The rich want their country back

Written By: - Date published: 9:44 am, January 18th, 2023 - 61 comments
Categories: act, election 2023, election funding, electoral commission, greens, labour, national, same old national - Tags:

The Electoral Commission has published parties’ return of donations of $30,000 or more received in the past year and the results are interesting.

National has performed extraordinarily well and has received $2.3 million from large donors.  ACT also performed well from the largesse of the uber wealthy and recorded large donations totalling $1.1 million.  Labour in comparison received only $150,000 from two donors.  The Greens raised $122,000 through tithing of their leaders salaries.

These are only the totals of large donations.  I suspect that when the full return is filed this will also show National and Act performing extraordinarily well.

From the Herald:

The National Party may start election year with a $2.3 million war chest raised from 24 big donors in 2022, while Labour has declared just $150,000 in large donations, according to Electoral Commission records.

The disparity has seen National raise more money from large donors in one year than Labour has raised in nearly a decade.

Most of National’s funds are thanks to a fundraising blitz from former deputy leader Paula Bennett who tapped richlisters, including New Zealand’s wealthiest man, for as much as $250,000 each last year. It is not clear how much of this funding was spent in 2022, and how much has been put aside for campaigning this year.

There are some familiar names amongst the donors.

The biggest single donor was New Zealand’s wealthiest man, Graeme Hart, who donated $250,000 to National and $100,000 to Act. Fellow richlister Murray Bolton also chipped in $250,000 to the National Party as did Zuru toys co-founder Nick Mowbray.

National’s 2022 tally meant it raised more money in one year from large donors than Labour has raised since 2013, a year in which it raised over $400,000 in a large bequest.

Labour’s general-secretary Rob Salmond said while National received a “large number of donations from the wealthiest New Zealanders”, Labour was “proud to be supported by many thousands of donors – from all walks of life giving whatever they can afford”.

He accused National of a “narrow focus on the wealthiest New Zealanders, both in its policies and its donors”.

It makes you wonder what the wealthy want to achieve with these donations.  Managing to have this much spare cash is not a sign that things are bad or need to change.  The need to have even more appears to be almost pathological.

This news reinforces my very strong impression that this election will be fiercely fought.  What National lacks in activists it makes up for in funding.

61 comments on “The rich want their country back ”

  1. Gosman 1

    Indeed that is part of democracy. Some people can give up some of their time and some decide to give up some of their wealth.

    • weka 1.1

      it becomes anti-democratic when people with accrued wealth have an unfair advantage.

      Also, wealthier people have both time and money.

      • Gosman 1.1.1

        What criteria do you use to determine if it is "unfair"?

        Wealthier people tend to have other things to occupy their time than political campaigning.

        • weka

          What criteria do you use to determine if it is "unfair"?

          $3,400,000 vs $272,000 seems a good place to start. If you took the left bloc amount off the right bloc amount, the right is still left with $3,128,000. Everyone can see that imbalance.

          Wealthier people tend to have other things to occupy their time than political campaigning.

          lol, and middle class and lower income people don't?

    • Mark 1.2

      Wealth buys influence which is why poverty is going through the roof.

      • Gosman 1.2.1

        Relative poverty and inequality has barely moved over the past 25 years.

        • weka

          that's an extremely stupid statement.

          We can simply look at the different rates of increase in incomes and housing costs to see how much poverty has increased.

          • Gosman

            I prefer actual statistics not reckons.

            • weka

              I suggest you go look up the rates of income and housing cost increase in the past 25 years in that case.

              Myself, I prefer actual meaningful analysis rather than misusing stats to minimise the effects of poverty or the widening wealth gap.

        • Saccharomyces

          In fact, looking at the first table on that page, the two decades between '66 and '85 would appear to be the exception, and a 24% asset split to the top 1% the norm.

          • Gosman

            Yes and it is interesting that after the first labour government had been in power the share of wealth owned by the top 1% was the same as NZ in 2018 and the share of the top 10% was about the same back in 2010

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 1.3

      Garbage. It is the opposite of democracy and such bribes should be banned.

      Graham Hart buys outsized influence for 0.002% of his wealth – equivalent to an $8 donation from a household with NZ's median wealth.

      • Gosman 1.3.1

        What actual policy influence has Graeme Hart bought? Do you have evidence of a policy that National and ACT have adopted they they otherwise wouldn't have as a result of his donations?

        • weka

          the more and bigger the donations, the more likely that NACT will be in power at some point to enact the policy. So if you like what NACT does, and you have the money, you can help them gain power.

          We can look at the US as an obvious example of how money buys entry into government.

          • Gosman

            The evidence from the US suggests the opposite. For example Hilary Clinton was much better supported financially than Trump was in 2016 yet he won.

