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‘Donations’ or bribes

Written By: - Date published: 9:58 pm, November 19th, 2019 - 95 comments
Categories: corruption, democracy under attack, Dirty Politics, politicans, Politics, Simon Bridges, winston peters - Tags:

It has been ironic looking at the basic hysteria that our media are having about the NZ First foundation and its loans to the NZ First party. I suspect that it is likely to be legal – but that is because our legal structure has been setup for bribing politicians.

After all we still currently have a outstanding Serious Fraud Office investigation into an allegation about the current parliamentary leader of the National party. He is accused of ordering the splitting up a 100k donation into a series of 14k and a 2k donation to deliberately conceal a large bribe / donation from businessman Zhang Yikun. 

Jami-Lee Ross political donations complaint referred to Serious Fraud Office

Basically as far as I can see, it is really hard to see the difference between the mechanism of concealment of the ‘loans’ of the NZ First Foundation and that of the leader of the National party allegedly ordering a split of a ‘donation’ to avoid transparency. The only real difference is that one appears to be unlawful and other does not – but may be unprovable beyond reasonable doubt.

Perhaps some outraged legal wizards can explain to me how they are different? Because I can’t see any frigging difference. Both attempt to conceal the identity of large donors from the public.

The problem is that our laws on donations to politicians and political parties is inherently flawed for the convenience of our makers of legislation. 

Perhaps we should just cut the gordian knot and just outlaw large donations concealed in any way. Anyone who makes a largish political donation to a political party must do it transparent – or face prison.  Any political party who accepts a donation outside of the legal bounds must be dis-established, their assets seized and their current officers get mandatory prison time without parole.

In other words, treat them like we do for the appointed judges of the legal profession and the senior police.

If only so we don’t have to go through the media frenzy that ultimately and inevitably results in the investigations finding that the ‘donations’ were lawful under our current corrupt legislation. So that means that the legislation needs to be changed, and for the interests of our democracy – retrospectively.

Just to make it more interesting – let start with a presumption of guilt. The accused have to prove the innocence. At the very least it’d make for a more interesting drama than our current repetitive media storyline.

Of course this may lower the quality of our prisoners. But hey – that is a price that I am willing to deal with.

95 comments on “‘Donations’ or bribes ”

  1. Incognito 1

    Under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009, the Commissioner of Police has the power of civil forfeiture without the need for a criminal conviction and without any restrictions on what property or asset can be restrained. I can so no reason why not a similar approach can be taken with political parties and politicians, possibly through IRD.

  2. peterlepaysan 2

    Who benefits from secrecy?

    All donors ( and their $amounts) should be publicly available.

    • Wairua 2.1

      Mr. Schrader, has the fire gone out in today’s film industry?

      Well, I don’t think the fire went out, really, what happened is that we have had an evolutionary shift in the nature of motion pictures. Everything that we learned in the first 100 years of movies no longer applies. We used to know what a movie was, we knew how you projected it, we knew how you saw it, we knew how long it was, we knew how to monetize it, we knew how to distribute it — we don’t know how to do any of these things anymore, they’ve all changed.

      https://the-talks.com/interview/paul-schrader/

    • Phil 2.2

      Hell must have frozen over, because I'm nodding in agreement and fully supporting a comment from Pete 🙂

      I would also go so far as banning any political donation that is not directly from a named and identified individual. Trusts are too easy a mechanism to hide the true source of funding and they have no place in the political process.

  3. Sacha 3

    Some related argy-bargy today in #nzqt. Wonder why Nat members of the Justice electoral committee would be holding up an official report involving electoral donations?

    https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20191119_051450000/5-question-no-5-justice

    Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I think most members of the House, and many members of the public, are concerned enough about issues in our donations regime, which is why the Justice Committee, in conducting its inquiry into the last general election, considered that issue specifically. It's just disappointing that members opposite blocked that committee from reporting their report

    Hon ANDREW LITTLE: … I'm awaiting the Justice Committee's report of their inquiry into the last general election. It's taking a long time, but I eagerly await that report.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was he involved in any discussions or actions with Labour members of the Justice Committee in their decision on 1 October to block the Electoral Commission and justice officials reporting on the unusually high level of anonymous donations to New Zealand First?

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that political donations need to comply with the spirit, as well as the intent, of our electoral laws?

    Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Yes, and that’s why I remain concerned about those who as Ministers have travelled overseas to solicit overseas support for their political purposes.

