Almost half a million dollars in political donations appear to have been hidden inside a secret slush fund controlled by a coterie of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ trusted advisers.
The secretive New Zealand First Foundation collected donations from wealthy donors and used the money to finance election campaigns, pay for an MP’s legal advice, advertising, fund a $5000 day at the Wellington races and even pay an IRD bill.
A New Zealand First spokesperson said on Monday the foundation had been in existence across several election cycles. “There has never been any suggestion that it is anything other than lawful,” she said.
Records uncovered in a Stuff investigation show a complex web that appears to be designed to hide donations to the NZ First Party via The New Zealand First Foundation.
Now considering the Prime Minister and the Greens were so vocal on a totally legal donation from a NZ company to National, I am sure they are going to hit the wall and condemn a secret donations slush fund run on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister.
This is of course not the first time New Zealand First has been dishonest about donations.
In 2008 we learnt about the Spencer Trust. This seems almost identical to the NZ First Foundation. Donors gave money to it, and it paid bills on behalf of NZ First and/or passed money on. NZ First broke the law with false donation returns in 2005, 2006 and 2007 despite receiving $234,000 from the Spencer Trust. The Spencer Trust also donated money to Peters personally, to cover his legal bills. He made a false pecuniary interests declaration.
Then in 2008 we also had the Owen Glenn donation of $100,000 to Peters. Peters lied dozens of times about this donation, and was found to have lied by the Privileges Committee.
So this is the third time NZ First have been exposed. First the Spencer Trust then Owen Glenn and now the NZ First Foundation. Is there any limit to what they will do to hide the source of their donations?
Here’s a summary I did in 2008:
- NZ First filed false donation returns in 2005, 2007 and probably 2006
- Winston Peters filed false pecuniary interest returns in 2006 and 2007
- NZ First is now known to get major funding from big business interests, something they had gone to massive lengths to conceal
- NZ First is known to use a secret trust – of the sort they have decried so often
- Winston was found to have lied over not knowing about the Owen Glenn donation
- Winston has personally benefited by $140,000 from private donors
- Winston has been proven to have lied dozens on times on everything from Owen Glenn, to the Spencer Trust, to what the Trust does, to not soliciting money, to not flying on a helicopter
- Documents from his former staffer, Ross Meurant, suggest that NZ First sold policy for cash or at the least allowed corporate donors to greatly influence their policy, and proposed a strategy for NZ First that it becomes a party of narrow sectional corporate interest that will fund it – a strategy that appears to have been implemented and is in total contrast to the public brand they portray
Of course the Electoral Commission must now investigate these revelations.