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Electoral donations reported

Written By: - Date published: 9:50 am, May 1st, 2008 - 52 comments
Categories: election 2008, election funding, same old national - Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Electoral Commission has published the parties’ donation returns for 2007. It is worth noting from the outset that under the electoral law then in force only donations over $10,000 had to be declared and anonymous donations, including the use of anonymising trusts, were legal.

Labour has the largest return, at $1,030,446.39. But $700,000 was payments from MPs to the Party as part of the ‘big whip around’ to cover the $800,000 that the Auditor-General found Labour had overspent at the 2005 election. Removing that sum, Labour brought in $200,000 in declared donations.

National brought in $704,100.00. Of that, $553,100 was given by anonymous donors or came through trusts designed to hide the identities of the donors.  It is not good enough that in a democracy a major party can take nearly all of it’s donations from secret sources, especially after the beat up they made over the Owen Glenn donations. National (and Labour) should come forward and reveal their secret donors. They know who they are.

Of course, National won’t do that. Fortunately, we now have a law that prevents people secretly spending huge sums in an effort to influence elections. Under the Electoral Finance Act, all parties are forced to reveal the sources of their big donations. And New Zealand’s democracy is stronger for it.

PS. Radio NZ said this morning they had asked Mike Williams to come on to discuss the donations. He is wisely keeping out of the media for now but how come no-one ever interviews National’s President, Judy Kirk? Surely, she’s the one hiding the real secrets. 

52 comments on “Electoral donations reported”

  1. hmm 1

    So Labour spent all that time lecturing us about anonymous donations and they were recieving more than $200k of them.

    Also Tane spent last year telling us that Bell Gully must be National Party supporters because their trust account was used to make a donation. By that logic will Tane now be smearing Simpson Grierson, Morrison Kent and Palmer Theron and saying that because of this http://www.elections.org.nz/parties/party-donations-2007.html they too must be Labour Party supporters.

  2. Tane 2

    Steve, I think it’s also a bad look for Labour to have received sizeable anonymous donations. There’s no place for them in our democracy.

    hmmm, I don’t think Bell Gully are National supporters because they acted as bagmen for secret donations, but I do think their ability to comment on electoral finance reform is heavily compromised.

  3. vto 3

    “Fortunately, we now have a law that prevents people secretly spending huge sums in an effort to influence elections.”

    You have got to be joking Mr Pierson.

    The hugest sum by a long shot will be spent by the labour govt. In an attempt to influence the election.

    It has already been admitted by Mike Williams. And ad spend rates by govt depts are also showing their characteristic election year increase.

    You must think the public are stupid. Your cred suffers with statements like that.

  4. Steve Pierson 4

    I fully agree that Laobur’s anonymous donations are just as bad as National’s but they make up a small portion of what Labour got. Whereas, they make up the bulk of what National got. And, unlike National, Labour does not have trusts established specifically to hide the identities of donors.

    captcha: Happy Smith – Nick?

  5. Ted 5

    People don’t interview Judy because by and large she doesn’t do interviews – there are a few rare exceptions to this but she was elected on a promise to stay out of the headlines.

    Williams on the other hand has sought a high media profile. It’s pretty clear he has been used as an extra-Parliamentary attack dog so it’s newsworthy that he is now keeping his head down.

    I can’t say for sure whether or not Kirk was invited on but I know she would have declined. Either way it’s not newsworthy to report she wasn’t on because she has consistently referred media opportunities to the Leader.

  6. Steve Pierson 6

    cheers Ted. I wasn’t aware of that – guess she makes a nice change after Michelle Boag.

    vto – Ministers don’t control the size of their ministries’ advertising budgets, nor how they are spent. They sign off on campaigns but they cannot go in and direct them.

  7. r0b 7

    The hugest sum by a long shot will be spent by the labour govt. In an attempt to influence the election. It has already been admitted by Mike Williams.

