The SST does not understand electoral law

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, August 21st, 2017 - 32 comments
Categories: journalism, Media, newspapers, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

The Sunday Star Times had a story in yesterday morning’s paper suggesting that Labour was playing fast with electoral laws relating to donations. The heading of the article “Artworks used to funnel secret donors’ contributions to the Labour Party” says it all. The article contains this hyperbolic passage:

The Labour Party is hiding tens of thousands of dollars in donations behind over-inflated art auctions – and naming the artists as donors instead of the secret individuals handing over the big bucks.

The artists had no idea the party was naming them as the donors – they never saw a cent of the money. They say their works are auctioned off at well above market value to wealthy benefactors who want to keep their support for the party secret.

Labour says the practice complies with electoral rules. But one party operative described the practice as “whitewashing” – a way to keep big donations private at a time when corporate contributions to political parties were falling because of public scrutiny.

I have been to a few of these auctions. They are not secret. Anyone who wants to pay the entry price is welcome to attend. And successful bidders are hardly anonymous.

From the article the process the Labour Party has chosen is to assign a value to a painting and treat that as a donation with the artist listed as a donor. If someone pays more than $15,000 over that value then the difference is also treated as a donation.

This is exactly what the current laws require. Section 207 of the Electoral Act 1993 defines a party donation as “a donation (whether of money or of the equivalent of money or of goods or services or of a combination of those things) that is made to a party”.

So an artist giving the party a painting worth $30,000 is clearly making a donation of goods in that amount and it is correct that this is reported.

And what of the person buying the painting at value? Well they are getting the item for what it is worth. They are not making a donation which involves giving something and getting nothing back.

But what about the generous soul who knowing that the auction is for the Labour Party and they will get all the money and who makes an outlandish bid? Well they are caught. Section 207 includes within the definition of “party donation” “where goods … are provided by a party under a contract or arrangement at a value that is more than their reasonable market value, the amount of the difference between that value and the reasonable market value of those goods or services”. So if someone bids over $15,000 more than its value for a painting then the difference will be treated as a donation which needs to be declared.

So there is nothing underhand in this arrangement. It is precisely the way the donation reporting system is designed to work.

And I am surprised that the paper should concentrate on Labour’s fundraising which compared to National’s is very modest.  If you want proof of this have a look at Labour’s latest return and National’s latest return.

A related article highlights issues relating to anonymous donations although the maths does not appear to be correct.

At least four out of every five dollars donated to the two big parties is given secretly, as transparency around their political funding dwindles.

More than $31 million has been donated to registered political parties in the past six years, most of that to National.

Smaller parties like the Greens publicly disclose who provided most of their funding, but the big parties are secretive. 83 per cent ($8.7m over six years) of the money donated to National is from anonymous donors, and 80 per cent ($2.8m) of that donated to Labour.

I can’t see how the other parties excluding National and Labour received $17 million over the past six years.  I presume the figures also add in electorate donations but if this is so National would be even further ahead.  Possibly the broadcasting allowance is also included.

Of course the best solution is to establish state funding of political parties.  Just think no need for donations, no unfair advantage to one side, no donations regime …

32 comments on “The SST does not understand electoral law”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    A clumsy attempted “hit” that fell flat on it’s face. Probably fed to Fairfax via Farrar and the dirty politics engine.

    Nice to know the Tory press is in full panic mode, though.

  2. Is it gaming the system?

    ‘They do it too’ seems a better response than ‘we are following the letter of the law’ imo

    • red-blooded 2.1

      Of course it’s not gaming the system. If the donation(s) are declared and assigned to the artist (donations of goods), or a combination of the artist and the buyer (for anything over market value) and they’re declared; where’s the “gaming”?

      I’ve bought a (small, cheap) artwork at an auction. I paid over market value – it was declared. End of story.

      • marty mars 2.1.1

        It was a question – thank you for your vigourous reply.

        • greywarshark 2.1.1.1

          The whole point of the post is to show how it is NOT gaming the system, and the lkegal situation is explained. Why then question what has been explained satisfactorily?

          • marty mars 2.1.1.1.1

            Bloody hell sorry for not being up to your standard of comprehension. I’ll fuck off into the dim corner. And gaming the system is staying within the rules/law as far as I understand it yay I did undastunned only bit

      • The gaming is in that you can dodge the $15,000 threshold quite effectively by claiming a high market value for the artwork, which is purely subjective, and then declaring the donation as the gifting of the artwork, rather than the buyer, when in reality the market value of the work might be below the disclosure threshold, and the real donor was actually the purchaser of the painting. Even the creator of the artwork doesn’t know its real value until they try to sell the thing, it’s all guesses, even from serious appraisers.

        I think for this kind of in-kind auction, the law should probably be changed to require disclosure of the final purchase price and the names of both the creator who donated the piece and the purchaser, to ensure that subjectively priced goods can’t be used to artificially inflate the anonymity threshold. I agree that if the situation is as described, what Labour is doing is arguably legal, however it is also at least mildly unethical, too. (not to the extent that news outfits like stuff were beating their chests about, of course, but still to a notable extent) The other thing you could do is require artworks and other items of similarly subjective value to be commercially appraised before auction, so that the party can’t shop around for a particular price on an artwork, but that is also vulnerable to parties having an “understanding” (ie. a corrupt practice) with appraisers.

        We should also be discussing drastically lowering the disclosure threshold. Shaw thinks $1,000 is a good starting point, I would probably have said that’s too cautious and we could place $500 as the point of non-anonymity.

        That said, I agree this practice is comparatively benign as looking for loopholes around disclosures goes, but it is troubling because the instinct of political parties should be to encourage donors to be public, rather than anonymous, as public disclosure is really the only protection we have against undue influence in politics, and parties should want to talk about who their supporters are so that they can get even more.

