Once again Labour getting fewer donations than Greens

May 9th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

For the second year in a row Labour has received fewer donations than the Greens. This shows how much trouble Labour is in when basically no one will donate to them. There’s money out there for left wing parties – but it is going to the Greens.

Total donations (over $1,500) in 2015 were:

  1. National $1,400,896
  2. Greens $407,978
  3. Labour $279.134
  4. ACT $162,067
  5. NZ First $79,620
  6. Conservatives $39,360 (plus loan of $99,000)
  7. Maori Party $28,085
  8. ALCP $1,492
  9. Internet Part $677

I understand Labour is so broke they are forcing their MPs to pay a levy to fund the likely Mt Roskill by-election.

Major donors are:

  1. National – Gallagher Group – $60,000
  2. Conservatives – Colin Craig – $39,300 (and $99,000 loan)
  3. ACT – Dame Jenny Gibbs – $33,589
  4. National – Adrian Burr – $27,350
  5. National – GMP Dairy – $25,338
  6. National – Garth Barfoot – $25,000
  7. ACT – Heather Anderson $24,448

Niue and the donation

April 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says any suggestion a donation to National was a factor in the decision to grant a hotel chain a contract in Nuie is “utterly baseless.”

Labour has called for the Auditor General to look into Scenic Hotels Group contract to manage the Matavai resort on Niue after it was discovered the group’s founder, Earl Hagaman, gave a $101,000 donation to National the month before the contract was announced in 2014.

Mr McCully said he had no involvement in the tender process or the decision, which was run by Auckland-based consultancy company Horwath HTL in 2014. There were two proposals and Scenic Hotels was the preferred one.”I have the total confidence in the way this process was run and had no involvement in the awarding of the contract. Any suggestion that this contract was awarded on anything other than the basis of a rigorous commercial process is utterly baseless.”

Since 2011, the Government has put $18 million into the Matavai as part of its efforts to boost tourism to the small Pacific Island country.

That included $7.5 million after Scenic Hotels took over the management to build a conference centre.

Labour leader Andrew Little asked the Auditor General to investigate whether Mr Hagaman’s donation to National at the same time his company was tendering for the Niue contract was above board.

I think it is appropriate for the Auditor-General to investigate, but that doesn’t mean I think there is any link.

This is why it is good to have transparency of major donations – so people can apply scrutiny such as this.

It also means that anyone donating a significant amount knows their donation is public.

Brendan Taylor, the managing director of Scenic Hotel Group, said linking the donation to the tender was “a lot of misinformation.”

Mr Hagaman had donated to National and Act in the past. “What he does from a personal perspective is totally up to him. What we do at the Scenic Hotel Group, in a lot of cases, we’ve got nothing to do with each other.”

“I was involved in the whole [process] and I can put my hand on my heart and say I know it was a squeaky clean transaction. There was no favouritism in any way towards it.”

And who are the trustees?

The Matavai is owned by the Niue Tourism Property Trust on behalf of the Government of Niue, which owned the resort before then. That arrangement was put in place in 2011 to ensure oversight of the aid investment New Zealand was putting in. Mr McCully appoints the trustees who are Ross Ardern (NZ’s High Commissioner to Niue and father of Labour MP Jacinda Ardern), Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy secretary Jonathan Kings and former High Commissioner Mark Blumsky, who was formerly a National MP and now lives in Niue.

I really don’t think the father of a Labour MP is going to be awarding tenders to a company because they donated to National.

In another story, the Herald reports:

The managing director of Scenic Hotel Group says he doubted the company’s founder knew the company was negotiating a management contract in Niue, which it won, at the time he made a $101,000 donation to the National Party.

Labour wants the Auditor-General to look into Scenic Hotels Group’s contract to manage the Matavai resort on Niue after it was discovered the group’s founder, Earl Hagaman, gave the $101,000 to National during the election campaign before the contract was awarded in 2014. Foreign Minister Murray McCully said any suggestion the donation was a factor in granting Scenic Hotels the contract was “utterly baseless”.

Mr McCully said he had no involvement in the tender process or decision, which was run by Auckland-based consultancy company Horwath HTL in 2014. Scenic Hotels was one of two proposals and was the preferred one.

Scenic Hotel Group managing director Brendan Taylor said Mr Hagaman knew the company was looking into Niue but that had been a six-year process and Mr Hagaman had not even known where Niue was. Any mention the company was tendering for it would have been “a cursory conversation”.

As I said, I don’t think it would be a bad thing if the Auditor-General investigates, just to remove any suspicion. But I don’t see anything beyond coincidence at this stage.

