The Australian reports:
KEVIN Rudd’s growing fears of losing his seat at last year’s federal election led to a fundraising drive among his supporters to pay for targeted polling and a secret $200,000 overseas donation that the party believes may have breached state electoral laws.
Labor’s pollster, UMR Research Australia, yesterday confirmed it had conducted a $200,000 “program of research” in Mr Rudd’s Brisbane electorate of Griffith ahead of the election on September 7.
The donation was received and UMR commissioned to do the research — understood to have included focus groups and “robo” call messages to voters — just days before the election without the knowledge of the national secretariat and state Labor officials.
UMR is now refusing to refund the money to the Queensland ALP, which sent a letter of demand for the $200,000 after a meeting of its administrative committee on Wednesday.
I have to say I’m with UMR on this one. They were commissioned in good faith by the party leader to do research, and they did the research. The fact the party now has to refund the donation that paid for it is the ALP’s problem. Unless there is more to this than meets the eye, I think it is outrageous they are asking their supplier to give them money back. It’s almost akin to the allegations against Countdown.
While Mr Rudd denies any wrongdoing, the committee was given legal advice alleging the donation from the former prime minister’s long-time friend Kung Chin Yuan, a Taiwanese-born businessman, may have breached Queensland electoral rules, as well as internal Labor rules on the limits for branches handling finances. Under Queensland laws, any donation of $100,000 or more has to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission of Queensland within weeks of its receipt. Mr Rudd says all disclosures were the responsibility of the party.
ALP state secretary Anthony Chisholm told the committee that until this month, he was unaware of the donation until it was discovered in an audit of the Griffith branch. The audit found the donation was paid directly by Mr Kung into the Griffith branch bank account from his bank account in Taiwan and withdrawn hours later to cover the UMR bill.
The Queensland ALP is demanding UMR pay back the $200,000 so it can return the donation to Mr Kung, a Labor donor since 1998.
It’s no surprise that Labor broke electoral laws. But the refund is their problem, not UMR’s.