            • weka

              a multi-millionaire managing to raise more money than a billionaire is not a good argument against the idea that extreme wealth undermines democracy.

        • Incognito

          Don’t be a daft disingenuous troll. There won’t be a single policy with his name on or associated with it and you know it. Political influence can be targeted to a specific policy area, but it can also be more general across the board. That said, most of us won’t know what’s being discussed over a cup of tea and off the record. It is a grey, murky, and shady play area that’s available only to the wealthy well-offs with deep pockets.

        • Thinker

          That's really lame, Gosman.

          The only evidence you could possibly have is if NACT confirmed it and that's unlikely

        • UncookedSelachimorpha

          I bet Graeme Hart is more likely to get a meeting with a minister, than Median Kiwi with their $8 donation.

          This 2015 paper is interesting. It finds in the USA almost no correlation between Senator's votes on legislation and their voter's preferences, but strong correlation between Senator's voting patterns and their donor's preferences.

          Who do legislators best represent? This paper addresses this question by investigating the degree of ideological congruence between senators and constituents on a unified scale.

          I find that senators’ preferences reflect the preferences of the average donor better than any other group.

          Finally, senators’ preferences diverge dramatically from the preference of the average voter in their state. The degree of divergence is nearly as large as if voters were randomly assigned to a senator. These results show that
          in the case of the Senate, there is a dearth of congruence between constituents and senators—unless these constituents are those who write checks and attend fundraisers.

      • Bearded Git 1.3.2

        Excellent stats uncooked

    • Incognito 1.4

      Some wealthy people give up “some of their wealth” across the political spectrum in a non-partisan non-tribal way. This could be a seen a contribution to society and perhaps part of their social contract that is not too dissimilar to charity and philanthropy.

      Some other wealthy people invest “some of their wealth” to achieve influence and political advantage and ultimately more wealth. Political donations are considered risk mitigation to protect their wealth and a business proposition to increase their wealth. It is mostly self-interest.

    • cathy-O 1.5


      Labour may have more volunteers but it's difficult to accrue time on the scale of that accrued wealth.

      however willing you may be if most of your time is spent on staying alive you can't afford much of either.

  2. weka 2

    The Greens raised $122,000 through tithing of their leaders salaries.

    That's from Shaw and Davidson. Anyone know what the co-leader salaries will be?

  3. Corey Humm 3

    While I donate to the greens and labour monthly I have No sympathy for Labour on this issue.

    When campaign donations were pouring in during peak Jacinda Mania Labour supporters turned their nose up and laughed at anyone who suggested elections should be publicly funded eliminating private donations.

    Now that Jacinda is unpopular and donations are drying up because wealthy and influential people don't think they have to donate to both labour and National "just in case" labour supporters are suddenly shocked that the rich are using their money to influence elections, it was ok when they were donating to labour too though right?!

    To eliminate the rich having unfair advantage and influence over elections the only fair and progressive solution is to publicly fund election campaigns.

    Itll never happen without a referendum, it's like how center left parties in Canada and UK claim to support proportional voting, they only say it when they are in dire straights in opposition, the second they get elected by the existing system they change their minds and keep the status quo.

    If the left don't want a rich voter having more influence over a poor voter, take private donations out of the equation.

    In 2032 when we're back in office this should be a priority.

    • SPC 3.1

      Sure a referendum on electoral finance is the way to go, there would be no agreement with NACT on the issue.

    • weka 3.2

      When campaign donations were pouring in during peak Jacinda Mania Labour supporters turned their nose up and laughed at anyone who suggested elections should be publicly funded eliminating private donations.

      where did Lab supporters turn their nose up and laugh?

    • MickeyBoyle 3.3


    • Bearded Git 3.4

      Corey….you are wrong …the Labour party in the UK (stupidly) does not support PR.

      Under the results of the last 2 elections in the UK Corbyn would have been PM if PR had been in place.

  4. Anne 4

    National Party philosophy: Money buys everything.

    Unfortunately with an electorate where more than half the voters are either poorly informed or disinterested (or both) money does hold a great deal of sway.

    It is obvious what they plan to do:

    Spend their millions on a negative advertising campaign designed to inculcate all the misinformation and disinformation into the minds of the unwary. It is already happening. Everyone has friends, colleagues, acquaintances and even family members who have been sucked into the political rabbit hole that has been prepared for them.

    The false spin of mismanagement and incompetence will reach saturation level and the tabloid media will endorse their campaign both directly and indirectly because they don't have the rectitude to do otherwise. Those journalists who do will be drowned out in the resultant hysterical uprising.

    In short they will be following a NZ version of the 2016 Trump campaign.

