Len’s $500,000 secret trust

December 11th, 2010 at 9:43 am by David Farrar

Just the day after the NZ Herald praised Len Brown as “winning the battle for greater openness”, it is revealed that Len has used a secret trust to launder $500,000 of donations anonymously to his campaign.

Jonathan Marshall at the Dom Post reports:

the former Manukau mayor declared donations totalling $581,900.95, of which $499,000 was to the previously unknown New Trust. That meant he did not have to tell the electoral officer the names of most individuals and companies that contributed to his campaign because the trust was listed on his return as the main contributor.

Labour has spent the last five years railing against the use of secret trusts in politics, and here Labour Party member is revealed to have used one. This is another example of the stinking hypocrisy of Labour.

They spent a year attacking Sam Lotu-lliga for being a Councillor and an MP, and then they endorse Jim Anderton to be a Mayor and an MP.

They spent five years attacking secret trusts, and they use one for the campaign for the most powerful directly elected job in New Zealand.

The Herald reports:

Mr Brown’s campaign manager, David Lewis, last night defended using the New Auckland Council Trust to protect donors’ identities.

He said the campaign raised money from hundreds of people from across the political spectrum who supported the mayor’s vision.

Most wanted anonymity “as per the current laws, simply because they are private persons with no interest in being in the media”.

The Electoral Act requires candidates to identify any donor contributing $1000 or more to a campaign, if they know the name of that person or organisation. But Mr Lewis said the mayor had “no idea who donated to his campaign”.

Oh what bullshit. Of course he knows.

The local electoral laws do not outlaw the use of secret trusts, as the national electoral law does. Even worse they on;y require the use of this secret trust to be revealed after the election. Think how many votes would have been lost if it had been revealed before the election that Len Brown had received $500,000 of donations filtered through a secret trust.

Now as I said, Labour and the Greens have spent five years railing against secret trusts in politics. I await those political parties condemning Len Brown for his $500,000 secret trust – so secret they have not even filed its trust deed with the Registrar of Trusts (they are not legally obliged to). Will media demand Len reveal who set the trust up, who the trustees are. How about even a partial amount of accountability and reveal the largest individual donation made to Len through the trust?

The Mayor of Auckland has powers beyond any other Mayor in New Zealand. Do Labour and the Greens not think we should know if someone donated $250,000 to Len?

Phil Goff in Sep 2008 said:

The National Party, at the last election, got $2 million from secret trusts, anonymously—secret donations. The country wants to know who those donors were, what their commercial motivation was in promising you that money, and in giving you that money, and they want to know what the National Party and Mr Key promised in return.

So what we should now hear from Phil Goff is:

Len Brown, at the last election, got $500,000 from secret trusts, anonymously—secret donations. The country wants to know who those donors were, what their commercial motivation was in promising Len that money, and in giving Len that money, and they want to know what the Len Brown promised in return.

Incidentally John Banks disclosed all his donations in excess of $1,000. Some of these were anonymous, and as with national politics there should be a cap on how big an anonymous donation can be – such as $1,000.

How many of Len’s donors have been appointed to his personal staff, to ratepayer funded jobs? How many were appointed to CCOs? We have no way of knowing, due to his secret trust.

I bear little hope that a man who spent six months fighting to keep the names of those invited to a ratepayer funded dinner secret, will reveal his major donors. But, the Government should look to change the law so the finance provisions of the Electoral Act apply to local body elections, to ensure Aucklanders in future know who are the secret funders of their Mayor.

Note that in my submission on the Electoral Finance Bill in 2007, I proposed that the law should require disclosure of donations through trusts.

UPDATE: The hypocrisy gets worse. Here is what Len Brown said a year ago:

“We have seen the dangers of big money entering national politics, with concerns over sources and transparency of party funding, and the emergence of third party campaigns. Local government has avoided these issues, but they could emerge were candidates under pressure to raise large sums in order to be competitive,” he said.

