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Political donations and conflicts of interest

Written By: - Date published: 12:30 pm, March 2nd, 2015 - 53 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, christchurch earthquake, election 2014, election funding, Gerry Brownlee, hone harawira, john key, labour, national - Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Danyl has some thought-provoking comments about the Herald’s analysis of electoral donations:

MPs and other political insiders get really upset if you suggest to them that this is all basically political corruption. Partly this is down to their massive egos. MPs don’t think it’s strange that corporations just give them huge sums of money. Are they not extraordinary individuals? Have they not been chosen by destiny to lead the nation? Related to that is cognitive dissonance. The system around political donations might look totally corrupt, but MPs all know that they personally are not corrupt – how dare anyone suggest that? – so Tallys must just be giving free money to the MPs that happen to sit on the Select Committee that oversees and regulates their industry because they personally believe in those individual MPs.

A lot of it looks pretty dodgy, especially National’s apparent funnelling of larger anonymous donations through party HQ, and the Talleys’ enthusiastic support of people making the laws which affect the Talleys’ business.

But it also led me to reflect on some of the criticisms – from the left and right alike – of Andrew Little and Carmel Sepuloni’s decision that she give up the social development portfolio temporarily while her mother faces charges of benefit fraud.

The same kind of arguments that Danyl outlines were in play – everyone knows Sepuloni is a person of integrity! How can she be held responsible for the actions of her mother? No one would dare accuse her of impropriety!

This is on the one hand rubbish – just look (or don’t!) at how furiously Cameron Slater, of all people, defended Sepuloni, with the exact same arguments. Wouldn’t you know it, just a few days later we got a well-timed story about Sepuloni asking the Minister questions about benefit fraud. Slater’s fury probably has a lot less to do with Due And Fair Process and a lot more to do with whatever additional attack lines he had queued up.

And on the other hand, it’s rubbish again, because that’s not how conflicts of interest work. People in positions of influence don’t get to walk around saying “I’m making decisions about something I have a personal stake in, but I’m a good person so it’s not a problem!” or “But I haven’t done anything corrupt yet so I can’t have a conflict of interest!”

It’s all there in the name: when your interests are in conflict, you have a problem. And the unfortunate reality of our society is that people are judged by what their family members do – otherwise stories about Hone Harawira’s nephew’s conviction or John Key’s daughter’s art would never get the headlines they get. And those aren’t issues where you can make any kind of case that the famous person “involved” has done anything dodgy.

But it does look dodgy as hell when Talleys are pouring money into the primary production select committee. It does look dodgy as hell when Amy Adams as Minister for the Environment is overseeing freshwater management changes which just happen to massively increase the value of her land, or Gerry Brownlee denies there’s a problem with rental prices soaring in Christchurch, where he happens to own four properties.

And it would have been child’s play for the right to make it look dodgy as hell for Sepuloni to stay on as social development spokesperson. They already had the ratf*cking machine up and running and ready to go.

We can’t give our people a free pass just because they’re our people and we know they’d never do anything wrong. And the good ones who have integrity – like Carmel Sepuloni – don’t expect us to.

It’s a temporary situation for Sepuloni, and she’s continuing to do damn fine work in the meantime. The issue of political donations – and how much our political system is influenced by the people with the most money to spare – is going to be far more difficult to change.

53 comments on “Political donations and conflicts of interest ”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Here’s what MBIE has to say:

    The options for managing a conflict of interest include:
     restricting: imposing restrictions on the person’s further involvement in the matter
     recruiting: engaging an independent third party to oversee all or part of the process and verify its integrity
     removing: where the person chooses, or is asked, to be removed completely from the matter
     relinquishing: where the person relinquishes the private interest that created the conflict
     resigning: where the person resigns from their position with the agency. (This should only be considered if the conflict of interest can’t be resolved in any other workable way.)

    I can’t see the National Party’s preferred method – defunding the regulatory body – anywhere. Must be some sort of oversight.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    Ban all donations from legal entities, limiting them to natural persons (Who must be citizens) only.
    Ban all donations from offshore.
    Maximum of $1000 per person per year and nobody under the age of 18 can donate.

    Make it so that political parities have to become mass parties again and that they’re forced to listen to the broader membership and not just the rich that give large donations.

    • dv 2.1

      AND all donations (per dtb) are published on a public web based data base every month

      • Colonial Rawshark 2.1.1

        Anonymise the donations through a central authority or website.