2014 donation returns

May 6th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Electoral Commission has published the 2014 donation returns. Some interesting aspects:

Donations from Large Donors (over $15,000)

  1. Internet $3,500,000
  2. Conservatives $2,966,000
  3. National $1,084,955
  4. Internet Mana $656,227
  5. Greens $451,662
  6. ACT $322,178
  7. Maori $260,252
  8. Labour $251,000
  9. NZ First $37,618
  10. Focus NZ $22,456

So Labour had so few donations from donors who wanted to be named, they were in 8th place behind everyone but NZ First!

However it is different when you include smaller donors between $1,500 and $15,000 also.

Total Donations from donors over $1,500 are:

  1. National $3,977,537
  2. Internet $3,500,000
  3. Conservatives $2,971,000
  4. Greens $969,384
  5. Labour $939,411
  6. ACT $726,187
  7. Internet Mana $656,227
  8. Maori $420,000
  9. NZ First $132,156
  10. Mana $31,194
  11. Focus NZ $22,880
  12. ALCP $9,138

Of interest is that Labour still received fewer donations than the Greens!

So what proportion of a party’s donations over $1,500 come from large donors (over $15,000). They are:

  1. Conservatives 100%
  2. Internet Mana 100%
  3. Internet 100%
  4. Focus NZ 90%
  5. Maori 62%
  6. Greens 47%
  7. ACT 44%
  8. NZ First 28%
  9. Labour 27%
  10. National 27%

Both Labour and National get only a quarter of their significant donation income from large donors. The rest comes from medium sized donors.

With National, they also get millions from party members subscriptions which are under $1,500 each. So I suspect that overall less than 20% of their income comes from major donors.

Labour’s major donors were almost all unions. They got $162,000 from unions.

This should have been known before the election

March 2nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Labour MP Stuart Nash was bankrolled to the tune of $4000 a month by political backers for more than a year leading up to last year’s general election.

Mr Nash’s $99,000 in candidate donations meant his warchest ranked only behind Hone Harawira’s $105,000 courtesy of the Kim Dotcom and his Internet Party as being the country’s best-funded candidate.

The returns showed Mr Nash received $36,000 from Caniwi Capital Partners and $31,000 from Andrew Kelly, mostly paid in monthly instalments dating from June 2013.

Mr Nash also received $5000 from rich lister Sir Robert Jones, $9000 from Parnell accountant Lynch Phibbs and $18,000 from various branches of the Labour Party.

Mr Nash said the two main backers for his ultimately successful race for the Napier elector seat were long-term friends who “believed in what I was doing”.

I’ve got no problems with a candidate being bankrolled by friends, effectively on their payroll so he could campaign full-time.

But this sort of information should be disclosed pre-election, not post-election, so it can be scrutinised then.

Current electoral law only requires donations of $30,000 (for parties) to be disclosed at the time they are made (within 10 working days), while lesser limits apply for disclosure after the election.

I think that any donation that meets the disclosure limit should be disclosed within say a month of being made, not disclosed after an election. Expenses of course must wait until after an elections, but donations do not have to.

Candidate returns

March 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Been looking at the candidate returns for the 2014 elections. A few stats.

  • There were no anonymous or overseas donations (above the reporting limit)
  • The most well funded candidates were Hone Harawira who disclosed $105,000 of donations and spent $16,000.
  • Stuart Nash received a massive $99,000 in donations. The breakdown is not yet online
  • The Maori Party candidate for Te Tai Tokerau received $95,000 from the Maori Party which seems weird as it was in their interest to let Labour win there.
  • Two Mana candidates received $60,000 each but spent only $13,000 and $20,000 respectively
  • Todd McClay had the highest donations for a Nat candidate at $50,000
  • 173 candidates in total had a discloseable donation
  • The candidate who spent the most on newspaper advertising was Clayton Cosgrove at almost $16,000
  • Alastair Scott spent the most on radio advertising at just over $9,000
  • The highest spending candidates for Internet advertising were Andrew Bayly, Tamati Coffey, Nick Smith and David Seymour who spent $6,400, $4,600, $4,200 and $3,500 respectively
  • The highest spending candidate overall was Ron Mark in Wairarapa at $25,491, then Callum Blair (Conservatives) then Annette Sykes. In fact the five highest spending candidate all LOST. David Seymour was the highest spending candidate who won on $24,481.
  • Lowest spending Labour candidate was Arena Williams (Hunua) on $1,587 and National candidate was Brett Hudson (Ohariu) on $2,517
  • Lowest spending candidate who got elected was Meka Whaitiri on $5,853 and for National Jacqui Dean on $7,001

Not quite right

February 28th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Matt Nippert writes:

An analysis of electoral finance declarations shows more than 80 per cent of donations to National Party candidates were channelled through party headquarters in a loophole described as akin to legal “laundering”.