    Not quite sure what you’re claiming there vto. Could you please point me to the comment / quote from Williams that you are referring to?

  8. Daveo 8

    Let’s be clear- however imperfect it might be, the Electoral Finance Act will stop this sort of large anonymous donation. Doesn’t this mean it’s working as intended?

  9. Steve Pierson 9

    I think the Elecotral Finance Act is working just fine. Around the margins some of the provisions can be a hassle, especailly with the likes of Whaleoil and Farrar trying to make their own petty breaches in the hope they can get martyred and then accussing others of petty breaches all in an effort to undermine the law. But it’s main purpose is bieng fufilled and the small problems will be dealt with as the legislation shakes-down – it happens with all new laws, just this one is more in the public eye.

  10. vto 10

    Rob, I was referring to his gaff at the conference a couple of weeks ago.

    Don’t want to start re-litigating the entire EFA debate but in my opinion the legislation and its implementation has damaged, further, ALL of our elected representatives’ credibility. And the institution of Parliament. It’s all been quite shocking. Those of the public that follow, but do not participate in, the political system know this. I think it is one of the major reasons for labour’s non-recoverable slump.

  11. follow the money 11

    Where is John Key’s donation? Why is it never declared in the returns – this year, or any year? Is it because he never gives money to National?

    No, it isn’t.

    Dominion-Post, Feb 21:

    “Key disclosed that he had donated “several thousand’ dollars a year to National for the past six years but never more than $10,000 in any one year — the maximum an individual can give before the donation has to be declared.
    Key said this election he intended to donate between $20,000 and $25,000 to National, which would be disclosed according to the Electoral Finance Act.’

    But the name of John Key is not there. He is not some shy but well-off citizen, who wants privacy – he wants to be Prime Minister. It doesn’t get any more public than that. And the public are fully entitled to know.

    So, how much has John Key donated anonymously to National through a secret Trust? And just as important, WHY does he do it anonymously?

  12. vto 12

    Just a little further to my post above…

    The manner in which the EFA was implemented was excessively partisan. Similar to the Privy Council abolition. Too much advantage has been taken of the unchecked power that rests in the parliamentary and executive wings our of our system.

    The reason for the slump being non-recoverable is that those actions are the type of actions which people get fired for in private enterprise. Helen et al have to get fired. The people that notice these things know this. Their minds are made up.

    The others that don’t notice these things are being viciously beaten by this economic downturn and that’s the nail in the coffin for them. It’s all over.

    2c.

  13. Felix 13

    Steve, for the sake of comparison do you know what proportion of Labour’s donations were anonymous?

  14. Stephen 14

    follow the money, it’s still 2008, so there’s still time for Key to donate, one would imagine.

  15. follow the money 15

    Stephen

    The point is, he already has donated a great deal. But never disclosing how much, and only admitting it under questioning from journalists.

    Key also says that he will declare this year’s donations “according to the Electoral Finance Act” (his words).

    John Key opposes the Electoral Finance Act.

  16. Stephen 16

    Right on

  17. r0b 17

    With proper tags this time:

    vto: The hugest sum by a long shot will be spent by the labour govt. In an attempt to influence the election. It has already been admitted by Mike Williams.

    When queried: Rob, I was referring to his gaff at the conference a couple of weeks ago.

    Well vto, if that’s your source then you need to stop telling lies. There was a proposal to distribute government department pamphlets which Mike initially endorsed, but it was quickly quashed by Helen Clark because of the conflict of interest – government department advertising should be and should be seen to be distinct from party campaigning. So Labour is explicitly and ethically NOT doing exactly what you accuse them of. I’m sure you’re aware of this, there was plenty of publicity. So stop telling lies.

    [lprent: I deleted the bad tag one]

  18. higherstandard 18

    Well then Rob how about the increased advertising we will undoubtedly see on our screens from a number of ministries leading into the election as was the case last time the election came around.