    • lprent 3.1

      The national members are probably trying to figure out how many fourteens go into one hundred and have forgotten how to get a remainder.

      Or they are trying to figure out a way to make that lawful even under our useless existing electoral law.

      There is a reason why politicians have the same kinds of trust ratings as used car salesmen or bloggers. All I can say is that there were only a few of the arsehole bloggers and they’re mostly bankrupt now. I helped on that.

    • KJT 3.2

      Wasn't it two Indians to one Chinese?

  4. Stuart Munro. 4

    It's a great idea.

    And it might begin to clean up the suppurating cesspool of corruption that is the Gnats. It is desirable to have a rightwing opposition even to an enlightened government. Due to corruption the Gnats are presently incapable of fulfilling that function.

    Which is not to say that members of other parties have not flirted with corruption far, far too often.

    • AB 4.1

      "It is desirable to have a rightwing opposition even to an enlightened government."

      Agreed – I think the Labour Party would be a very useful moderating force in that role.smiley

      • KJT 4.1.1

        Burn. But true.

      • Stuart Munro. 4.1.2

        If we characterize Rogergnomics as an unseemly scramble to the right in pursuit of corporate largesse, there is no reason to suppose Labour could not scramble equally quickly to the left once that gravy train became untenable.

        • Gosman 4.1.2.1

          Ahh… so your real motivation for doing this is ideological not because you think it will mean there is a fairer system overall.

          • Sacha 4.1.2.1.1

            Believing power should not follow the largest chequebook can be strongly motivated by a sense of fairness. Believing that those with the gold should rule seems harder to paint that way, though I respect there are other reasons people hold to it.

  5. Blazer 5

    You have got to bear in mind the likes of Earl Hagaman(deceased)who would donate 100k to the Natz with no expectations,merely because 'he liked them'!

    • lprent 5.1

      Yes? so what? and whoever they were?

      I am sure that he could find some other place to offload money to. Plunket perhaps?

      Are you suggesting that we should maintain a corrupt donations/bribe system for the convenience of the dead?

      How about considering the living for a change? What I see is the living wealthy manipulating the legislative branch to screw the poor. Let's fix that..

      Besides if I was a suspicious person, I could speculate on favours past. Or a donation to benefit his kids..

      • Blazer 5.1.1

        The fact that he is now dead is quite irrelevant.

        'So what' is about the optimum extent of your comprehension,but a handy, but useless retort…all the same.

      • Gosman 5.1.2

        Where is the evidence that any of these donations are leading to outcomes that you suggest?

        • KJT 5.1.2.1

          What is your evidence, it didn't? There are some very strange coincidences if it was not for favors received.

          If it “looks like a duck…….

          • Gosman 5.1.2.1.1

            Coincidences such as ?

            • Dukeofurl 5.1.2.1.1.1

              Does the name Murray McCully ring a bell?

              Does the $7.5 mill of aid money to the island, that after Scenic won the bid, went to upgrading the 'resort' ring another bell.

              Where are the recent big donations , not feel so generous anymore?

  6. ianmac 6

    Simon was "Kimmed" this morning. Kim Hill asked innocent questions of Bridges about his belief that the Electoral Commission was "toothless" and how was the Police investigation into his splitting of donations to hide donations from rich people. Poor old Simon stumbled and pleaded that because he had no legal practising certificate, the allegations were really the press allegations, not his.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2018723025

  7. Gosman 7

    "Perhaps we should just cut the gordian knot and just outlaw large donations concealed in any way. Anyone who makes a largish political donation to a political party must do it transparent – or face prison. Any political party who accepts a donation outside of the legal bounds must be dis-established, their assets seized and their current officers get mandatory prison time without parole."

    There is no way that would get past Parliament without massive amount of objections. Trying to do so without broad cross party support will be incredibly divisive.

    Do you remember the Electoral Finance Act? That will be a Child's birthday party in comparison to the Shi# storm that attempting to push through legislation like that would lead to.

    • KJT 7.1

      Labor tried to get big money out of politics in Clarks time. Remember the screams of "democracy under attack" from National, when the ability of the rich to buy the Government they wanted, was threatened.

      It is a pity we need to force politicians to act ethically with rules. It brings up questions about their suitability.

      It shouldn’t be too much to ask, that they act honestly while in Parliament. Even if we cannot stop the retirement “Directorships” in firms MP’s have enriched when in Government.

      • Gosman 7.1.1

        I know, how about you look to set up a board of "concerned citizens" that can vet the politicians and political parties? In that way you can be assured of getting the politics that meets YOUR standards.