This statement is not correct. They did not go through party hq at all, or even near party hq. Some people donate to the *local* electorate committee and the local committee, if it has excess funds are paying the levy to hq, will partially or fully fund the local candidate’s campaign. It has nothing to do with party hq.

Electoral law requires candidates to reveal the identity of donors who contribute $1,500 or more, but political parties can keep donors secret even if they give up to $15,000.

There is a case for a lower disclosure limit for donations to electorates, rather than the main party. However it would be difficult to word such a law, as they are part of the same legal entity.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow strongly rejected any suggestion that donations to candidates from the party were used to obfuscate the source of funds.

He said the practice had more to do with time-frames around candidate selection and a longer-term fundraising cycle. “National is fundraising pretty actively throughout the three-year election cycle. People are donating to support a race before there’s even a candidate selected,” he said.

Mr Goodfellow said these donations were therefore impossible to tag to candidates and, “as our people often really give to the party”, were not be subject to the $1,500 declaration thresholds for candidates.

That’s a fair point. Even sitting MPs are not confirmed as candidates until election year – sometimes only three months before an election. So any donations prior to then *must* go to the party.

But it is fair to say that some donors prefer to give to the local party, rather than direct to a candidate’s campaign fund, because it does mean they can donate more than $1,500 without disclosure. However if they do so, they can not dictate how the electorate uses that donations. It might just as much go towards paying their levy to National HQ, their contribution to the party vote campaign, to covering local expenses or towards the candidate’s campaign.

Good crowd sourcing by the Herald

February 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The New Zealand Herald has today launched an experiment in crowdsourcing following the release of donations and expenses’ returns for candidates at the 2014 general election.

The Electoral Commission has published returns for all 462 candidates, including all 121 current members of Parliament. Donations and expenses for candidates from the previous 2011 election are also available.

This is an enormous potential dataset and the Herald has uploaded nearly 900 documents to its own microsite, Money in Politics, allowing members of the public to interact with and analyse the data.

That’s a smart move. Going through 900 returns would take one reporter ages and drive them to suicide. But many people wil be happy to read through one or two and summarise them.

So far 468 out of 473 donation returns for 2014 have been done.  But only two out of 473 expense returns.

Donation refunded

February 21st, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

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.

This time around Labour bans secret trusts

October 4th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour will tighten the rules around donations for its leadership contest to ensure there is no repeat of the use of trusts, such as that used by David Cunliffe in the first run-off, and any donations of more than $500 will still have to be publicly revealed.

Labour’s new leader will be announced on November 18 after members and union delegates vote following a three-week campaign during which the contestants will travel the country to woo party members. Nominations to compete for the job close in 12 days.

The party is redrafting its rules of conduct for the contest – including donation and spending rules. General secretary Tim Barnett said those rules would be tightened – including banning the use of trusts to hide donors’ identities such as that used by Mr Cunliffe last time.

Not often a party has to change its rules, to stop the (former) leader from using a secret trust to hide donors!

Large donations updated

September 26th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A few last minute donations for the campaign. Have updated the total large (over $30,000) donations received in 2014. It excludes estates and includes the $1 million Kim Dotcom donated to his party before it was registered.

  1. Internet Mana $4,539,480
  2. Conservatives $2,536,000
  3. National $935,260
  4. ACT $236,000
  5. Maori Party $210,000
  6. Labour $164,999
  7. Green $108,295

Interesting that the two with the largest donations did not make it in.

Large donations in 2014

September 17th, 2014 at 11:26 am by David Farrar

For those interested below are the totals of large donations to political parties in 2014. A large donation is one over $30,000. It includes the $1 million Kim Dotcom says he gave to the Internet Party prior to their formation and excludes donations from estates (as that is a donation vecause someone died, rather than a donation specifically made for this election).

  1. Internet Party (incl Internet Mana) $4,539,480
  2. Conservatives $1,736,000
  3. Maori $210,000
  4. ACT $201,000
  5. National $187,340
  6. Labour $164,999
  7. Greens $108,295


Uncovering that hid in plain sight

August 24th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new politician has been dragged into the saga of Donghua Liu’s funding of political parties.

National’s Coromandel MP Scott Simpson received a $5000 donation from the controversial Chinese-born property developer for his 2011 election campaign, after meeting Liu about 10 times, including a couple of dinner dates.

The donation was declared in Simpson’s post-election return, and has been uncovered by the Sunday Star-Times during a forensic trawl of donations to MPs.

The donation was declared in 2012. It has been sitting on the Electoral Commission website for a couple of years. There was nothing to uncover.

And I presume a “forensic trawl” is a fancy name for going to the Electoral Commission website and reading the returns online.

The donation disclosure limit

August 17th, 2014 at 8:21 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In a Stuff.co.nz/Ipsos poll commissioned for the Sunday Star-Times, 68 per cent of respondents say they would welcome a law change to make all political donations public.

