Written By: - Date published: 10:20 am, January 27th, 2019 - 88 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, articles, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, journalism, Media, national, nick smith, Politics, same old national, Simon Bridges - Tags: david fisher, fran o'sullivan, jami-lee ross, sarah dowie
In a recent Herald article Fran O’Sullivan asks a very pertinent question, what has happened to the investigation of the $100,000 donation made to National that was partitioned so that it did not have to be reported?
The background was described in this way in an earlier Herald article by David Fisher:
Ross – in an extraordinary press conference – said: “On the 14th of May this year I attended a dinner with Simon Bridges at the home of a wealthy Chinese businessman.”
He later named Zhang and then tweeted pictures of Bridges and Zhang at the dinner.
Ross said Bridges rang the following week, having been at a fundraiser for National list MP Paul Goldsmith, who lives in the Epsom electorate which includes Zhang’s home.
“He was excited because he was offered a $100,000 donation from the same wealthy Chinese businessman.
“Simon asked me to collect this donation. He was at pains to point out the donation should not be made public and could I ensure this.”
Ross said he did as Bridges asked, splitting the money into chunks smaller than the $15,000 limit at which donations had to be declared.
“The full $100,000 donation has not been disclosed to the Electoral Commission.”
Ross said he recorded a conversation with Bridges on June 20 during which the donation was discussed. The Botany MP said he asked – in the recording – what Bridges wanted done with the money.
Ross said he later told a party manager to raise concerns if he believed electoral law had not been complied with.
Bridges denied any breach of the law and accused Ross of lashing out after being exposed as the likely source of an information leak to the media.
The really embarrassing thing for National is that the donor, Yikun Zhang, was proposed by National for and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit recently. And this twitter feed explores his possible connection with the Chinese Communist Party.
O’Sullivan’s article is a brutal assessment of why the donation needs to be investigated. And she points to recent comments by Chris Finlayson and Nick Smith to suggest that there is some disquiet within National’s ranks about what has happened. She says this:
Despite the public front National has adopted on the donations issue, it has still not satisfactorily dealt with Ross’ claim that he was effectively asked to wash a $100,000 donation from Yikun Zhang by ensuring it was split into smaller amounts.
National Party apparatchiks denied there was a $100,000 donation. National Leader Simon Bridges said at the time a “large sum of money” came into the party from multiple sources through donations from Zhang and supporters through Ross’ electorate account in Botany in the first instance.
The issue here is one of “substance over form”.
Nor has Bridges dealt satisfactorily with the clear implication from the tapes that Ross leaked, of a prior conversation that suggested he favoured effectively trading positions for different ethnicities on National’s list, in return for donations.
These issues — which strike at the heart of democracy and business ethics — have been obscured in the general furore over Ross’ meltdown.
It is obvious that there is sufficient underlying truth to Ross’ claims on this score to have provoked senior National MPs to call for change.
Former Attorney-General and National MP Chris Finlayson was sufficiently exercised to use his valedictory speech in Parliament last year to say he was concerned over funding of political parties by non-nationals.
Finlayson called for both major parties to work together on party funding rules, saying it was his personal view that it should be illegal for non-nationals to donate to political parties.
“Our political system belongs to New Zealanders and I don’t like the idea of foreigners funding it … we need to work together to ensure our democracy remains our democracy.”
The issue has also festered with the long-serving veteran National MP Nick Smith who revealed to the Herald this week he also wants reforms to ensure the integrity of the NZ electoral system.
O’Sullivan is right. This needs to be investigated properly. Not only because of the threat to our democracy but because elements of the National Party may have engaged in a corrupt practice. And interestingly if Ross was convicted as a party to what happened he would be goneburger.