The Herald reports:
Electoral returns out next week will confirm that a National Party MP received $25,000 from a controversial businessman after Prime Minister John Key had a private dinner with him – at the man’s home.
The PM has always maintained that he met Donghua Liu at a National Party fundraiser but would never say where. Today, the Weekend Herald can reveal that the fundraiser was actually a private dinner at Mr Liu’s $4.75 million home in Remuera, where a smiling Mr Key and Jami-Lee Ross, the MP for Botany, were photographed alongside Mr Liu and his young family.
Afterwards, Mr Liu donated $25,000 that same month to Mr Ross’ election campaign. But the following year, Mr Liu became a political embarrassment for the Government after a Herald investigation revealed the impact of the property developer’s links to the National Party.
Shortly after the election, Mr Ross refunded the large donation from Mr Liu’s company – 15 months after it was given. Mr Ross has since disclosed the donation in candidate returns for the 2014 election due to be released by the Electoral Commission next week.
Mr Liu is upset that Mr Ross refunded the $25,000 cheque, which he regarded as a “slap in the face”.
The 53-year-old pleaded guilty to the domestic violence charges in April last year, but was in the Auckland District Court this week seeking to withdraw those admissions. He was successful and the case is likely to now head to trial.
Last night, Jami-Lee Ross said he did not intend to insult Mr Liu and any negative publicity associated to the businessman was not the reason the $25,000 was returned.
He said the Liu donation was given to be used in the local Botany campaign, but was not spent as a $24,000 donation from the National Party covered his expenses.
“So when the [donation and expense] returns were being put together after the election, it was decided the $25,000 should be returned to the donor because it was not used.
I think there is a useful lesson in this for National. I’m all for people donating to parties because they think a party’s policies will be good for NZ. But if a donation appears to be about influence, then parties should be wary.
Returning the $25,000 was the right thing to do, especially after the court case became known.It was of course not known at the time the donation was received.
The suggestion that it was returned because it was not used or needed is somewhat laughable. I’ve never known a party or candidate to return a donation on the basis they didn’t use it. Normally a party holds onto a donation as tightly as a crocodile holds onto its prey.
It is a good thing we have electoral laws that require transparency around donations. It allows the public to judge if they think a significant donation is appropriate or not. In this case, I think National’s concern was rightfully that it would not.