The Herald yesterday ran a story about how Donghua Liu gave the National Party $25,000. My jaw dropped when I read this. Readers of that particular article were assisted by the provision of a timeline. But it was really scanty and I though that I should augment it so that a greater appreciation of this very sorry incident could be given. A lot of this information is derived from this excellent post by Frank Macskasy.
April 11, 2003: David Cunliffe sends a pro forma letter to Immigration asking when a decision concerning Donghua Liu’s permit application may be granted.
March 6, 2007: Donghua Liu claims he purchased a bottle of wine for $100,000 at a Labour Party fundraiser on this date.
2012: Liu’s company Roncon Pacific Hotel Management Holdings donates $22,000 to the National Party. This donation is declared in National’s 2012 Party Donations return.
August 2013: Prime Minister John Key and National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross have a private dinner at Donghua Liu’s home. The Herald claims Liu donated later that month $25,000 to Mr Ross’s election campaign through the “Botany Cabinet Club”.
December 2013: Liu is arrested on domestic violence charges.
January 31, 2014: Parliament’s register of pecuniary interests which is meant to include gifts valued over $500 does not include Donghua Liu’s apparent gift of $25,000 to Jamie Lee-Ross’s election campaign. Genuine donations to an electoral campaign do not need to be declared.
March 2014: Herald reveals Maurice Williamson lobbied ministerial colleague to give Liu citizenship against official advice and Liu’s $22,000 donation to National.
April 30, 2014: National Party Secretary Greg Hamilton files a Party Donations Return that does not include the Donghua Liu donation of $25,000.
May 1, 2014: Mr Williamson forced to resign as a minister after Herald investigation reveals he telephoned senior police officer about Liu’s domestic violence charges in January 2014. Prime Minister John Key said he recalled “seeing Mr Liu at various functions, including a dinner as part of a National Party fundraiser.” He does not mention that the private dinner was at Liu’s own home.
May 9, 2014: Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse learns of the existence of the Cunliffe letter.
May 10, 2014: Adam Bennett reports that Williamson had lobbied three different Immigration Ministers to relax the business migrant scheme entry requirements.
May 11, 2014: Key’s office is informed of the existence of the Cunliffe letter.
May 26, 2014: A copy of the letter is given to Key’s office.
June 16, 2014: Jared Savage posts a story claiming that Liu donated $15,000 to the Labour Party according to a party source. His OIA application for information from Liu’s immigration file is declined. He refiles an urgent application seeking correspondence from any MPs concerning Liu’s immigration application. Brooke Sabin also files a similar request.
June 17, 2014: Tova O’Brien asks Cunliffe if he advocated on Liu’s behalf at all and his response is “nope”.
June 18, 2014: The Cunliffe letter is released. The timing of events that day is very revealing:
12.10 – Labour Leader’s office told of letters, and told OIA will be mailed in 1 hour.
12.30 – Office of Immigration Minister (Michael Woodhouse) told OIA being released, with letters.
12.49 – Jared Savage is emailed OIA.
12.53 – Brook Sabin – without a paper-trail of how he got the letters (but direct from Minister’s office?) – publishes his story on the letter.
12.57 – Whaleoil references Jared Savage’s OIA about the letter.
1.00 – John Armstrong publishes call for Cunliffe’s resignation due to letter.
1.06 – David Farrar refers to Jared Savage’s OIA.
2.29 – Herald publishes Savage’s story online.
Geoff posts “Reliable sources have also told me that Donghua is still donating cash to National too. (Any journos reading might like to ask Jamie-Lee Ross about this)”
June 19, 2014: Josie Pagani puts the boot into David Cunliffe and regurgitates National attack lines about “Gocha politics”. Michael Woodhouse denies telling Key about the letter, then says that officials from his office briefed Mr Key’s office on the letters and then by 7 pm that day his office said the minister himself told Mr Key’s office about the letters and his office also gave copies of the letters to Mr Key’s office.
June 22, 2014: Herald publishes exclusive story claiming that Donghua Liu had bought a bottle of wine at a Labour Party fundraiser for $100,000 and donated more than $150,000 to the Labour Party.
June 25, 2014: Herald publishes a further story stating that the $100,000 was not for a bottle of wine but the total of all donations to Labour. $50,000 to $60,000 of this was the cost of hiring a boat [for] Liu’s concrete company which Labour Minister Rick Barker attends and $2,000 was a donation to the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club. John Armstrong publishes a column saying Cunliffe managed to survive “his own self-inflicted body blows last week”. No mention is made of his previous column. Use of the phrase “fucking joke” peaks on social media.
November 2014: Mr Ross returns the $25,000 donation to Liu.
February 2015: Electoral returns to reveal the $25,000 donation.
The claim that this donation was for Jamie Lee Ross’s electoral expenses appears to me to be contrived in the extreme as it meant that the donation, unlike the previous donation made by Liu, did not have to be disclosed the day before Williamson resigned. I am sure that Liu did not care or even think about the difference. And why should any electorate seek donations when they were receiving a $24,000 cheque from head office? This feels like an extra serving of spin designed to preserve as much as possible TeamKey TM branding. If any media is reading this they should ask is who the cheque was made out to. And which account it was banked into. And why this particular Cabinet Club payment was treated differently to other Cabinet Club payments as well as the previous Liu donation.
And how do I feel about this? Well fucking mad. Extra words seem unnecessary. This whole fiasco could have cost Labour the election. Rob Salmond estimates that it may have cost Labour 2% of the vote and I agree with this. That is up to three seats and it sucked a lot of momentum out of the campaign.
And you want to know the really funny thing? There is no evidence of a donation to Labour or of Labour breaking any rules to help Liu. But there is now pristine evidence of National receiving a donation from Liu and of subsequent action taken by a National Minister to help Liu in a police prosecution that resulted in this Minister being sacked.
New Zealand you got played.