Anything under $15,000 can be donated anonymously, and other loopholes exist to keep donors’ names out of the public domain.

Not quite correct. You can only donate up to $1,500 anonymously (where the party does not know your identity). $15,000 is the threshold at which a party donation must be disclosed publicly, and $1,500 the threshold for a candidate donation.

Today, the Star-Times launches a campaign calling for every donation, big or small, to be disclosed.

Labour leader David Cunliffe is one of the MPs open to something like that.

He could start by disclosing the donors to his secret leadership trust. The gall.

But the laws could be tighter. Greens co-leader Russel Norman would like a cap of $30,000 a year for individual donors and a $1000 anonymity threshold.

Absolutely against a cap. People have the right to donate if they believe strongly in a cause. Also caps do not work. They have them in the US, and caps just turn off the “good” donors and incentivise the others to find ways around then, such as PACs or third parties.

What the Greens want is to force taxpayers to fund their political party, rather than their own supporters.

At present, says Otago University political lecturer Andrew Geddis, our threshold is high, both in international terms, but also given that our size means elections are comparatively cheap to contest.

I’m not sure about the international comparisons, but I look at the disclosure limit as a % of a party’s funds needed for a campaign. National in election year will spend probably $4.5 million in total. So a disclosure limit of $15,000 means anyone who gives over 0.3% of the party’s income gets disclosed. Are you likely to buy influence for that amount? I doubt it.

I do personally think $15,000 is a bit on the high side.I thought the old limit of $10,000 was fine, but Labour and National agreed to lift it to $15,000 in exchange for maintaining restrictions on third party campaigns.

But National President Peter Goodfellow said disclosing all donations would have a “hugely damaging impact on genuine involvement in political participation and party membership”.

I thought Labour were upset that their donations database has been exposed on the Internet? Shouldn’t they welcome it, if they now agree with the Greens?

The Electoral Finance Act reforms removed some of the biggest wheezes – in particular, the Waitemata Trust, a blind trust long used by National to collect anonymous cash.

But there remain ways. On Wednesday, National will charge admirers $1350 plus GST a head to dine with the prime minister at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

Stupid article. The fact it is a fundraising dinner does not change the disclosure requirement. It is a red herring. If the tickets were over the disclosure limit,then they would be disclosed. The issue is the disclosure limit, not the method of fundraising.

But an events industry organiser said it was likely National’s costs for even the swishest event would be $200 a head. The rest, then, is really an anonymous donation.

No, no, no, no. The names are recorded by the party as donations, and if they exceed the limit are disclosed. Theey are NOT anonymous. They are just below the limit.

The Astle dinners, says Norman, are wrong: “I think it is basically circumventing the spirit of the law, because the idea of the law was to make large donations transparent to the public.”‘

Norman is basically lying here. The dinners do not circumvent the law. Again if a ticket is over the disclosure limit, it would be disclosed.

Thank you very much for your kind donation

August 12th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

National’s election war-chest has been given a half-million dollar boost by the estate of a wealthy Christchurch businessman.

Electoral Commission records show the party has received a $517,790 donation from the estate of Cyril Smith earlier this month.

Dead people make the best donors. Their motives are beyond doubt, as there can be no suggestion of self-gain from the donation.


The large donors

July 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar


This tables shows the large (over $30,000) donors to the parties since 2011. It does show quite dramatically where the big money is.

Note the figure for Colin Craig includes a donation in 2012 for around $1.6 million which was effectively for the previous campaign. However as recorded in 2012, I’ve included it.

Very interesting that NZ First claims not to have had a single large donor. They’ve claimed this in the past and it has turned out to be false, so I am naturally suspicious.

Hide on unions and Labour

July 7th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Rodney Hide writes:

The true donations scandal in New Zealand politics was reported this week without comment. It’s the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union’s $60,000 donation to Labour.

The EPMU is one of the six unions affiliated to Labour. The affiliated unions pay fees and fund the Party through donations. The donations and fees total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

More significantly, union staff campaign for Labour and the unions run parallel campaigns. For example, Labour is campaigning for the “living wage”. In a parallel campaign the Services and Food Workers Union spent more than half a million dollars last year promoting that exact policy.

It would be interesting to add up the total amount spent by unions on political campaigns. It would be well into the millions.

The union funding of Labour totals in the millions. And what does Labour provide in return? In effect the entire party. The unions get to determine the party’s leader. Their say counts for 20 per cent of the vote. That’s the difference between winning and losing by a wide margin.

Affiliation also buys a seat at the table. The affiliated unions have a guaranteed vice-president position on Labour’s all-powerful New Zealand Council.