    If there’s one post that highlights how much you chaps have lost the plot it’s this one – berating National for donations via trusts and the like while Labour is doing the same thing.

  19. Dave 19

    Labour does not have trusts established specifically to hide the identities of donors.
    And it doesnt need to either as it spends it before it gets it and so we know how much they have to pay back – but its not donors that are paying it back it is the MPs through the interest they get on their overinflated salaries – salaries that are being paid for by the taxpayer, while these same MPs can currently claim a third of their donations back as a tax rebate. It’s a money go round.

  20. Dave 20

    So, how much has John Key donated anonymously to National through a secret Trust? And just as important, WHY does he do it anonymously?
    If he does donate anonymously its becaue Labour passed a law allowing him to donate multiple times anonymously, while maintaining their silly EFA promoted accountability.

  21. insider 21

    __Ministers don’t control the size of their ministries’ advertising budgets, nor how they are spent. They sign off on campaigns but they cannot go in and direct them.__

    No apparantly that is what Heather Simpson is there for – cf her involvement in MfE comms strategies

  22. insider 22

    Steve

    I’m confused. You say that, excluding the big whip round, Labour received 300k in ‘real’ donations. You then attack National:

    “It is not good enough that in a democracy a major party can take nearly all of it’s donations from secret sources, especially after the beat up they made over the Owen Glenn donations.”

    But Labour got 2/3 of its donations anonymously…

  23. If People want to be anonymous when donating money to a political party that should be their right.

    Oh by the way the Republican party thanks you, I see you have some Google ads on your site, they are a very large donator to the GOP, but hey Im sure if enough people click you will make some money and google will make some money, which they would give McCain.

    Thanks for helping the war effort.

  24. r0b 24

    Well then Rob how about the increased advertising we will undoubtedly see on our screens from a number of ministries leading into the election as was the case last time the election came around.

    I don’t see adds because I don’t have a TV. Did they increase last election? I’d be interested to see the data.

    If there’s one post that highlights how much you chaps have lost the plot it’s this one – berating National for donations via trusts and the like while Labour is doing the same thing.

    HS you seem to be terminally confusing different issues.

    [lprent: I deleted the bad tag one]

    Thanks!

  25. Matthew Pilott 25

    Insider – Where did you get that info about 2/3 of labour’s donations? If you’re looking at the elections.org website, there’s something funny about your math. $230,000 out of over $1m doesn’t add up to 2/3 in my books.

    Brett Dale – if people could be 100% sure that anonymous donations were kept anonymous then you would be right. This can’t happen, and in a democracy we have a right to know what the interests of a party might be, based upon their funding. Don’t ya hate it when it turns out your opinion is undemocratic?

  26. Matthew Pilott 26

    Dave (or anyone) – can you get rebates on donations made to political organisations?

    I thought it was only applicable for donations to charitable organisations, in which case Dave is telling porkies and that whole post makes even less sense than it did when I first tried to decipher it. Happy to be corrected though.

  27. insider 27

    Matthew

    Steve said the 700k donations from MPs for the big whip round didn’t really count. that left 300k in donations, 200k of which were anonymous. Where is the error in my maths (note the ‘s’! On some things I just draw the line)

    r0b

    Bill English had a release on advertising this week –

    “Government advertising spend by rate card – March ’03-’08

    March 2003 $3,235,752 March 2004 $4,096,347 March 2005 $7,922,172 March 2006 $7,188,466 March 2007 $6,147,948 March 2008 $8,098,723 Source: Nielsen Media Research”

  28. r0b 28

    Government advertising spend by rate card – March ‘03-’08

    Insider – why did he pick March?

  29. insider 29

    hmmm, let me think….(could take a while)

  30. higherstandard 30

    It would be interesting to delve into the advertising spend deeper.

    Although it may be dodgy it might be something from left field like additional lotto advertising or an ALAC campaign which is probably captured under government spending but couldn’t be claimed (except via an extreme stretch) to influence voters.