So Len Brown talked about concerns over transparency of funding, and then set up a secret trust which he funnelled $500,000 through.

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55 Responses to “Len’s $500,000 secret trust”

  1. Manolo (14,169 comments) says:

    The hypocrisy and double standards of the left are contemptible.
    Brown must be exposed for what he really is: a liar and untruthful individual.

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  2. BeaB (2,164 comments) says:

    But Len’s the good guy who has brought openness and honesty to Auckland while Banks is the Tory oligarch with all his rich cronies.
    Let’s not spoil the story with the facts! Labour never has.

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  3. John Ansell (832 comments) says:

    New Plymouth had Len Lye.

    Auckland has…

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  4. reid (16,700 comments) says:

    … the Government should look to change the law so the finance provisions of the Electoral Act apply to local body elections, to ensure Aucklanders in future know who are the secret funders of their Mayor.

    What’s wrong with making it retrospective?

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  5. berend (1,690 comments) says:

    To save the lefties some time this morning, I’ll post for them: “At least he is not John Banks.”

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  6. side show bob (3,410 comments) says:

    What do you expect, these people are scum. They would flog off their grandmothers if they for one moment believed their fucked up ideology could be further advanced. I do hope the voters in Auckland see this man and his followers for the hypocritical pieces of shit they are but I doubt most would even care. Enjoy Auckland you deserve nothing less.

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  7. Inventory2 (9,380 comments) says:

    I’ve also blogged about this today. It’s particularly refreshing (and revealing) that the Herald has allowed someone other than Bernard Orsman to write a story about Len Brown. In this case, the facts have emerged, which had Orsman been the author, might have got lost in the Len-Brown-can-do-no-wrong story.

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.com/2010/12/always-with-limit.html

    Len Brown is going to rue the day when he said

    “I will always front up. I will give you the straight answers, always with a limit.”

    His words are coming back to bite him.

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  8. dog_eat_dog (787 comments) says:

    Time for the auditor general to step in:

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/act-party/news/article.cfm?o_id=359&objectid=10615815

    I think the final spending cap was $575,000.

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  9. dog_eat_dog (787 comments) says:

    Here’s a goodun from that story:

    “We have seen the dangers of big money entering national politics, with concerns over sources and transparency of party funding, and the emergence of third party campaigns. Local government has avoided these issues, but they could emerge were candidates under pressure to raise large sums in order to be competitive,” he said.”

    Oh Len…

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  10. BlairM (2,340 comments) says:

    Well I am not sure if Len Brown personallly was opposed to secret trusts, so hypocrisy may not be an issue. But I would expect Labour to ask him to disclose, since it was an issue for them.

    Apart from that, why not defend Len Brown? He has a right, in a free country and a democracy, to accept anonymous donations of any amount. They are not votes. They do not guarantee him power. He still has to convince people to vote for him using that money. It does not even matter if he has had policies bought and sold with that money. He still has to get the votes.

    Donations, like votes, should be allowed to be anonymous if the person donating so desires. That is a part of democracy. I have a right to be secretive about my support. We should support Len Brown’s right not to disclose – provided we also have the same right of course.

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  11. Matt (213 comments) says:

    In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve

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  12. shady (246 comments) says:

    So I wonder how much the unions are stumping up for their man/men in the Manurewa by-elections? I would love to see some analysis on union spending (ie. using the worker’s money) on elections in the last 3 years. There must be little left for legitimate union business looking after their workers after the last 3 years or electioneering.

    Imagine what they could do with that money for their union members if it wasn’t all going on supporting Labour and their electoral prospects.

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  13. Gooner (919 comments) says:

    What Blair said.

    The Right should be encouraging this, not demonising it – hypocricy aside.

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  14. vibenna (305 comments) says:

    But David you don’t understand. The left are not against secret trusts – just against secret trusts for the right. That is because the right are enemies of society, while the left are engaged in a greater purposes. So the ends justify the means.