They also get their people as MPs. The Labour Party enables the unions to parachute members into Parliament. Labour list MP Andrew Little headed the EPMU for 11 years before entering Parliament.

Imagine the outcry if business lobby groups got to vote on the leadership of the national party, could bus people in to their selection meetings, got a vice-president of the party and get a vote on the list ranking.

And the unions get policy, lots of policy. In 1999 the EPMU gave $100,000 to Labour. The following year the Labour Government passed the Employment Relations Act. This act gives the unions incredible power over Kiwi workplaces as well as easy access to workers’ pay packets.

The Employment Relations Act nicely closes the loop. The act was provided by the Labour Party. It gave the unions access to workers’ pockets, and that’s the money the unions now tip into Labour’s coffers.

Indeed, in the state sector it’s policy for Government to give union members a bonus to cover their union fees. You and I pay their union fees.

This is sadly true. Taxpayers bribe people to join the union.

Unions and Labour are guilty of “cash for policy”, “cash to sit at the table”, “cash to decide the leader” and “cash to parachute members into Parliament”.

The rort serves to bolster Labour and entrench the power of union bosses.

Unions are highly politicised organisations that only exist now because of the legal privileges bestowed by Labour governments.

The rorting of our democracy by the unions and Labour would make a great expose.

But don’t expect anything soon: it’s the EPMU that represents journalists in this country.

That’s right, our journalists – through their union – help fund the Labour Party.

To be fair the journalist fees don’t get paid directly to Labour. But they help fund the EPMU overall, which allows them to campaign more for Labour.

EPMU pays up

July 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union has donated $60,000 to the Labour Party and $15,000 to the Green Party, the union announced this morning.

This is no surprise. They get to vote on the Labour Party Leader, so of course they’ll donate to Labour. Interesting they donate also to the Greens.

Of course this is the small part of their actual effective donation. The most valuable donation they make is staff time. Pretty much all their staff can take as much paid time as they want to campaign for Labour (or Greens or Mana). This adds up to a huge contribution.

Let’s say 70 staff spend half their working week for three months campaigning for Labour. Assume they are paying above the living wage and get $30 an hour. 260 hours is $7,800 per staffer and that is around $550,000 of donated wages. However it doesn’t have to be declared as a donation as it is up to each staffer if they campaign for Labour or not. They just have an employer who will give them as much paid time off as they want to do so.

Personally I think when unions bulk supply staff to campaign for a political party, it should count as both an expense and a donation. There is a difference between someone individually volunteering to campaign for a party in their spare time, and someone being effectively paid by a union to go off and campaign for a party.

Dong Liu clarifies donations

June 25th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Controversial businessman Donghua Liu has issued a new statement to the Herald confirming “close to” $100,000 in total payments to Labour and its MPs – including anonymous donations – but clarifying that the money was not for one bottle of wine.

Liu, to whom Labour gave permanent residency against official advice, says his earlier signed statement on the wine auction was “capable of two meanings” and after repeated inquiries from the Herald he says he wants to clarify what he spent the $100,000 on.

The signed statement obtained by the Herald on Sunday said that at a 2007 Labour Party fundraiser, he “successfully bid on bottles of wine including one bottle signed by the then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Helen Clark, with a contribution of close to $100,000”.

The previous sentence in the signed statement said dinner and a boat trip on the Yangtze River in 2007 with a group including Rick Barker, the Minister for Internal Affairs at the time, which Liu estimated to cost between $50,000 to $60,000.

Okay, this reduces the amount donated to Labour. Paying for Rick Barker to cruise up the Yangtze River is not a donation to Labour. It is a gift to Barker, and if his share of the cost was over $500, he should have declared that in his Register of Pecuniary Interests.

This leaves $40,000 he still claims he donated to Labour, including the $15,000 for the Helen Clark book. The disclosure limit in 2007 was $10,000 – so we still do not know why these were not disclosed.

“Some of these donations were made anonymously which was perfectly legal and so such donations will only ever appear in some individual donation returns as anonymous.”

This suggests that possibly the $40,000 was split up between multiple electorates or candidates.

Labour failed to declare $150,000 from Liu

June 22nd, 2014 at 7:25 am by David Farrar

The Herald on Sunday reports:

Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.

So Labour, which was campaigning on financial transparency in 2007, took $150,000 from Mr Liu (after going against official advice to give him residency) and never ever disclosed that he was a donor.  This shows how deeply hypocritical they are, let alone the strong possibility they broke the law with their 2007 donation return.

Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu spent more than $150,000 on the previous Labour government, including $100,000 on a bottle of wine signed by former prime minister Helen Clark at a party fundraiser.

I’ve previously said the Police should investigate. The investigation should not just be under the Electoral Act. There may be theft involved. If Liu was donating to Labour, and Labour say they have no record of the donation, then what happened to the money? Did it go directly to any MPs?