  31. Ted 31

    r0b, because March was the last available month. I think it’s pretty tough to justify a two million dollar jump particularly when Labour had more new stuff to advertise in 2007 than they have this year.

  32. r0b 32

    Insider – why did he pick March?

    hmmm, let me think .(could take a while)

    Please do Insider. I imagine the government dept advertising spend is fairly constant year to year (if it increased dramatically every election year I’m sure we’d have heard about that!). But each year’s spend is probably distributed over the 12 months unevenly.

    If that’s the case then one possibility is that Bill English picked March because of the 12 months it showed a pattern that looked (if you squinted at it in the right light) vaguely sinister (i.e. correlated to the electoral cycle). If that is what he did, then, umm – pathetic. Deliberate lying with statistics.

    Not to mention the fact that March is totally the wrong month to spend up if you want to influence an election.

  33. Ted 33

    That said, I am open to explanations anyone said. This isn’t conclusive proof that Labour are ramping up Government funding to win the election, but it certainly isn’t a good look.

  34. r0b 34

    r0b, because March was the last available month.

    Any month can be picked for years up to 08.

  35. r0b 35

    Further re “why March”, Bill had the data to produce aggregate spends January – March every year including 08. Presumably if there was a big spend up every election year, this would have made his point even better. So why didn’t he? Why March?

    Does anyone actually know where to find this data? I’d be very interested to see it. Has Bill been lying to us with dodgy stats?

  36. Higherstandard 36

    Are the figures for entire year to end of March or just March in isolation if they’re just a month in isolation they’re about as useful as a single poll result with no long term trend data.

  37. insider 37

    single month

  38. Higherstandard 38

    Odd perhaps English will elucidate further in the house. All that’s on Neilsen’s website that I can find is a comment about a 25% increase in government spend but that’s for some years back.

    http://www.nielsenmedia.co.nz/news.asp?newsID=197

  39. Matthew Pilott 39

    Insider – you’re right, I was counting the whole lot when I should have excluded the $700,000 as you and Steve did.

    Also sorry about the ‘math’ call – inappropriate (accidental, if you will believe me)!

  40. darryl p 40

    March is the end of the financial year.

  41. vto 41

    rOb (way back up there somewhere)…

    Sorry, I simply do not believe either Helen Clark or Mike Williams(and most other politicians are only a step behind).

    Reading through this thread you seem to be a blindfolded labour supporter ya? Appears that way. Often difficult to debate with those types, mind you I only new here so you may find me the same.

  42. Scribe 42

    From Felix:

    Steve, for the sake of comparison do you know what proportion of Labour’s donations were anonymous?

    I’ll give Steve the benefit of the doubt that he’s been too busy to respond. Thankfully insider has shown that 61% of Labour’s non-MP donations were anonymous, not as high as National’s, but certainly fairly sizeable.

    From Steve:

    National (and Labour) should come forward and reveal their secret donors. They know who they are.

    Of course, National won’t do that.

    Will Labour, Steve?

  43. lprent 43

    vto: I was there at the congress. For that matter so was rOb and about 398 others. So yes he does (like me) generally support labour.

    There was some moaning about the shortage of campaign material because it was getting updated to conform to the EFA. A respected delegate popped up to the mic, offered a suggestion, and Mike without thinking about it said a good idea.

    I said it was a good idea to the person next to me (or something like that). It was only later that it didn’t look like such a good idea. For a while I even thought it might be illegal – but was eventually corrected.

    No vast conspiracy. It was just an idea that was bounced around and discarded. All of this is in posts and comments on the site (and elsewhere) just after that time.

    It was just the herald and Audrey Young looking for a headline.

  44. r0b 44

    Sorry, I simply do not believe either Helen Clark or Mike Williams(and most other politicians are only a step behind).

    Fine, don’t believe them. But don’t present your delusions here as fact, because that’s called lying.