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  15. Offshore_Kiwi (505 comments) says:

    You’re right of course, Matt. Auckland has the Mayor she deserves. There was plenty of evidence in the public domain before the election that Len Brown was a profligate spender, a cronyist (what leftist isn’t), a rorter and liar, but Auckland voted for him anyway. Is there any corruption? Probably, but we’ll never know because the donors remain anonymous under the current legislation. Shit, there’s enough of a stench attached to the CCO appointments to indicate rampant cronyism if not corruption.

    Note to the Right: next time, put up someone electable.

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  16. Graeme Edgeler (2,972 comments) says:

    Time for the auditor general to step in:

    I think the final spending cap was $575,000.

    The Auditor-General has no responsibility for investigating breaches of electoral law (or local electoral law). That said, Len Brown only declared ~$390,000 in expenses. Lots on things – like polling, and direct get out the vote work – don’t count toward the spending cap.

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  17. tvb (4,554 comments) says:

    I think legislation should be passed to bust this trust open and let the public see where the money came from.

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  18. pollywog (1,153 comments) says:

    The local electoral laws do not outlaw the use of secret trusts, they only require the use of this secret trust to be revealed after the election. They are not legally obliged to file its trust deed with the Registrar of Trusts

    so this is a lesson in morality then, not criminality and an attempt to expose hypocrisy on the opposition’s part ?

    there must be some serious scandal underpinning the Wongs affairs if one has to resort to this sort of muckraking.

    I mean lecturing and advising the media on trust issues given the English housing rort and Key’s ‘blind’ investments.

    seems more like sour grapes and a reluctance to accept defeat from where i’m sitting.

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  19. Inventory2 (9,380 comments) says:

    @ Blair and Gooner – point taken. But on hypocrisy alone, this is a big story. Phil Goff calls Len Brown “Labour’s mayor”. Labour was sp opposed to secret trusts and anonymous donations that it passed the insidious Electoral Finance Act. And yet “Labour’s mayor” is incredibly secretive about there the money came from, and even who he dined with. This is the first fissure in the carefully constructed facade around Team Brown, but it won’t be the last.

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  20. robcarr (84 comments) says:

    Agreed with you here. For politicians when using trusts to hold their assets, receiving funding through them or in fact anything to do with their capacities in office they should be required to disclose all members and sources of funding for that trust or be required to return the money/make themselves and their partner permanently unable to access it. It seems something fair also with regards to the above comment to make retrospective and have disclosed donors to the campaigns that went through trusts. We have the rules around disclosing donations for a reason and the public should know regardless what side of the spectrum the politicians sit on.

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  21. Gooner (919 comments) says:

    …Len Brown only declared ~$390,000 in expenses. Lots on things – like polling, and direct get out the vote work – don’t count toward the spending cap.

    And neither does spending outside the 3-month “window”. It is well documented that Brown started spending from about January so he had 6-7 months to spend as much as he liked without having to declare it – which is what he did.

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  22. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    Seriously though. At least it’s not John Banks. That smarmy wanker is just so unlikeable. I’d rather see Len with his mystery millions than that talkback host in charge of Auckland.

    Of course the whole “supercity” idea was just unthinking ideology from ACT – talk about putting all your eggs in one basket – and now that basket is Len Brown.

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  23. Gooner (919 comments) says:

    @IV2 – I think hypocricy is far too light a word. It’s worse than hypocricy.

    Having said that, if Brown wants to raise $500,000 or $5,000,000, I couldn’t care less. Good luck to him. Just don’t argue there is one rule for the Right and one rule for us on the Left.

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  24. Gooner (919 comments) says:

    Tristan, in case you missed it, the “supercity” was unthinking ideology of the Royal Commission, put in place by Labour, and then backed by Labour, National, ACT and virtually every other political party.

    I’m not sure you realise that.

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  25. big bruv (14,217 comments) says:

    Let me translate what pollywog has said.

