakes are very high, as are the risks, the most common of which is the rejection of a particular proposal. So developers are entitled to spend large amounts of money to present their project in the best way possible. This includes professional fees to lobbyists and public relation firms. No problem so far. Even ex-politicians are entitled to a life after politics, and they should not be excluded from working as lobbyists.
But when direct payments are made for “contact” with politicians, an immediate conflict of interest arises. Politicians are supposed to be paid adequately to represent their constituency without the need for additional payment. In fact it is against the law for politicians to accept bribes, and for anyone to pay politicians for favours (except the unions).
The difficulty is that as much as it is policed, brown paper bags will continue to surface, and many more are not even detected.
The capitalist system and the disproportionately high levels of value adding which is commonplace in property development will ensure that “money talks”.
All that we can hope for is that the legal system works and continues to make political bribery illegal. This should be extended to include all political donations to individuals and parties, including invitation only lunches and dinners. It should also include donations from trade unions.
The end result might be that less money is spent on election campaigns which may not be a bad thing. The more political parties have available to spend on campaigns, the more they will spend. This also works in reverse. With smaller budgets, more cost efficient campaigns will emerge, perhaps with more extensive use of the electronic medium.