        You want to give $1000 to a Labour or National candidate, or to the parties themselves. It goes through the central authority which strips identifiers from the donation and then passes it on to the recipient’s bank account.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.1

          So I donate to National through the CA, then I show Peter Goodfellow the receipts and it’s corruption as usual.

          You want to make political donations: donate them to democracy, ie: split among all parties.

          That will sort the National Party’s owners out from the altruists.

        • Paul Campbell 2.1.1.2

          No – no anonymous donations – ever – every donation right down to the dollar should be noted online with the name of the person doing the donation – otherwise you can never tell there’s no quid pro quo there

          National’s funding their candidates from “Candidate Club” donations funneled through the party are so obviously wrong – the cabinet members have already actually met with the donors even though the money passed through the party – it’s an obvious way to avoid the sort of transparency that we need as a functioning democracy to decide if our politicians have been bought and by who – of course in the case of “Cabinet Clubs” they have indeed been bought, by the hour

          • Colonial Rawshark 2.1.1.2.1

            Well, lots of people would not be happy to see their $20 donation to Labour or the Greens de-anonymised.

            • Anne 2.1.1.2.1.1

              Yes and in some cases find themselves being harassed and intimidated and in others… losing their jobs or being isolated from peers and colleagues. And if anyone thinks that’s being over the top, it’s happened before many times. That is the reason for pseudonyms etc.

            • Paul Campbell 2.1.1.2.1.2

              I think that the only rules that really work here are rules that apply to everyone. If you expect the rich and powerfull to come clean about who they are buying then equally we should expect everyone – then we can look and see that Jan Bloggs sent a hard earned $20 to Labour while at the same time Michael Rich-Fuker send $100k from petty cash to the Nats

          • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.1.2.2

            How does knowing that Talleys buy MPs stop them being bought? Will any of those MPs step down from the select committee?

  3. Tracey 3

    The National Party are taking the piss with this cover-up. If, as they seem to be saying, there is nothing untoward, why not reveal all?

  4. exStatic 4

    Conflict of interest is very serious. Mona Dotcom’s latest revelation that the whole Mana/Internet thing was a setup to try and prevent extradition is serious.
    Hone and his Mana mates taking huge amounts and spending very little might make their ex benefactor a bit grumpy?
    As far as Conflict of Interest goes, KDC, Hone and the entire Mana Internet lot own it.

    • rawshark-yeshe 4.1

      hyperbole much ? and of course, you have a link for that exStatic ? and hopefully, something slightly more reputable than trashy Glucina gossip ?

    • Colonial Rawshark 4.2

      Huh? Dotcom spun a sweet story for his wife so that she would let him blow $400K on a pet project.

      If Dotcom was really aiming to stop his extradition with that $400K – like you outrageously claim – he would have given that money to the high court judge in a fat brown envelope.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 4.3

      Exstatic is a lying hypocrite.

      IMP, completely open about its funding sources, gets no seats, thanks to the Left. Exstatic wets the bed over it.

      National hides its foreign donors and pretends they’re anonymous until Goodfellow runs his mouth and reveals they in fact have a “relationship”. Exstatic says there’s nothing to see.

      Right wing smears reveal their ethics: the reason Exstatic thinks money buys influence, is because money buys Exstatic.

      • Colonial Rawshark 4.3.1

        BOOOOM!

      • Lanthanide 4.3.2

        “IMP, completely open about its funding sources, gets no seats, thanks to the Left. Exstatic wets the bed over it.”

        I think Exstatic has a valid point.

        KDC and Laila Harre always insisted that KDC was “in the background” of the party and that being in Parliament / Government would have no impact on his extradition process at all.

        Then we find out, from Mona, that KDC had told her exactly the opposite.

        This is worth remarking on. KDC has lied to someone. His wife, or the public?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 4.3.2.1

          At best, we have hearsay evidence of something KDC may have believed.

          Meanwhile, we have horse’s mouth evidence that the National Party maintains relationships with foreign buyers who it pretends are anonymous. Its MPs sell access and other services in exchange for financial rewards, and again, this is from the horse’s mouth.

          Lusk and Goodfellow have let the cat out of the bag. No wonder the smears are coming thick and fast, and how sad is it that the best these hypocrites can do is more squealing about Hone, who isn’t even in Parliament.

          Several orders of magnitude more remarkable much?

    • Murray Rawshark 4.4

      I don’t think Dotcom should be extradited and he’s never given me a cent. Mana stand for an independent and sovereign Aotearoa and would not have needed to be paid to oppose this low toadying to the US and A.