    It is perfectly acceptable for the left to lie, steal and cheat.

    It is totally unacceptable for the right to do the same.

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  26. Gooner (919 comments) says:

    Not just perfectly acceptable big bruv, it’s actually expected. You won’t get anywhere in politics on the Left unless you do so.

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  27. Paulus (2,707 comments) says:

    Do you really believe Lying Len cares a f…. for what people think ?

    Remember the socialist motto:-

    “The working class may kiss my ass,I’ve got the foreman’s job at last”.

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  28. Gooner (919 comments) says:

    I’ve just had a thought.

    If someone managed to get hold of Brown’s emails, letters, diary entries and the like, and then published them in a book to show what a complete manipulation of the political system he and Lewis managed to achieve, it would make a good book.

    I even have a title: The Hollow Men.

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  29. Inky_the_Red (764 comments) says:

    I think it is obvious that politician should not get anonymous donations. The fact that between them Brown and Banks received over a $1 million is a disgrace.

    Anonymous donations are a catalyst for corruption. Those people who think this country is somehow immune to corruption have their heads in the sand.

    [DPF: John Banks had non anon donations over the $1,000 disclosure level. Brown had $500k]

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  30. pollywog (1,153 comments) says:

    Let me translate what pollywog has said.

    It is perfectly acceptable for the left to lie, steal and cheat.

    It is totally unacceptable for the right to do the same.

    not at all bruv, i’m afraid you’re sadly mistaken…

    what i’m saying is, i dont give a shit what people do with their own money

    it’s one thing taking private donations anonymously and within the electoral laws and another to rip off the taxpayer while feigning ignorance of the law and it’s intent

    and if one wants to cast apersionary stones of hypocrisy from the moral highground then one had better not be in a glass house while doing so.

    i’m all for transparency across the political spectrum.

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  31. Inky_the_Red (764 comments) says:

    Pollywog,

    You are very wrong. The law is wrong it should be illegal for anyone to donate anonymously. Politicians who are in power having received anonymous donations make a law say it is okay. This does not make it right. It time all New Zealanders demanded transparency

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  32. Put it away (2,872 comments) says:

    Oh bullshit pollywog the fake islander troll, as if you’ve ever given a shit about the taxpayer’s money. So far you’re the only one of the usual leftard suspects who’s fronted on this thread and all you’ve got is misdirection and avoiding the subject. Speaks volumes really..

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  33. pollywog (1,153 comments) says:

    The law is wrong it should be illegal for anyone to donate anonymously.

    but it isnt so i’m not wrong and if it is then change the law then but it’s still not going to stop fatcats from doing whatever they like with their money…

    and fuck off Put it away, for one i dont even know what a leftard is unless it’s what Phil Goff wears when he’s at the gym. of course i give a shit about taxpayer money, who fucking doesn’t ???

    it’s private money i dont give a shit about. so this isnt about the legality Len Brown’s trust it’s about payback tit for tat smearing of hypocrisy to cover for the Wong affair

    and whats with the fake islander troll shit ?

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  34. BeaB (2,164 comments) says:

    But why wouldn’t Honest Len tell us? And why wouldn’t his supporters tell us?

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  35. Inky_the_Red (764 comments) says:

    [DPF: John Banks had non anon donations over the $1,000 disclosure level. Brown had $500k]

    David, I am not quite sure what you are saying here.

    My point is why have any limit there are way around the $1000 limit like getting 20 members of your family (or 20 or your companies) to donate $999. I argue that any anon donation is bad.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10693580
    Spending power

    Len Brown
    * $581,900 in donations
    * $499,000 through an anonymous trust

    John Banks
    * $948,937 in donations
    * $520,086 made anonymously

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  36. burt (7,425 comments) says:

    So the fact that Labour are still wanting to get onside with Winston all makes sense. Birds of a feather and all that.