    • AB 7.2

      I remember the Brooks Brothers Riot in response to the Electoral Finance Act. You don't make an omelette without stopping the weasels eating all the eggs in the first place.

      • Gosman 7.2.1

        Did you also remember the Labour party losing the very next election and then changes being made to the EFA?

        • AB 7.2.1.1

          I do. Labour's attempted reform to electoral finance was technocratic tinkering and too easily vilified as self-serving. Doomed to failure in the face of a well-organised and well-funded opposition with supporting voices all through the media establishment. No contest. That' no reason for surrendering though.

          • Gosman 7.2.1.1.1

            Let me get this straight. You admit that the last efforts to reform the way political parties are financed was mere tinkering and it eventually lead in part to the defeat of the government who pushed it but you still think it is worth spending precious political capital to go even FURTHER. Is that your position?

            • AB 7.2.1.1.1.1

              Nope. The conditions under which it was last attempted were not propitious. Nor were the proposals themselves structured in a way that would garner widespread support – they were over-complicated and therefore easily lied about. Conditions and tactics can change. We never give up.

              • Gosman

                Why were the last changes overly complicate? Ask yourself that question. There is likely a very good reason for it.

    • Stuart Munro. 7.3

      There is no way that would get past Parliament without massive amount of objections.

      You know, they might be unwontedly quiet. They know voters will punish corruption if its adherents are dumb enough to self-identify.

      • Gosman 7.3.1

        Yeah they would if you can convince them that it is a massive problem and restricting people donating to politics will stop this. Good luck in winning that PR battle.

        • Stuart Munro. 7.3.1.1

          Let the issue in the news, and even the toxic scumbags of National will be reluctant to defend their sleazy practices – at least in public.

          • Gosman 7.3.1.1.1

            What does let the issue in the news mean? It was in the news in the past. Do you remember the Owen Glenn funding for NZ First issue back in 2007/2008? It received plenty of coverage.

            • Stuart Munro. 7.3.1.1.1.1

              Rubbish. A narrow look at an isolated instance – not a broad coverage, though even so it nearly ended NZF. A better example would be the review of MP expenses that cost Jones his marriage and much of his credibility. All MP expenses were looked at, and they have become a little more circumspect as a result.

              • Gosman

                Except that involved MP's spending taxpayers money not members of the public gifting their own money to Political parties. There is quite a difference. The voluntary nature of donations make it less easy to try and shame people.

                • Stuart Munro.

                  You're being loose with your definitions there:

                  It isn't taxpayers' money, it is citizens' money.

                  And of course the foreign nationals and corporates who have been propping up the sleazy Right in NZ are not properly described as the public, but as malicious, probably criminal, aliens.

                  • Gosman

                    Probably criminal, aliens?!? Better check under your bed for some of those criminal aliens….

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      Alien is a legal term, as surely even you are aware.

                      Aliens have no business interfering in a democracy – nor do corporations. One person one vote, not one dollar one vote.

                    • Gosman

                      I knew what you meant. My comment still stands.

          • Incognito 7.3.1.1.2

            This is a PR battle and you’ll notice that defending is losing. So, they will deny any wrongdoing and pretend everything is allowed and within the Law. This is the yardstick of the Right and they’ll stick to it because they have an invested interest in this and because they had a big hand in writing the Law as it stands. Morality and ethics, transparency, and accountability are not enshrined in (the) Law. Just rights and breaches of those rights, IMHO.

            • Gosman 7.3.1.1.2.1

              If it isn't allowed then you are free to take a private prosecution if the Police won't.

              • Stuart Munro.

                Unlike the recipients of improperly obtained corporate largesse, I am scarcely in a position to indulge in vanity lawsuits. There are however remedies more traditional within democracies that may suffice.

                • Gosman

                  Except people like me will oppose you on those and given the results of the past attempts in this area it will likely not get the outcome you expect. Feel free to go ahead though. Left wing regulation over reach always provides fodder for right wingers.

                  • Stuart Munro.

                    What makes you suppose my solution is regulation?

                    Constant shaming of corrupt MPs is reasonably effective – even if they, like you, are sociopathic enough to ignore it, their voters aren't.

                    No fodder for you here sunshine – try working for a living.