If Labour had a shred of integrity, they would not wait for a Police investigation. They should ask Mr Liu directly who he gave the money to, and in what form was it.

“This is scandalous from the public’s perspective. There has to be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police one or a parliamentary one,” said political commentator Bryce Edwards. “There must be some sort of official investigation, whether it’s a police or parliamentary.”

Asked about a potential investigation under electoral finance laws, Liu’s lawyer Todd Simmonds indicated that Liu was comfortable with his financial support and would cooperate with any inquiry.

This is why I believe we should have an Independent Commission against Corruption – a body which can investigate issues like that – even if there are no prosecutions – we need to have someone with the ability to find out what happened.

Liu’s signed statement was dated May 3, two days after Williamson’s resignation. It said:

• Liu paid “close to $100,000” for wine at a 2007 Labour Party fundraiser;

• That he spent $50-60,000 hosting then-labour minister Rick Barker on a cruise on the Yangtze River in China in 2007; and

This is a huge issue for Rick Barker. He was required by Parliament’s Standing Orders to disclose any gift of over $500 in value.

That Liu visited Barker in Hawke’s Bay in 2006, having dinner with him at an exclusive lodge and then meeting for breakfast the next morning. Liu said he made a donation to Hawke’s Bay Rowing, which Barker was associated with.

Yet Barker claims to barely know him.

Barker previously told the Herald that he could barely remember having dinner.

I like Rick Barker, but he has some serious questions to answers. I presume the Parliamentary Privileges Committee can investigate the adequacy of his pecuniary interests return.

Edwards said while it was not clear if Labour had broken any laws, public confidence in the party had been dented.

He said a private prosecution could be possible, and it was the responsibility of the electoral commission to investigate and to decide whether a referral to police should be made.

They may not be able to prosecute, but they could insist the returns are corrected if necessary (as they did with NZ First).

Edwards said the case highlighted the need for a regulatory body separate from the Electoral Commission “to look at questions of corruption and irregularities” around political donations. Donations made at fundraising auctions or dinners are not recorded individually, but the total amount raised is declared.

That may be correct for Labour, but I’m certain that is not current practice for National. Anyone who donates over the disclosure limit is disclosed.

So what do we now know about Labour and this Liu.

  1. Chris Carter and David Cunliffe wrote letters on his behalf to immigration officials, despite him not being a constituent of either MP
  2. Damien O’Connor granted him residency against official advice
  3. He gave a donation to a club Rick Barker was involved in, and spent $50,000 or so on entertaining Barker in China
  4. He donated $150,000 or so to Labour, yet they have never ever disclosed he was a donor

The entire reason we have disclosure laws is so the media can scrutinise significant donations, and the public can form views on the appropriateness of the donations. Labour’s credibility on issues of electoral finance is now zero.

Police must investigate Liu donations to Labour

June 21st, 2014 at 11:30 am by David Farrar

John Banks has just been found guilty of signing an incorrect donation return, and there is now evidence that Labour’s 2007 donation return was incomplete.

The Herald reports:

Millionaire businessman Donghua Liu has confirmed for the first time that he donated to the Labour Party.

The 53-year-old has been at the centre of political scandals involving National and Labour for months but yesterday broke his silence to say he had given “equally to Governments of both colours”.

National declared a $22,000 donation in 2012, but Labour found no records of Liu donations after the Herald revealed that he paid $15,000 for a book at an auction fundraiser in 2007.

Unless the donations were under $10,000 (and no one is seriously suggesting that) they had to be declared – either under his name, or bundled up as part of someone else’s donation (a practive illegal today, but allowed in 2007).

However Labour say they have no record at all of any donation. That suggests a serious issue. Who was the money paid to? Was it in cash or cheque? Why was it not passed to Labour Head Office? Where did it end up.

The Police need to investigate and have those questions answered.

But Liu said he would not make any further comments about political donations or swear an affidavit outlining dollar amounts.

He denied allegations from former Labour Party minister Rick Barker that he was “drip feeding” information about his links to Labour.

Mr Barker, who was a guest of Liu at a lavish dinner on a Yangtze River cruise, had challenged the wealthy businessman to go public about allegations of donations to the party.

“It’s important to remember that over the years I’ve given equally to Governments of both colours,” said Liu. “As a private citizen it’s not for me to make declarations about donations and political relationships.”

That’s not good enough, when the donations have not been disclosed. The Police should interview Mr Liu and ask him how much he donated, and who he gave the money to. Then that person or persons need to explain where the money went.

I believe Labour Head Office when they say they have no record of the donation. But it must have gone to someone. Who?

Proof of a Liu donation to Labour

June 18th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A Labour Cabinet Minister presented a bottle of wine to the partner of businessman Donghua Liu at a fundraiser for the party.

