The Herald this morning contains details of further information provided by Jami-Lee Ross to the Herald indicating that there is a rather large hole in our electoral laws which needs fixing.
Matt Nippert has the details:
Former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross has dropped a fresh donation bombshell, revealing then-trade minister Todd McClay helped facilitate a $150,000 donation to his party in 2016 from a company owned by a Chinese racing industry billionaire known as “Mr Wolf”.
McClay first met horse-racing mogul Lang Lin in July 2016 while the then cabinet member was in Beijing for a meeting of G20 trade ministers. The pair met again in April 2017 in Rotorua, McClay’s electorate. A month later National declared a six-figure donation paid by Lang’s company, Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry NZ (IMRHINZ).
The donation was largely organised by a phone call made from Ross’ parliamentary office to Lang’s representatives on the evening of April 4, 2017. Ross claims he was asked to make the call by McClay, who was in the office listening to the call on speaker, and the minister was kept informed of developments.
The revelations a minister was involved in facilitating National’s largest donation of the most recent electoral cycle – with the cash coming from a China-owned business – comes as Parliament mulls how to counter foreign interference in New Zealand’s political system.
The basic problem is that while donations from overseas individuals over $1,500 are not permitted donations from New Zealand companies are, even if as in this case the director and shareholder of the New Zealand company is an overseas national.
The donation was declared to the Electoral Commission. I remember reading it at the time and wondering if Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ) Ltd was some sort of joke by Matthew Hooton using his Mongolian links.
But this shows how easily avoided the ban of overseas donations is. Just find a New Zealand company willing to funnel the cash.
Of course the solution is state funding of political parties. Then concerns of too much influence by overseas interests and corporates would disappear.
While I am on this subject can I urge the Electoral Commission to put the individual MPs’ returns back on the website. Effective democracy requires this information being readily available.