Phil Kitchin in the Dominion Post reveals another secret donation to NZ First – $25,000 from SIr Robert Jones in 2005 and $50,000 in 1993.
Neither of these donations has ever been declared.
The 2005 one went into The Spencer Trust, which is administed by Wayne Peters – Winston’s brother.
Now there are three issues here for NZ First – their brand, their hypocrisy and legal issues.
NZ First has portrayed itself as the party of the underdog fighting wealthy interests. But in the last few days we have learnt that NZ First and/or its leader has received donations from a foreign resident billionaire, a foreign resident family worth around $180 million and a local millionaire worth $400 million or so.
NZ First has purported to be a party funded by lots of $20 and $50 donations but seems to have more mega rich donors than anyone thought. What is the average NZ First supporter or MP thinking?
As detailed in this Dom Post story, Peters has railed against secret donations, against the use of trusts funds to collect donations etc.
It is becoming clear that NZ First has been engaging in the exact behaviour it has so criticised over the years. In fact its behaviour has been less transparent it seems than those it criticised.
Now it is (or was) legal for someone to donate to a trust and for the trust to then donate to a party. However the party has to declare the donation from the trust, and NZ First has never ever disclosed a single donation from the Spencer Trust. People go on about the Waitemata Trust – but at least people know that exists and how much it donates to National. Until today The Spencer Trust was unknown to almost everyone (I actually first heard about it and a link to NZ First last year), so this is a level of transparency which is rock bottom.
Now accounts are audited, so how come there are no donations recorded from the Spencer Trust to NZ First? Well according to the Kitchin article, it simply just pays bills on behalf of NZ First.
Sound a familiar method of operation? And all impossible for an auditor to detect.
However I suspect the legal position is that paying a bill on behalf of a party counts as an donation to the party, and should have been declared.
The Electoral Commission needs to decide if it has a role here. The time limit for prosecutions over the 2005 election return has passed, but the 2007 return might now be questioned if this behaviour is not a one off. If the allegations are correct and the Spencer Trust is paying bills on behalf of the party, then that is an issue to be investigated.
Finally in the interest of balance, we quote the denials given to the Dominion Post:
Mr Peters, who is in Singapore, would not comment yesterday. Responding later to written questions about Sir Robert’s donation going to the Spencer Trust, he would say only that the information was “not factual”.
Is he saying Sir Robert is mistaken?
Early this week The Dominion Post asked a spokesman for Mr Peters if a trust run by his brother had sometimes paid NZ First bills.
Through the spokesman, Mr Peters said: “That is a lie.”
And that is a clear cuit denial. So what does Sir Robert say:
When contacted yesterday, Sir Robert said he was making his own inquiries with NZ First officials and would not comment further at this stage.
Sir Robert is a straight shooter. I look forward to hearing his comments once he has made his inquiries.