Glenn says Brethren campaign prompted his $500,000 donation to Labour

The Dominion Post quotes expat billionaire Owen Glenn as citing the Exclusive Brethren’s “sneaky” campaign against Labour as what prompted him to donate $500,000 to the Labour Party. To quote the article:

He made the decision to give $500,000 to the New Zealand Labour Party while on his yacht in the Caribbean.

“There was a little bit of controversy to do with some church that had done something.”

That controversy was a $1 million campaign by the Exclusive Brethren to get National elected, a move that sparked the Government’s race to bring in new electoral finance laws before this year’s election.

What really riled Mr Glenn was the “sneaky” way in which the Brethren had reportedly tried to hide the fact it was behind the campaign.

“I thought, `Poor old Labour; let’s make this a little more interesting.’ There’s a little bit of imp in me.”

Now there is a serious credibility issue here. Very very serious. You see the Brethren campaign only became public in September 2005. And when did Owen Glenn make his donations? Well according to the Electoral Commission he gave $199,960 to Labour in 2004 – yes in 2004. And he gave a further $300,000 in 2005.

And as further proof we have this story in May 2005 with Labour President Mike Williams announcing the $500,000 donation by Owen Glenn, and confirming they had already received the $500,000 – with the first payment appearing to be on 9 November 2004 and the last on 9 March 2005.

So how does one reconcile these conflicting facts. There seem to be only three possibilities

  1. Owen Glenn knew about the Brethren’s plans a year before anyone else in NZ did
  2. The Dominion Post has grossly misrepresented what Owen Glenn has said
  3. Owen Glenn has lied

I am surpised the Dominion Post themselves didn’t pick up the inconsistency with the dates. They now need to confirm whether or not they have accurately reported the words of Mr Glenn. I will refrain from further comment on the implications until it is clear whether or not the story is correct.

There are also two other items of interest in the Dom Post Story:

  • Helen Clark offered him a seat in Parliament and the role of Transport Minister. It is unclear whether or not this was before or after his $500,000 donation
  • Owen Glenn made a further contribution to Labour after the election by loaning them money. If the loan was not at a commercial rate of interest I would argue it is a donation (for the amount of interest not charged) under the then s214F(b) of the Electoral Act 1993, and if this is the case Labour needs to clarify whether or not it has recognised that donation on its books and disclosed it to the Electoral Commission (if over the threshold). There have been huge scandals in the UK about UK Labour receiving interest free loans from donors.

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