The Herald has obtained a photograph of Rick Barker with Juan Zhang, who has two children with Liu, after he won an auction for the bottle at an Auckland restaurant in June 2007.

It is not known how much Liu paid for the wine – believed to be signed by then-Prime Minister Helen Clark – and Mr Barker said he presented auction prizes several times at Labour fundraisers.

He was the Minister for Internal Affairs at the time, and visited Liu in his hometown of Chongqing in China earlier that year, although he did not know Liu was a donor to Labour.

How can you say you did not know he was a donor, if you presented the bottle of wine to his partner?

Two sources have told the Herald that Liu paid $15,000 at an auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark.

Labour general secretary Tim Barnett said a check of the party’s records showed no donation from Liu under his name.

However, he said it was possible he made donations at the local electorate level and had not been recorded by the party’s central administration.

That’s no excuse. The party is responsible for its electorates. National asks its electorates to notify it of any donations above the disclosure limits, and I am sure Labour does the same.

The question remains is who banked the $15,000, which account did it go into and why was it not disclosed – or alternatively whose name was it disclosed under.

Mr Barker, now a regional councillor in Hawkes Bay, said he was a guest of Liu at the dinner in Chongqing and visited his cement company while on holiday in China. But he had not known Liu was a Labour donor and he was not in China on official business as a minister.

“I went to China to catch up with some friends of mine, see some sights … and I made a side trip to Chongqing – I had not been to the city before.

So who paid for the side trip? If Liu paid, and the cost was over $500, it should have been declared on the Register of Pecuniary Interests.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said yesterday he had nothing to do with the granting of Liu’s residency which occurred before he became Immigration Minister in 2006.

So Cunliffe is saying nothing at all to do with him.

This brings us back to the bottle of wine, that it is now proven that Liu paid for at a fundraising auction. If he paid more than $10,000 for the bottle of wine, that is a donation that also had to be declared by Labour. So how much did he pay for the bottle of wine? Surely someone in Labour knows. Was it $200? $400? $700? $1,500 or greater?

Has Labour made false returns like John Banks?

June 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour says it has no record of receiving money from the businessman and National Party donor surrounded in controversy.

The Herald yesterday revealed that Donghua Liu – who received citizenship after lobbying from National minister Maurice Williamson – also paid $15,000 at a Labour Party auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark, the Prime Minister at the time.

Labour leader David Cunliffe yesterday also said Liu may have made another donation through the purchase of a bottle of wine. However, he was only aware of Liu’s potential donations through media reports.

Labour general secretary Tim Barnett said a check of the party’s records showed no donation from Liu under his name.

Well why not? Is Labour denying the donations?

However he said it was possible he made donations via a company or family trust, which was allowed under electoral finance rules at the time, or that donations were made at the local electorate level, details of which were not recorded by the party’s central administration.

The 2007 return doesn’t show any donations from a family trust, and the company donations are large known companies.

If it was made at a local electorate level, then the party is still responsible for disclosure. The head office gets notified of any significant donations.

If it was made to a candidate’s campaign, the the candidate has to disclose, and the threshold back then was $1,000.

Former Labour Government Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker, who attended a dinner in China as a guest of Liu in 2007, yesterday said it was possible Liu made a donation through the purchase of one of several auctioned bottles of wine.

So how much was the donation, and who was it made to in Labour, and why wasn’t it disclosed?

If it was over $1,000 to a candidate or $10,000 to the party – then they are legally obliged to report the donation.

John Banks has just been found guilty of submitting a false election return.  Labour’s 2007 return looks very suspect unless they can answer the question of who was the donation made to in Labour, and was it declared – and if so, under what name.

Why did Labour not declare Liu’s donation?

June 16th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A wealthy Auckland businessman, whose links to the National Party led to a minister’s resignation, also made a secret $15,000 donation to the Labour Party – and hosted a Cabinet minister at a lavish dinner in China.

The Labour Party has previously accused the Government of “cash for access” deals with Donghua Liu, who received citizenship after lobbying from National minister Maurice Williamson and whose hotel was later opened by Prime Minister John Key.

But the Herald can reveal Liu, 53, also paid $15,000 at a Labour Party auction in 2007 for a book signed by Helen Clark, the Prime Minister at the time, according to a party source.

The source said Liu also hosted Rick Barker, the then Internal Affairs Minister, at a dinner in his hometown of Chongqing.

Mr Barker, who is now a regional councillor in Hawkes Bay, confirmed he was a guest at the dinner and also visited Liu’s cement company while on holiday in China.

But he said he was not aware Liu was a Labour donor and he was not in China on official business as a minister.

“I went to China to catch up with some friends of mine, see some sights … and I made a side trip to Chongqing – I had not been to the city before.