              • Incognito

                You know, this line is starting to grate on me because it doesn’t address anything I said in my comment. In fact, you use it repeatedly to deflect and shut down the discussion. Similarly, you keep wishing ‘good luck’ to those who are not happy with the current situation and are trying to come up with suggestions for improvements. I’m concluding that your comments contribute very little and in fact waste our time. In other words, you’re trolling. I’m going to put on my Moderator hat soon because my patience is running out rapidly. Consider this a warning.

                • Gosman

                  You are seemingly trying to reopen the debate that ran over a decade ago around the EFA. I am merely pointing out that it wasn't very successful for the left. I am also not sure what the actual problem you are worried about here. I keep asking what policies exactly have been implemented as a result of this 'undue' influence from anonymous 'big' money donors.Can you advise me of some?

        • AB 7.3.1.2

          "restricting people donating to politics"

          Interesting framing. How about instead: "protecting the principle behind one person one vote – namely that each citizen has equal influence over the outcome of elections"?

    • Do you remember the Electoral Finance Act? That will be a Child's birthday party in comparison to the Shi# storm that attempting to push through legislation like that would lead to.

      Yep. And if we want a useful indicator of which parties are benefiting from bribery donations, we just have to look at which parties generated the EFA shitstorm.

  8. Dukeofurl 8

    The US system is quite low personal limits on donations , something around US$2500 per candidate.

    Even if you gave $10 for a T shirt or 'Yard sign' your name , address and employer is required and will be made public.

    The employer part is too make sure that, say the owner of a Chinese restaurant doesnt have a big number of his employees also donate amounts to the same candidate ( This is what happened to NSW Labour party recently).

    US is also to make transparent business owners and their senior employees who donate to a congressman or senator who has oversight on their business.

    In spite of all that , the US has many loopholes , such as PACs who advertise in support or opposition to particular candidates.

    AS well the major parties have Congress and Senate campaign committees who fund raise big $$$ and contribute money to vulnerable election races , but only if you largely follow party line in Votes. The donors are hidden behind the Campaign committee name.

    Its complicated , but I hope I have the details right.

  9. michelle 9

    Why don't we just get rid of all donations as national have already shown they can rort the system by using a Chinese NZ owned company to donate funds so we either change the rules or get rid of the problem. This might create a more level playing field.

    • Gosman 9.1

      And waiting for the call for State funding of political parties in 3…2…1…

      • Dukeofurl 9.1.1

        They are funded now , millions every year, plus at election time too. They are a bit like schools what ever is provided is never enough
        US has it !

        • Sacha 9.1.1.1

          Like 'integrated' schools, they trouser the funding without changing their character much in exchange.

          • Gosman 9.1.1.1.1

            Would you like them to change their character as a result of receiving State funding?

            • Sacha 9.1.1.1.1.1

              Politicians – you bet!

              • Gosman

                I bet you would too. Typical totalitarian leftist.

                • Sacha

                  Surely there is an equivalent notion of 'social contract' in your world.

                  • Gosman

                    I generally prefer to let the democratic process weed out those that do not meet my definition of 'good character'. I don't think it is a clever idea to try and decide for others (with a few exceptions).

                    • Sacha

                      If that approach worked, politicians would be better regarded than used car dealers. Yet here we are.

                    • Wensleydale

                      Given your fervent support of National, your definition of 'good character' probably needs taking out to the back paddock and shooting.

            • Dukeofurl 9.1.1.1.1.2

              "The latest annual report of the Parliamentary Service – just published – shows that the most recent “Party and Member Support” budgets for the parties totalled $122 million.

              Individual parliamentary budgets were as follows:

              National, $65.1m; (more than labour because Ministers funded separately)

              Labour, $43.7m;

              New Zealand First, $6.2m;

              and the Greens, $5.8m.

              Amongst other things, these budgets pay for about 402 parliamentary staff working for the parties and their MPs.

              $122 mill state funding for parties for one year.

  10. Sacha 10

    Concise backstory by RNZ's Jane Patterson: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/403667/nz-first-s-political-donations-a-creeping-feeling-of-deja-vu

    Swirling rumours of dodgy dealings over political donations, Winston Peters full of bluster and denial, and potentially a drawn-out series of combative but ultimately meaningless exchanges with the parliamentary press gallery.

    • weka 10.1

      "It's hard to avoid the conclusion he could have avoided much of this had he admitted early to a mistake with the donation, and just amended the pecuniary interest register accordingly."

      As hard as political culture is, I think people are way more forgiving when people front up and be honest and admit mistakes. But only if they do it from the start.

