Will Cunliffe’s donations be revealed?

March 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader used an “agent arrangement” to take donations to his leadership campaign last November and is refusing to say whether he has disclosed individual donors in the MPs’ register of financial interests or whether they were disclosed as being from a trust.

This sounds too ironic to be true. Surely the “agent” wasn’t one of those secretive trusts that Labour has spent almost a decade railing against and legislated against?

The returns for the Register of Pecuniary Interests were due last Friday, and Mr Cunliffe said his return met both the rules of the register, which requires disclosure of donations of more than $500, and those of the Labour Party, which said all donations would be confidential.

He refused to say how he had met both rules, or whether he had declared donations as being from a trust rather than the original donors.

But he confirmed his campaign was run through an “agent arrangement” rather than taking donations directly. He sought a legal opinion before filing his return and defended the use of trusts.

What this means is that the Leader of the Labour Party used a trust so that we will never know who paid for his leadership campaign – despite Parliament’s Standing Orders requiring all donations of over $500 to be disclosed.

The stench of hypocrisy is massive.

“In the event donations are made to a trust, the trustee will have information about donations which a candidate or campaign team won’t have. So [if] there is a trust involved, it will be the donations of the trust to the campaign that are declared, as per the rules. If there is a trust, trustees owe obligations of confidentiality.”

But who decided to set up a trust? The purpose of the trust was to defeat the transparency requirements of Parliament’s Standing Orders.

I’m also not convinced that Cunliffe can refuse to name his donors, eve if it went through a trust. If he is aware of the ultimate source of the donations, you can argue Standing Orders require him to disclose – or risk a privilege complaint.

Of his rivals for the job, Shane Jones said he had disclosed all donations of more than $500, and the donors, and Grant Robertson said he did not receive any individual donations of more than $500.

So Jones and Robertson have disclosed – it is only their leader hiding behind a trust to protect his personal donors.

In 2005, Labour changed electoral finance rules to stop National filtering large anonymous donations through trusts. Grants made through a trust must now be disclosed separately if larger than the disclosable limit of $15,000 to a party or $1500 for an individual candidate.

Mr Cunliffe said there was “nothing at all” to embarrass him in his return.

That’s because it seems the return will just reveal the trust, and not the actual donors.

Mr Cunliffe also said Labour was likely to raise the issue with the standing orders committee, a cross-party group of MPs which decides on the rules for the register.

“It’s quite clear that having primary-style elections is new and not something that has been explicitly foreseen before in the register rules. It does raise a number of legal technicalities over the match between internal party rules and the rules of the standing orders.

“It would be better for everybody if they were aligned.”

The party can align its rules with standing orders if it so wishes, and drop the confidentially clause around donations. I can only presume that what Cunliffe is proposing is that standing orders be amended to allow Labour leadership candidates in future not to reveal donations to their leadership campaigns.

If any Labour MP or candidate now tries to campaign on better electoral finance transparency laws, they’re going to be laughed at.

UPDATE: Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn comments:

So, as usual, he’s claiming that it was All Within The Rules. But that’s not enough – his behaviour needs to be ethical as well. And by failing to tell us who he owes political debts to for financing his leadership ambitions, David Cunliffe has clearly failed that test and is unfit to be in Parliament, let alone a party leader.

UPDATE2: In 2008 Cunliffe said in Parliament:

Gee, the irony of that man impugning this Government on money issues will not be lost on Kiwis. He is the millionaire that Merrill built, the son of the “Hollow Man”, taking on the Government about transparency. Why does he not tell that to the millionaire brokers of the Waitemata Trust or the millionaire sponsors of the Exclusive Brethren? We believe in one person, one vote; not one dollar, one vote. We do not believe that elections should be bankrolled by big business, which is why the Electoral Finance Act is in place.

So he attacks people using trusts to hide the source of their donations in Parliament, yet uses the same device himself to hide the source of personal donations to his leadership campaign.

Tags: , ,

54 Responses to “Will Cunliffe’s donations be revealed?”

  1. wreck1080 (3,735 comments) says:

    why aren’t the papers screaming ‘secret’ trusts, and ‘refusals to answer questions’. And, secret meetings!! Of course cunliffe would have had meetings and he didn’t invite the public so they were secret too.

    Vote: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. MT_Tinman (2,995 comments) says:

    I have no real interest in knowing who paid for Labour’s leadership campaign – unless I did.