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  37. burt (7,425 comments) says:

    inky_the_Red

    Ok, now tell us how it’s not fair that the right declare more donations than the left while defending undeclared donations and secret trusts…. Come on be a good Labour party member and prostrate yourself being an apologist for corruption – you guys are good at it and have had plenty of practice under the last Labour-led govt.

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  38. Fentex (1,136 comments) says:

    Incidentally John Banks disclosed all his donations in excess of $1,000.

    Here’s an interesting opportunity to compare two sources often at odds with each other.

    Discussing the same matter No Right Turn states:

    And now, Auckland Supermayor Len Brown has joined the club, laundering almost half a million – 80% of his total – through a trust to hide the identity of his donors. The result is that we do not know who he his beholden to, and what council decisions he should be stepping aside from to avoid the perception of corruption. And this is simply not acceptable.

    (John Banks did the same, BTW, so we’d be having this conversation regardless of who had won).

    Which leaves me curious, did John Banks launder any donations through a trust?

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  39. kiwi in america (2,314 comments) says:

    pollywog is getting as angry about Len Brown’s anonymous donations as he did about Philip Field’s corrupt practices!

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  40. Inky_the_Red (764 comments) says:

    burt,

    Neither Brown nor Banks has told us who gave them $500,000 each. To me both should

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  41. Fairfacts Media (347 comments) says:

    David, it is time to dust off those old Free Speech Coalition posters and update them.
    Now, the slogan could be “This Mayoralty is about Trusts” or something.
    And instead of Helen and Winnie holding hands on that white sandy beach, it could now be , who else but Lyen Brown and Fail Gaffe!

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  42. TCrwdb (242 comments) says:

    @Polly, two things:

    1) what does this have to do with Wong, Key’s blind investments and English? Nice attempt at ‘look over there’ diversion tactic. Straight out of the left’s playbook

    2) It was not all private money, some of it came from the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust which is a council agency funded by the council. Len Brown’s campaign funded by Auckland rate-payers so that he could be elected by the non rate-paying inhabitants of south Auckland. We are a socialist state in all but name.

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  43. somewhatthoughtful (472 comments) says:

    Bullshit. According to Nat Rad Banks also funnelled 500,000 through trusts. Nice try though. Oh and brown spent the same as craig, while banks spent 900, and still got owned.

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  44. Gooner (919 comments) says:

    This gets more astonishing by the second.

    Phil Twyford has put a post up on Red Alert. He basically says Brown had to do it or else he would have lost the election. http://blog.labour.org.nz/index.php/2010/12/11/limiting-big-money-in-local-govt/.

    Astonishnigly he says this in the post:

    Len Brown would have been tying one hand behind his own back if he hadn’t been willing to accept anonymous donations too. The rules need to be changed so there is a level playing field.

    What bullshit.

    First, the rules are exactly the same for both candidates now and both candidates used them. There is a level playing field now.

    Second, he is saying Brown could not have won if he did not use the secret trust donor.

    Again, bullshit.

    Brown could have received the same amount of donations but declared them all. The secret nature of his donors has nothing to do with the limits of their donations.

    Or does it?

    Twyford has implicitly laid bare the real truth behind political donations: Most donors do not want to be identified. And for good reason. That is one reason their EFA was so disgusting.

    In that blog post, Twyford admits as much

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  45. Put it away (2,872 comments) says:

    Nice work on the Red Alert thread Gooner, showing up the leftards idiocy and dishonesty very nicely.

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  46. Inventory2 (9,380 comments) says:

    Well said Gooner; I’ve just posed this question of Twyford:

    So Phil; what you are saying is that the end justifies the means; have I got that right? The man whom Phil Goff refers to as “Labour’s Mayor” certainly seems to have operated in a manner polls apart from what Labour advocated in 2007 when the EFA was passed.

    Then again, Len won, Banksie lost, and I guess we all just have to eat that, even if it comes with a liberal sprinkling of hypocrisy, Volare-style.