    I don't know what Labour and the Greens can do to successfully counter them. What I do know is that too much niceness will not cut it this time round, and expecting the voters to "see through the spin" (which is what Lab. and the Greens are apt to do) will be a big mistake.

  5. SPC 5

    It's no surprise they have a lot to protect – no CGT, no assets/land tax (apart from rates) no wealth tax, no gift tax, no estate tax and no FTT.

    And while we have one of the lowest top rate of income tax in the OECD, they want NACT to take it lower still

    And we have a GST including food and children’s clothing health care (most nations do not).

    And they also want to restore tax deductability for mortgage interest on privately owned rentals.

    • James Simpson 5.1

      It's no surprise they have a lot to protect – no CGT, no assets/land tax (apart from rates) no wealth tax, no gift tax, no estate tax and no FTT.

      Ummm those things are all being protected under the current government. Labour has no intention of chaging those things.

  6. Many Green and Labour supporters have possibly halved their donations in the face of price increases. I intend to raise my offerings again in Feb, when nine? months out from the election we will need to raise funds. Let us hope we still have "people on the ground" as they are our true strength. Though personally at 81 funds and a place for signage is all I can offer.

    • Anne 6.1

      "…a place for signage is all I can offer."

      In 2008 I had a large Helen Clark bill board at the bottom of my driveway… someone was dumping men's trousers including underwear beside it. The message was clear.

      Last time I had a smaller bill board of Jacinda and Grant. Someone dug it out of the ground during the night and left it lying across the driveway. After I had it resurrected they did it again and took it away.

      I won't be having a bill board this time around. Too many lunatics out there….

  7. Reality 7

    It is hard to credit that those with so much money can be selfishly financially backing National with very large donations to ensure if National becomes government they will have influence over policies to benefit themselves. They are very wealthy already, and obviously they worship at the "greed is good" altar. In the meantime they give little thought to middle and lower income people, who actually keep the country functioning as we found out during Covid lockdowns.

  8. Stephen D 8

    I wonder if any NZ Rich Listers are at Davos.

    ”More than 200 members of the super-rich elite are calling on governments around the world to “tax us, the ultra rich, now” in order to help billions of people struggling with cost of living crisis.

    The group of 205 millionaires and billionaires, including the Disney heiress Abigail Disney and The Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo, on Wednesday called on world leaders and business executives meeting in Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF) to urgently introduce wealth taxes to help tackle “extreme inequality”.”

    I suspect the likes of Graham Hart will not be heeding the call. Why else donate so heavily to National and Act?

  9. Hunter Thompson II 9

    $2 million will buy a lot of TV adverts, along with brochures to stuff in letterboxes.

    Expect some hilarious promises to be made – but don't forget that the pollies will be bribing us with our own money.

  10. pat 10

    2.3 million for the Nats…pah, less than a dollar a voter….how cheap is your vote?

  11. Mike the Lefty 11

    Actually NZ is not "their"country at all.

    It belongs to all of us, and the rest of us would like the super wealthy to pay their fair share of tax and contribute to making this a fair and decent society instead of hiding their wealth in trusts and Cayman Islands bank accounts.

    But they obviously don't want to do this so they supply National with moolah on the understanding that if the NACTS get in there will be rewards.

    Greedy bastards is the best description.

  12. Anne 12

    Oh look… well timed. It sort of fits in with this post:

    It seems they even do it to themselves. 😮

    Can someone provide full text please? I refuse to subscribe.

    [Copy & paste here of full-text would infringe copyright and likely result in a ban, so please don’t and please don’t ‘invite’ others to do so, thank you – Incognito]

  13. MickeyBoyle 13

    Many here wouldn't bat an eye if it was instead Labour or the Greens who received the bulk of these large donations.

    All this moaning comes across as nothing more than envy and partisanship.

    • Incognito 13.1

      You are Right.

    • UncookedSelachimorpha 13.2

      I absolutely do and would bat an eye. Political donations should be banned, for the good of NZ. No party, Labour, Greens whoever – should participate in this rotten practice.

      My suggestion – state funding of elections (based on either membership or vote share) and a maximum fixed and quite low annual membership fee – say $100 p.a. per person maximum. This way the resources available to a party are linked to their level of membership and public support.

      • DB Brown 13.2.1

        I know a guy who spent 5 figures donating to Nats specifically for John Key. The clown show visited his house for that. They all have a gush at their brush with absolute bollocks.

        The idea was to get policy that enhances the income of the rich, and screw everyone else because they're just parasites on the real movers and shakers, dontchaknow.

        I don't care if it's my 20 bucks or your 20 K, it's donations from persons hoping to help influence an election…

        Stop all political donations, and put the spotlight and screws on political lobbying.

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