    A serious question: Do these people have to declare how many taxpayer $ went into this private, nonessential farce?

    Vote: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. RRM (9,478 comments) says:

    Two legs better!

    Vote: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. justmy opinion (8 comments) says:

    Cunliffe’s use of language is interesting and possibly confused. A trust or the trustee(s) are not the agent of the beneficiary. If indeed it is an agency arrangement, the usual legal rule is that the principal (which in this situation would be Cunliffe) is entitled to know and is deemed to know anything that the agent knows.

    Vote: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. kowtow (7,653 comments) says:

    Such naivety.

    Rules are what politicians require us plebs to be bound by.Not themselves.

    Vote: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Sofia (819 comments) says:

    Mr Cunliffe said his return met both the rules of the register, which requires disclosure of donations of more than $500, and those of the Labour Party, which said all donations would be confidential.

    Could put him up there with Winston
    “Trust me”!

    Popular. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. kaykaybee (135 comments) says:

    David Cunliffe, the midwife for Fonterra, the Harvard poet laureate and Progressive gatekeeper should never be held accountable for any position he takes. Who funds this magnificent beast and how much they endow him with should remain a secret.
    Amen

    Popular. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. alloytoo (434 comments) says:

    DPF :”If any Labour MP or candidate now tries to campaign on better electoral finance transparency laws, they’re going to be laughed at.”

    You mean more than they are laughing now?

    Vote: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. J Bloggs (161 comments) says:

    It does raise a number of legal technicalities over the match between internal party rules and the rules of the standing orders.

    I would suggest that the rules of parliament trump the internal rules of a political party

    Popular. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. Pete George (22,866 comments) says:

    J Bloggs – that would have to be the case, otherwise the rules of Parliament would be a waste of time.

    Vote: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. alex Masterley (1,491 comments) says:

    JO,
    I agree with your summary of the agent – principal relationship.
    I do hope that Mr Cunliffe didn’t pay for the advice he received. It is clearly wrong.

    Vote: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. Allyson (41 comments) says:

    Its official. David Cunliffe is Helen Clark in drag.

    Vote: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. Bovver (144 comments) says:

    I love the stench of hypocrisy in the morning, smells like victory. The Herald had this as a lead page on their website wreck1080, wait for the alternative reality left wing blogs to start whinging about the naughty MSM and how mean they are.

    Vote: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. BlairM (2,288 comments) says:

    Criticising Culiffe for this only reinforces the notion that people do not have the basic human right to donate money anonymously. Which they do and should.

    To be sure, he is a hypocrite. But I’d rather let him have the right to do it, and ensure all candidates have that right. Money does not buy elections, it only buys advertising. People still have to vote. Ask Carly Fiorina or H Ross Perot.

    Vote: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    This sounds too ironic to be true. Surely the “agent” wasn’t one f those secretive trusts that Labour has spent almost a decade railing against and legislated against?

    It’s different when Labour do it !

    Popular. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  16. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    J Bloggs

    I would suggest that the rules of parliament trump the internal rules of a political party

    Lol… But the politicians know what the law was intended to say – The ref made a bad call, others were doing it too …

    Vote: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  17. James Stephenson (2,040 comments) says:

    Its official. David Cunliffe is Helen Clark in drag

    *confused face*

    I thought Helen Clark was in drag already…

    Popular. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  18. anticorruptionnz (166 comments) says:

    I am a firm believer that if it is not registered on any register which makes the donor a legal person or if the donor is not a legal person then it is anonymous.

    Secret trusts are the greatest form of fraud secret trusts have an origin ( and place ) in Wills and if Cunliffe or any one like him wants to use one he should have the good grace to die first.

    if some one wants to front the donations and be the identifiable person for giving the funds then so be it for than all the legal responsibilities fall on their shoulder.

    If it cant be identifiable and cant be held accountable then its anonymous.

    so much for open transparent governance when there is secrecy about whose puppet they are.

    Vote: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  19. Pete George (22,866 comments) says:

    No Right Turn is blunt on this:

    So, as usual, he’s claiming that it was All Within The Rules. But that’s not enough – his behaviour needs to be ethical as well. And by failing to tell us who he owes political debts to for financing his leadership ambitions, David Cunliffe has clearly failed that test and is unfit to be in Parliament, let alone a party leader.

    http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2014/03/david-cunliffe-unethical.html

    Vote: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  20. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    anticorruptionnz

    Excellent progress. Just a few shorts months ago you were still saying it’s different when Labour do it. Well done. No sit back and accept that the left are a corrupt self serving useless bunch of wankers that will break the rules at every opportunity while screaming like babies that others are breaking the rules.