    Reading through this thread you seem to be a blindfolded labour supporter ya

    I’m an active member of the Labour Party. Whether or not I’m blindfolded, perhaps you’ll make up your own mind on that if you stick around here. You might want to check out the recent thread on questions for the PM: http://www.thestandard.org.nz/?p=1601

  45. Dean 45

    “There was some moaning about the shortage of campaign material because it was getting updated to conform to the EFA.”

    Ahem.

    “A respected delegate popped up to the mic,”

    We all know who it was. You can name names. And if he’s respected on the basis that he thinks it’s a good idea to get the taxpayer to front up again after the last time, that just speaks volumes.

    “offered a suggestion, and Mike without thinking about it said a good idea.”

    Oh please.

    Either:

    Mike didn’t think about it, which also says volumes about his integrity, or:

    Mike lied about it on TV, when denying he’d even said the words.

    You can’t have it both ways, but if you’d like to pretend then I’d invite you to comment on the next John Key thread here on the standard where quotes of his will be pasted and denegrated.

  46. Dean 46

    “Will Labour, Steve?”

    I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for a response.

  47. vto 47

    rOb, don’t call me a liar. That was not presented as fact, just opinion. Calm down. I stand by my posts.

    Been hanging around on kiwiblog for a bit but it gets a bit boring when most people agree with you most of the time. Thought it may be more ‘challenging’ to launch into the lion’s den for a bit and test out my thought patterns. I aint no expert pollie-hound, just a keen observer.

    Peace.

  48. r0b 48

    rOb, don’t call me a liar. That was not presented as fact, just opinion. Calm down. I stand by my posts.

    OK vto, but when you say things like:

    The hugest sum by a long shot will be spent by the labour govt. In an attempt to influence the election.

    it comes across as a claim of fact which is patently untrue, and that does get me cross.

    Been hanging around on kiwiblog for a bit but it gets a bit boring when most people agree with you most of the time. Thought it may be more ‘challenging’ to launch into the lion’s den for a bit and test out my thought patterns.

    Well good for you. Would that more people did that.

    I aint no expert pollie-hound, just a keen observer. Peace.

    Fine then, peace, good luck on your journey.

  49. Matthew Pilott 49

    Dean, if you’ve seen the transcript then you know what you’re saying is bolloks. Have you ever workshopped or brainstormed an issue before? Everyone chucks the ideas out there and so on? So when you, as the man with the mic, say ‘great idea’ you could mean any number of things, here’s a few suggestions to chew o:

    1) it’s lunchtime, I am hungry. Please sit down and stop speaking
    2) thanks for the idea – worth looking into
    3) I have to say something nice, I can’t tell the delegate to f.. off
    4) in the two seconds I’ve had to think about it, I have carefully considered the difficult ramifications of this idea and (wrongly) applauded the idea as one the Labour Party should adopt as policy.

    To say “it speaks volumes about his integrity”

    Oh please.

    You actually seriously believe what you’re saying?! I honestly doubt it, but whatever floats your boat…

  50. lprent 50

    Dean, one day after the congress, I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d said to the person next to me during that session about the idea. Hell, I couldn’t remember exactly who was sitting next to me. I vaguely remember having a conversation with him. It could have been any number of people that I’d talked to in the hall during the congress. Exactly which one I don’t know.

    At any of these conferences, your mind goes into overload because there is a lot going on. You remember the ideas, but not the context. It is one of the few places that I carry a notepad to, because the spillover is immense.

    Face it, I’m not going to change your mind. It is quite apparent which version of events you prefer to believe, and it isn’t the one from the people that witnessed it. I can just imagine what you’re like on jury service.

  51. Tane 51

    Regarding the discussion earlier in the thread, it was interesting to see National Party President Judy Kirk fronted for the telly last night on TV1.

  52. Ted 52

    Tane, it’s something she does rarely. If you like I can produce a raft of media reports confirming this.

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