      • Chooky 4.4.1

        +100….and he may have been saying that to his wife to keep her happy about his donation

  5. alwyn 5

    You appear to be suggesting that there is something contrived about the story regarding Sepuloni’s questions when you say ” Wouldn’t you know it, just a few days later we got a well-timed story about Sepuloni asking the Minister questions about benefit fraud”.

    It couldn’t really have been any earlier could it. The questions were asked on 23 February. How could the story be at a different time? It is not as if they were a secret either. Any reporter commenting on politics would, or at least should, look at the questions for written answer every day. I’m not even involved but I look at them and try and guess what scandal the opposition are going to try and pin on the Government from the questions asked.

    Finding out her questions is as easy as looking at Parliamentary Business. under the section on questions for written answer.

    They ones being talked about are 1085 to 1099 on 23 February. Actually I’m surprised they haven’t been withdrawn. If you want to find them just use the option of selecting questions by Carmel Sepuloni. I find it a little unlikely that she started asking these questions just, by coincidence, a couple of days before her mother appeared in court. I think by this stage she knew what was going on.

    The real trouble with questions for written answer is that they are really only “gotcha’s”. There is often something small that an opposition MP finds out about. He/she will then ask an enormous number of, often computer generated, questions which are intended to hide the thing they know about. Then if the department doesn’t spot the problem they will go to town complaining that the Minister is lying. The Opposition MP isn’t really interested in the answer, or solving the problem. They are just trying to score points at our expense.

    Trevor Mallard was one of the worst at this. He would find out, say, that the part-time cleaner at some little school was related to the headmaster. Then he would ask some trick question, not about that school but with separate questions for every one of the thousands of schools in the country. The questions were all computer generated by using a form question and merging it with a list of every school in the country to get all the questions. He didn’t care what it cost to answer the thousands of questions and he wasn’t even going to look at 99.9% of the answers. He was just trying to get something where the department could be claimed to have lied about one school.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      🙄

      Paranoid right wing nut job conspiracy theorist unintentionally reveals personal ethics.

      • alwyn 5.1.1

        ??????????
        There, there. Just take a deep breath and calm down.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.1.1

          I’m picking you know precisely zero about the inner workings of Trevor Mallard: instead, you’re telling us what you would do if you were him.

          • alwyn 5.1.1.1.1

            Well here is an example of the sort of thing he did.
            It is only one screen from dozens on the same day.
            Now tell me again why you think I am making it up what Trevor used to do?

            10186 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Te Aro School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10185 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Tawa School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10184 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Tawa Intermediate School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10183 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Tawa College?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10182 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Tautoro School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10181 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Taipa Area School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10180 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Swanson School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10179 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Sunnyvale School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10178 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Sunderland School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10177 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Sunderland College?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10176 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Summerland Primary?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10175 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Strathmore Community School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10174 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Springbank School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10173 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at South Wellington Intermediate?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10172 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Seatoun School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10171 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Scots College?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10170 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10169 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Sacred Heart School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10168 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Rutherford School?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            10167 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
            What is the total value of school property at Rutherford College?
            Reply 17 Jul 09

            • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Thought so: your interpretation is based on conjecture and projection.

              • Lanthanide

                Please offer an alternative interpretation of Trevor Mallard’s questions, as you seem to think alwyn’s is unlikely.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  I think it’s based on conjecture and projection.

                  We have a list of questions: where’s the example of the ‘gotcha’ that allegedly followed?

                  • Lanthanide

                    Ok, so you don’t have an alternative interpretation.

                    Given the evidence we have, alwyn’s interpretation is pretty compelling to me.

                    Regardless of Trevor’s true motives, he certainly looks like he’s wasting taxpayers time and money.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      It might be that, or it might be that Hekia Parata has instructed officials to be so willfully obstructive of Parliamentary questions, that single specific questions are the only way to get the information.

                      Still no evidence of the gotcha, eh.

                    • Lanthanide

                      Yes, but what “information” does Trevor want?

                      If he wants specific information on all of these individual schools – for what purpose? If he’s using it for some sort of statistical purpose, what purpose could that be that wouldn’t already be covered by the ministry itself, or potentially the parliamentary library? If his statistical purpose is valid and useful, then surely he could ask either of those institutions to perform that analysis themselves – and I’d dare say they’d be more efficient and cheaper at doing it than he would, especially as he has to ask for all of this raw data in such a ponderous way in the first place.

                      If he only wants information about a few or one school(s), then he should ask only about those schools, not all of them.

