The art auctions returned

The Herald reports:

Donations disclosed in the last weeks of the campaign reveals Labour went ahead with its usual art auction fundraiser, despite questions about how it was disclosing the donations.

They also reveal that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters appears to have loaned his own party $60,000.

In early October, Labour declared donations of artwork from artists Karl Maughan and John Reynolds totalling $35,760 and $32,000 respectively.

Those “donations” represent how much a number of separate pieces of art sold for at auctions – that money is counted as a donation by Labour.

But Electoral Commission records don’t show who bought the artwork.

Labour has a long tradition of holding art auction fundraisers and has always treated them as donations from the artists, rather than disclosing the people who purchase the artworks.

It’s a loophole to hide donors.

Those paying $35,000 for an artwork are doing it to help Labour. They’re not doing it to buy a piece of art.

Otago University electoral law specialist Andrew Geddis said this is an area where the law should be tightened up to require disclosure of those who purchase the artworks, sometimes for much more than their value.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating a matter relating to donations to the Labour Party in 2017 but has not revealed any details of what it is investigating.

Speaking to the Herald, Geddis said this could be one of the areas that the SFO was looking into.

He said the issue with Labour’s practise of raising money through selling art is the buyer could be deliberately be paying more than a piece is worth as they know it’s raising money for a political party they support.

The market value of a painting is highly subjective. It is not like a car. Of course people are paying more than they normally would, as a way to donate.