      Fingers crossed that Ardern and Labour have some decent strategy here and don't go down the Clark route.

      • Sacha 10.1.1

        Indeed. Wish there was evidence we could trust their brains trust.

        • Dukeofurl 10.1.1.1

          Admit a mistake ? Like Bridges didnt

          More like push the electorate officials under a bus

          "In the process of preparing both the local candidate and party returns, as required by the Electoral Act, two donations were incorrectly attributed to Mr Bridges' candidate return by the local Tauranga Electorate Committee,'' a National Party spokesman said."

          https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/368688/simon-bridges-amended-electoral-donation-return-insider-claims

          Love the byline on this story and the mysterious person who knew so much about Bridges and donations

          'A National Party insider has told RNZ News that Simon Bridges amended his personal electoral donation return to remove two donations totalling $24,000. – Jo Moir Political Reporter

          Later events showed exactly who the 'insider' was , who is now definitely on the outside and the less than savoury methods he used.

    • ianmac 10.2

      Since quoting Patterson why not include

      But as with internal political scandals, National will have to step carefully as its nose is not completely clean.

      For years it used blind trusts to transfer donations to the party itself, a practice that ceased with a law change. Even now there is still an active Serious Fraud Investigation into the National Party relating to the disclosure of donations.

      • Sacha 10.2.1

        Since quoting Patterson why not include

        Because others can always pick out parts like you’ve just shown. I'm not keen on pasting big chunks of an article someone can easily go and read – as regulars can attest. 🙂

  11. Sacha 11

    One thing I had not thought of before – if donations are made totally transparent, will more of them tend to go to both current major parties (bob each way), thus locking in less funding for smaller ones?

    • weka 11.1

      why would that happen?

      • Sacha 11.1.1

        If you are say a company or wealthy person trying to hide your political leanings to avoid blowback, it would be more efficient to donate to only the most likely major parties in each bloc.

  12. Sacha 12

    Not good for our democracy, either way:

    https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/20-11-2019/one-possibility-is-nz-first-has-broken-electoral-law-the-other-possibility-is-worse

    If what has been reported is both true and not a breach of the rules for political donations, then New Zealand’s reputation for being squeaky clean looks like a joke, writes electoral law expert Andrew Geddis.

    Everyone else, from the Act Party to the Greens, has had at least the occasional donor wanting to give them a big enough sum for their name and address become public.

    And knowing their name and address, we then can see if that donor gets anything for its generosity. Which is how things should be in a properly transparent, clean political process.

  13. observer 13

    Everyone is missing the real story here, which is that Simon Bridges genuinely believes that Jacinda Ardern has invented time travel. Wow! She's an impressive PM but even that might be beyond her talents.

    Bridges has attacked Ardern today for "hanging out with Steven Colbert" when she should be dealing with the NZF donations story that broke … er, two days ago.

    Simon, let me explain this very slowly. Past tense. Present tense. She was meeting Colbert in Auckland, a month ago. She isn't now. He's been back in New York for weeks. Just because it's on your screen now, that doesn't mean it's actually happening now. (Your mind must explode when they show Simpsons reruns).

    Television, eh? What sorcery!

  14. Sacha 14

    This really does sound like funding campaign expenses without declaring them, and it may have already been a bridge too far for some: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117529946/what-nz-first-slush-fund-was-spent-on-campaign-hq-staff-overtime-and-a-shredder

    In October 2019, Lester Gray resigned from his position as NZ First Party president after refusing to sign off on its financial statements. Gray said in a letter to the NZ First board that he had not been shown documentation he requested and therefore could not sign off the returns.

    "I refuse to sign off the 2019 financial reports with the information I have been provided," he wrote to the board. "As president, the limited exposure I have had to party donations and expenditure leaves me in a vulnerable position.

    "This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the party any longer."

    • Sacha 14.1

      The apparent laundering reminds me of those comments from Bridges to Ross about keeping the $100k donation away from the main Nat campaign funding pool so it could be spent on ads without the party bosses interfering.

      And echoes of 1980s Roger Douglas pocketing millions of grateful corporate dollars directly to bankroll campaigning on his own terms without those pesky accountable Lab party officials getting in the way.

      • Dukeofurl 14.1.1

        The reason why you wont hear too much in the media about the murky side of Bridges and that donation is this:

        "Bridges' valve burst Wednesday evening when he phoned around political editors to warn them he had been defamed and his reputation damaged."

        In effect he was saying repeat this and you have defamed me …hint financial consequences

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