    Popular. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  21. Keeping Stock (10,114 comments) says:

    I look forward ro Campbell Live reporters and Patrick Gower door-stopping union leaders, Selwyn Pellett and Greg Presland, demanding to know whether or not they donated to Mr Cunliffe’s campaign. Surely this will be Campbell Live’s only story today.

    I jest, of course. But David Cunliffe did let slip on The Nation that he has offered Campbell Live the exclusive tour of his “mid-range do-up” in Marine Parade, Herne Bay.

    Popular. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  22. James Stephenson (2,040 comments) says:

    accept that the left are a corrupt self serving useless bunch of wankers that will break the rules at every opportunity while screaming like babies that others are breaking the rules.

    Political truism: to know what lefties are up to themselves, see what they’re making a song-and-dance accusing others of.

    Vote: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  23. bhudson (4,734 comments) says:

    Clearly “Trust me” means something completely different to David Cunliffe

    Vote: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  24. Paulus (2,503 comments) says:

    Assume the advice he received was from his wife being an eminent Lawyer – so he got it for free, and wrong !

    Vote: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  25. Nookin (3,037 comments) says:

    This is worth a read

    http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2014/03/cunliffe-invests-big-american-firm-kiwi-companies/#more-127984

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  26. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    Winston will be all over this demanding answers …. Oh hang on … It’s Labour… Winston will be silent.

    Vote: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  27. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    The big question is – what are Labour trying to hide ?????

    Vote: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  28. Ross12 (1,155 comments) says:

    Matt McCarten has huge job ahead of him ! The leash he gets for Cunliffe will have to be made of something very strong and he’ll need to get out the gardening tools to rid the office of some hopeless advisors

    Vote: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  29. anticorruptionnz (166 comments) says:

    Isn’t it great to live in the least corrupt country in the world.. we can simply pretend its not happening.

    Vote: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  30. marcw (227 comments) says:

    Burt, he’s trying to hide the largesse from the impoverished workers i.e. the Unions.

    Vote: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  31. Nick R (497 comments) says:

    Hey, I know. Let’s get the totally non-partisan Taxpayers’ Union on to it.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7 You need to be logged in to vote
  32. davidp (3,540 comments) says:

    Weren’t Labour getting hysterical about John Banks and his mayoral campaign finance last year? Is there no limit to their hypocrisy?

    Vote: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  33. stigie (916 comments) says:

    Will we see Winston asking a question on this so called trust ?…” NO “

    Vote: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  34. flash2846 (172 comments) says:

    So what? This is too complicated for potential Labour voters to understand let alone care about. MSM won’t be too interested.

    Vote: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3 You need to be logged in to vote
  35. holysheet (270 comments) says:

    where Mcready when you need him.
    Any bets on .com being a donor? He’s got to ensure he gets his pardon once he is extradited by the courts and it goes before the justice minister who will say no!

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  36. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    “Its official. David Cunliffe is Helen Clark in drag.”

    Not a scenario I see coming to fruition but….. Hullun gets her promtion in the UN – Cunniliffe PM

    Rammifications ???

    Was Muldoon president of the World Bank during his Prime Ministership?

    Wouldn’t the above scenario be far worse ?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6 You need to be logged in to vote
  37. Commentor (10 comments) says:

    Wouldn’t it be “interesting” if Unite was a donor………

    Vote: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  38. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    Commentor

    Wouldn’t it be “interesting” if Unite was a donor………

    That’s very unlikely since McCarten owed the IRD hundreds of thousands and being a lefty he believes in paying tax for the good of society – he would pay the IRD before he donated to a political party !!!! ….. Oh hang on … being a lefty he probably believes others need to pay tax for the good of society ..

    Vote: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  39. anticorruptionnz (166 comments) says:

    @Burt when did I ever say its different when Labour does it both national and Labour are equally corrupt

    for the detail on secret trusts read David Cunliffe and the not so secret trust. http://www.transparency.net.nz

    Vote: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  40. DJP6-25 (1,274 comments) says:

    The left’s shield of sanctimony will protect him.

    Vote: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  41. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    DJP6-25

    Their born to rule arrogance will protect them – Move on !!!!!!