“I was in the city a short time. Mr Liu showed me his business and that night, I attended a dinner which seemed to be a dinner he had put on for all his staff.”

However, Mr Barker could not remember how he came to be invited to visit Liu in Chongqing.

He said it was “probable” he also had dinner with Liu in New Zealand.

“I am trying to recall events of over seven years ago, so it’s a little challenging. But it can’t have been a regular event, because if it was I would recall that. In fact my contact with Liu fell away quite quickly.”

Political donations made at fundraising auctions or dinners are not recorded individually, but the total amount raised is declared.

That statement is not correct.

If a donation at an auction or dinner is larger than the disclosure threshold it must be declared with the identity of the individual who made it.

The disclosure limit in 2007 was $10,000. Liu donated $15,000 to Labour. The party should have declared him as a donor.

Also the article says the total amount raised at the dinner was declared? Where? In Labour’s 2007 return the only donors listed are:

  • MPs
  • three law firms on behalf of anonymous donors
  • four corporates
  • Chhour Lim Nam for $25,000
  • Steven Wong for $19,000

So was the $15,000 part of the last two?

National declared its donation from Donghua Liu, which is the correct thing to do. The transparency of revealing significant donors allows the scrutiny which has occurred. However once again Labour is exposed as concealing the names of its donors.

Why did they not disclose Liu as a donor in 2007? The threshold was $10,000.

The Banks trial

May 30th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

John Banks made every effort to keep “politically sensitive” donations to his failed 2010 Auckland mayoralty bid secret, the Crown says, but Banks’ lawyer argues the politician had nothing to gain from that and is a victim of Kim Dotcom-orchestrated lies.

The nothing to gain is a significant aspect to this. Banks was the loser, not the winner, of the campaign. When he filed the return he was not planning a political future. Revealing the Dotcom donation and the Sky City one would not have damaged him in any way.

Mr Jones pointed out inconsistencies in prosecution evidence ? Mrs Dotcom said she was present when donations were discussed, Mr Dotcom said she was not.

Now the pair were separated, Mr Dotcom couldn’t rely on her to support him so took her out of the picture, Mr Jones said.

But Mrs Dotcom went along with the earlier agreed version of events and that “proves the lie”.

And former Dotcom accountant Grant McKavanagh originally said he travelled down to Queenstown and posted the cheques there, when they were actually deposited into Banks’ account at a North Shore Westpac.

When that was pointed out Mr McKavanagh couldn’t explain his “fairytale” evidence, Mr Jones said.

That piece of evidence is bizarre. How could you get wrong a claim that you travelled to Queenstown to post the cheques?

The Crown had failed to put forward a motivation for Banks to falsely declare donations and Mr Dotcom wasn’t even on the public radar in 2010.

Mr Jones said Banks’ campaign was financially transparent.

His team had chosen not to use a secret trust to channel payments, as was allowed, and on one occasion when Banks was handed a cheque, he banked it and informed Mr Hutchison of the situation.

Banks should have done what Len Brown and David Cunliffe did, and set up a secret trust. However he didn’t, and he should have taken more care with his donations return. It isn’t good enough to rely on someone else, when you are the guy who signs it.

Also of interest is the court judgement against TV3. Extracts:

In the present case, I am in no doubt that the footage of Mr Banks broadcast by TV3/Media Works in the 6 o’clock news bulletin on 22 May 2014 was neither fair, nor balanced. It did not respect Mr Banks’ rights. It was gratuitous and tasteless. The justifications advanced by Ms Bradley were, in my view, disingenuous. The footage broadcast did not show Mr Banks’ reaction to the interview being played in court. Rather, it was a sideshow broadcast seemingly to entertain. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the broadcast was intended to expose Mr Banks to ridicule and/or derision. There was, in my judgment, no news value in the footage at all, and no public interest was served by broadcasting it. In my judgment, TV3/Media Works’ decision to broadcast the footage was irresponsible and it reflects no credit on the organisation.

What makes this worse for TV3 is the decision was not taken by some junior staff member. The decision was made the the general counsel and the deputy head of news and current affairs.

It seems TVNZ may also be in some trouble. They were responsible for the camera and it was meant to be turned off after the first 15 minutes of the day. The Judge has asked TVNZ to also explain why it was left on.

What is Laila’s stance on capping political donations?

May 29th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m pretty certain Laila Harre has in the past campaigned on capping the amount any one person can donate to a political party. The CTU submitted in 2007 that there should be a maximum cap of $5,000. The Greens have supported a cap. These are her last two employers.

Does she still support a cap of $5,000?

Does she have no problems leading a party that so far has had (at least) $250,000 donated to it by one person?

Amazing how flexible principles are, when you’re receiving the money.