                      So, plenty of evidence that what Trevor is doing is either very unusual, or very misguided. If we consider what Trevor’s job is – to hold the government to account – surmising that he is trying some sort of gotcha attack is a reasonable assumption, especially given his personality.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      If, if, if, if.

                      Projection and conjecture.

                    • Lanthanide

                      People on this site routinely make projection and conjecture about the National party and associates.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Ok then, look at what we know: Trevor Mallard can be a bit of an egg, and he also knows Parliamentary procedure pretty well.

                      Anne Tolley (the Minister at the time) is dismissive of criticism and incompetent. The National Party actively obstructs information requests.

                      Without further information who knows why TM asked all those questions.

                      Alwyn took the trouble to list them, and “somehow” failed (the word keeps cropping up around wingnuts, funny that) to find any follow-up questions to support the allegation. Alwyn is not noted for deep insight: quite the contrary, in fact.

                      Perhaps you can be bothered trawling through Hansard to discover that Alwyn is full of shit, again.

            • mickysavage 5.1.1.1.1.2

              You are struggling Alwyn. You are looking for a pattern when clearly there is none.

              • Lanthanide

                You’re saying there is “clearly no pattern” in Trevor Mallard’s questioning?

              • Enough is Enough

                Yes Micky…clearly.

              • alwyn

                You may doubt my opinion that the questions are computer generated. I offer just a few of the many, many questions that Trevor produced. Unfortunately the table of school names included the word “school”. Thus you get a repetition because the word was also put into the basic question.
                Do you honestly think that a human being generated these questions, and the hundreds of others where the same question was asked about other schools, or that anyone at all looked at them before they were entered into the system?

                22901 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
                What is the expected costs of operations for 2010 at Mangamuka School school?
                Reply 16 Dec 09

                22900 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
                What is the expected costs of operations for 2010 at Mangonui School school?
                Reply 16 Dec 09

                22896 (2009). Hon Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Education
                What is the expected costs of operations for 2010 at Massey Primary School school?
                Reply 16 Dec 09

                Incidentally, Trevor asked over 20,000 questions of this repetitive type in 2010. Do you really think he looked at all the answers?

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  When you vote for a party that obeys the Official Information Act, and point to the ‘gotcha’ moment you allege without a shred of proof, you’ll be a bit more credible.

                  As it is, you just look like a partisan hypocrite.

    • Murray Rawshark 5.2

      Damn. I will never be able to hold Trevor Mallard in high esteem ever again. The meaning has evaporated from my life.

      • alwyn 5.2.1

        Think and consider Murray
        Please, please, don’t rush in and do anything foolish.
        Don’t even think of taking some terrible final action because meaning has vanished from your life. You will make me feel like the guy in the current drink driving ad who doesn’t want the young chap to drive after being in the pub.

        After all, even Trevor can reform. His character will no doubt be vastly improved with the love of a good woman. He too can now learn and follow the ways of righteousness.

        Actually it is probably a bit late for that.

        • mac1 5.2.1.1

          Alwyn, seriously, we have to believe in redemption. If we can’t have hope and redemption, we are truly fucked.

  6. adam 6

    Why is this difficult?

    Why are people making this difficult?

    No donations above $5

    No corporations or business to make any donations

    No trusts or other front’s to make donations

    Simple

    Level playing field

    Oh wait – Orthodoxy economics alter worshippers. Sorry my bad – you lot will make the world difficult, because if it was simple and working people could just get on with their lives – you could not keep putting them in shackles.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1

      Delivering an innate advantage to those candidates with independent means. Fish-hooks to the left of them, fish-hooks to the right of them…

      • Colonial Rawshark 6.1.1

        Not if the candidate himself or herself cannot donate more than the same limited amount to their own campaign fund.

  7. les 7

    ‘money talks and bullshit walks…’reality ..das Kapital…the sword is mightier than the pen…thats reality.

  8. les 8

    politics ‘American Style’…exported around the world.

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  • Faster, cheaper, better resource management law given first reading
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  • Speech to Constitutional Kōrero conference
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  • Further sanctions on the political and economic elites of Russia and Belarus
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  • Black Ferns to be celebrated at Parliament
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  • Autism Guideline released by Ministry
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  • Speech to Aotearoa Refugee Hui
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  • Global climate talks underline need for domestic action
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  • Defence Minister visits Ukraine and Poland
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  • Stuart Nash to attend OECD meetings
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  • Human Rights Act enhanced to protect religious communities
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  • Defence Minister meets with UK counterpart and visits NZDF personnel
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  • Speech to the Asia New Zealand Foundation
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