    Vote: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  42. Richard Hurst (757 comments) says:

    This just gives further evidence that Cunliffe has been a sleeper agent paid by secret National party backers for years paid to destroy Labour from within and make damn sure Labour is unelectable and hasn’t he done an excellent job so far. ;)

    Vote: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  43. kiwi in america (2,438 comments) says:

    Cunliffe assumed an incurious media would buy Labour “nothing to see here – move along” spin if these trust sourced donations were revealed. Kudos to Claire Trevett. Can’t wait for Parliamentary Question time – Key will make further mincemeat of Cunners. Oh and then there’ll be a complaint to the Standing Orders Committee to get Cunliffe to comply and if he doesn’t, next stop Privileges Committee! And that’s before the ABCs get going. If I were Shane Jones or Grant Robertson I’d be livid.

    I really thought the Greens were the Olympic gold medalist hypocrites – looks like they have competition.

    Vote: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  44. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    kiwi in america

    next stop Privileges Committee!

    And as we noted with Winston in this situation … Silent ‘T might be required to … wait for it … re-file the returns … Oh the severe punishment !

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  45. Keeping Stock (10,114 comments) says:

    @ KiA – and if there was to be a matter of privilege raised with the Speaker, who better to raise it than John Banks, given that this is his final year in Parliament. Getting the Leader of the Opposition hauled before the Privileges Committee would be a fitting ending to Banks’ lengthy career.

    Vote: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  46. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    Keeping Stock

    Getting the Leader of the Opposition hauled before the Privileges Committee would be a fitting ending to Banks’ lengthy career.

    Getting the leader of the opposition slapped with a wet bus ticket and then having him say “Move On”…. This is Labour we are talking about – they don’t do accountability – they just demand it from everyone else.

    Vote: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  47. Pete George (22,866 comments) says:

    @CTrevettNZH

    David Cunliffe has now confirmed he used a trust to deal with donations in his leadership campaign. Refused to say so yesterday.

    Vote: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  48. backster (2,082 comments) says:

    Like Burt I think the Unite Union may have been a major donor for Cunliffe. The most unusual appointment Cunliffe has made since obtaining the leadership has been to accept Mat McCarten as his guiding light. It smells of quid pro quo.

    Vote: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  49. kiwi in america (2,438 comments) says:

    Burt
    Getting caught and exposed as a massive hypocrite undermines Cunliffe’s credibility further even if the matter ends up with him being hit with a Privileges wet bus ticket. Having the committee order that he stand trial (as they have the power to do) would take him down completely which, as you state, is a highly unlikely outcome. Having Cunliffe wounded but still in place leading Labour into the election is a far better outcome. Key would rather face him than Jones.

    Now it appears that Cunliffe has compounded the error with a lie about the use of a trust. Will this will be his equivalent of Shearer’s undisclosed US bank account? Pass the popcorn.

    Vote: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  50. Colville (2,085 comments) says:

    KIA.
    Yeah a wounded and limping Cun*liffe is perfect for the Nats. They do not have time to swap him out for the next numpty.

    Vote: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  51. Pete George (22,866 comments) says:

    The heat goes on Cunliffe…

    Laura McQuillan ‏@mcquillanatorz

    Did Cunliffe get money from unions, hidden by a trust, then give McCarten a job? – Key asks

    …and it isn’t likely to go away until this is addressed.

    Vote: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  52. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Mainstream media have not shown a great deal of interest . . . at the request (orders) of Little’s union thugs.

    Vote: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  53. anticorruptionnz (166 comments) says:

    Cunliffe states “We did use a trust, the campaign used a trust and I’m happy to be open about that.”

    so he is happy to circumvent the intention of the law good one just the kind of person we want running the country. ….. NOT

    Vote: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  54. burt (7,840 comments) says:

    anticorruptionnz

    I admire your tenacity. Seriously I do. Anyone who’s going after ‘The least corrupt government in the world’ is pretty much on a hiding to nothing. You see it’s not like we don’t have corruption, we just don’t have a robust reliable way of making people accountable for it. As for hunting in Labour, I pretty much gave up the serious fight after the Clark/Cullen government told us the AG made a bad call, passed retrospective validations under urgency and killed a standing court case to boot. Basically if the PM of the day can do that with impunity then you can be bloody sure getting corruption dealt with is going to be folly.

    Look at Cunliffe – just drove a bulldozer through the intent of the law on what he believes is a valid technicality. Noting to see here – move on ! Labour MO at it’s finest.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.