    I guess this sort of thing is what Dr Michael Bassett meant when he wrote prior to the 2008 election that Labour would do “whatever it takes” to retain power.

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  47. Rex Widerstrom (5,013 comments) says:

    BlairM suggests:

    …anonymous donations of any amount. They are not votes. They do not guarantee him power. He still has to convince people to vote for him using that money. It does not even matter if he has had policies bought and sold with that money. He still has to get the votes

    So you’re saying there’s little or no connection between advertising and votes? You know better than that, Blair. If I have a sack of money I want to “anonymously” donate to a poltician through their trust my direct appeal will be along the lines of “…and you can spend this on more signs or TV ads or whatever and get that shiny bauble you covet so much. And once you’ve got it, all I want in return is… [a whole list of stuff I can’t ask for openly (or I would) and which is likely to disadvantage all those electors without sacks full of money]”.

    Politicians want power above all else, or they’d be in business or some other activity where they’d earn substantially more. Votes are the key to that power; advertising is the key to those votes; and money is the means of securing them. The link is direct, obvious to everyone who plays the game, and open to the worst sorts of abuse.

    I agree anyone should be able to do what they like with their money; there should be no caps. But it should be done in the open. We are / were both happy to say which parties we support(ed) – why should anyone want to escape scrutiny – especially if they’re so committed to a cause they want to pay to help it. Unless, of course, that’s not what they’re paying for.

    I agree it’s time for new posters, DPF. The slogan: “Len Brown: The best Mayor money can buy”. Keep them up till the “trust” discloses the names of anyone who donated.

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  48. Inventory2 (9,380 comments) says:

    Rex W said

    I agree anyone should be able to do what they like with their money; there should be no caps. But it should be done in the open.

    It’s just a shame that you weren’t able to get Winston to embrace that philosophy Rex ;-)

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  49. reid (16,700 comments) says:

    “Politicians want power above all else, or they’d be in business or some other activity where they’d earn substantially more.”

    A few of them would Rex. Most of them would earn substantially less. This is why our politicians are so lousy on all sides. For most of them, a Parliamentary salary is worth pursuing. To get it all they have to do is pretend they’re important, lie and obfuscate. The sort of people who are attracted to doing that for a living, is why we are where we are.

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  50. Viking2 (11,674 comments) says:

    Wonder if this will get me banned form the Standard?

    Interesting that if the gossip is correct there appear to be donations from a Council Controlled Organization that is funded by ratepayers. The very same trust that is run by new appointee’s to CCO’s. New appointments that were made in secret meeting’s.

    Has a bad smell to it.

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  51. CharlieBrown (1,054 comments) says:

    Kind of makes me believe old len needs another heart attack.

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  52. ross (1,414 comments) says:

    John Banks received almost $1 million in donations. I guess he’s rather annoyed that despite outspending Len Brown, Banks still couldn’t get across the line. Why does the Right lose so ungraciously? In the Mana by election, we had the unfortunate sight of National claiming a victory after they lost, and now this.

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  53. lilman (973 comments) says:

    Cant say anything except the truth on this one.
    The man is totally dishonest,he lied and is continuing to lie and mislead.
    My children went to Auckland on school trip and were to met Mr Brown at the council offices ,I guess I tried to have standards and took my 2 children to the movies that afternoon,sad but true,but as a parent if I dont show consistancy what am I showing them about honesty and truth.

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  54. Manolo (14,169 comments) says:

    “Why does the Right lose so ungraciously?”

    You must be kidding.

    Are you calling National, aka Labour-lite, the right? There is little difference between those two, since both are sides of the same socialist coin.

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  55. BlairM (2,340 comments) says:

    So you’re saying there’s little or no connection between advertising and votes?

    No amount of money can polish a turd. Or a giant douche for that matter.

    Money will buy you all the advertising you want, but if you are trying to push something that people don’t want, they still won’t vote for it.

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