        • greywarshark 2.1.2.1

          Thanks MW good explanation. We definitely should do what you suggest to take this perception or real loophole away. State funding wold be wise but the farmers and bizfibs would object till doomsday.

        • Paul Campbell 2.1.2.2

          I think the threshold should be $1, no exceptions – the bulk of transactions are handled electronically these days so there’s not really a record keeping burden

          (and frankly if someone’s coming in the back door with wheelbarrows full of cash we probably particularly want to know)

          If you’re embarrassed to giver money to a political party, don’t do it. If you are worried about repercussions from your boss finding out then we need better laws to protect people who are discriminated against for participating in the electoral process

          • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.2.2.1

            Hey Paul,

            While in theory I agree that being maximally transparent with private donations to political parties is a good thing if we’re going to have a system that allows private donations, there are considerations beyond the practicality of bookkeeping that make it worth actually having an anonymity/disclosure threshold, and I say that as someone who would be perfectly happy to end private political donations altogether, or at least sharply limit them, in favour of taxpayer funding.

            You’re not understanding the full implications of being a publicly listed supporter (and not just a supporter, but also a donor) of a political party. Many of the people on public lists like this get harassed in anonymous ways that are hard to track, (seriously, if you ever talk to someone who authorizes electoral ads, it gets pretty harassy) let alone the stupid ways like through cellphones or email which can be traced down and put to an end through complaints to service carriers. Writing tougher laws won’t help end that anonymous harassment, so there is a genuine balance to be had in setting anonymity thresholds that allow small donors to avoid the possibility of harassment because of their political views against the legitimate public interest of disclosure. I have no embarassment whatsoever or fear of illegal discrimination on the basis of my political views, but I would probably not want to give an over-threshold donation myself, for instance.

            One way we could tilt that balance towards disclosure without eliminating the privacy side of the equation is require parties to ask people if they want their donation kept anonymous even if they fall under the threshold. There are several who would probably say they’re willing to be declared.

    • Craig H 2.2

      All political parties rely heavily on donations, whether that’s cash, goods, services or time.

  3. Peter 3

    A gigantic beat-up of fake news proportions!

  4. Ross 4

    A cheap shot. At least we all know that the SST has given up pretending to be unbiased.

  5. DH 5

    Mickey I’d question the wisdom of posts such as this with the election so close. This site is well haunted by media lurkers and IMO it just feeds the vultures future columns with this kind of commentary. You can bet they’ll be poring over every reply in this thread looking for angles. Calling them out may not be the wisest action, it just pisses them off and there’s no need for that at present.

    • Anne 5.1

      Uggh DH?

      Call them out! Call them out at very available opportunity. Too damm bad if they don’t like it. Hiding the truth under a bushel for fear of reprisal is exactly what is wrong with this big bad world of ours. It encourages the culprits – be they individuals or corporate giants – to keep on doing it.

  6. I did enjoy the way they mention twice that the artists never received any of the money for these artworks. Er, no – because that’s the whole fucking point of a donation, shit-for-brains. Do SST reporters not understand what a donation is, or what?

  7. DH 7

    Ride the wave while the surf’s up Anne. Last election they needed to be held to account (and were not) . This election they don’t…. not yet anyway.

  8. Bearded Git 8

    “83 per cent ($8.7m over six years) of the money donated to National is from anonymous donors, and 80 per cent ($2.8m) of that donated to Labour.”

    The law on donations needs to be changed-urgently. It needs to be much more transparent where the donations are coming from.

    • If you had 100,000 people all donate $10 you’d have $1 million and yet no single donor would have got anywhere close to the threshold.

      Now, I happen to think that every single donor needs to be listed, no matter the amount, just to ensure that large donors aren’t hidden in the mess of small donations.

  9. jennifer 9

    Now the Nacts are just playing “dirty Politics”. What about the secret “donations” they got from the Exclusive Bretheren??? At the last election. Nothing has been said about that!

  10. greywarshark 10

    Tryingto raise a shadow of a disagreement about Helen signing the back of a picture which someone bought as hers, presumably without looking at it. Caveat emptor should have applied, but no excuse for the fatuous arguments that RW excel in to prevent any deep reasoning to occur in their brains.

    The SST is hoping for something similar that it can stir up in its little cooking pot that presents floor sweepings and entrails as amazing dishes.

  11. Finn 11

    Clarifying question: do the party assign a value to the artwork (the value that will be declared as the value of the artist’s donation) before or after the auction?

  12. McFlock 12

    The valuations are assigned beforehand, according to the article.

    What surprises me is the artist who reckoned that $36k was “a few thousand more” than market price was still surprised to be listed as a donor, when they quite clearly gave the party a painting worth tens of thousands of dollars.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 12.1

      They probably would have preferred anonymity. Who wants to attract the attention of National Party thugs?

  13. I seem to recall a restaurant that held expensive dinners at some ridiculous price. That restaurant then donated the proceeds to National with the people who bought the meals thus remaining anonymous despite the fact that each had paid well above the limit to remain anonymous.

    I believe that restaurateur also got a ‘Sir’ added to his name under the Key government.

    I believe that we can say that both sides are doing it and that we need them to stop.

    Of course the best solution is to establish state funding of political parties. Just think no need for donations, no unfair advantage to one side, no donations regime …

    And no paying for access via Cabinet Clubs.

    • Alwyn 13.1

      I fear your memory is leading you astray and into the realms of fantasy.
      Tony Astle, the resteranteur concerned became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. That is a very minor award. It is the sort of thing people get for being a Counciller in a place like Whakatane for 10 years.
      Try looking up the last lot of recipients. I’ll wager you haven’t heard of 90% of them.

      The people who went to the diners paid out about $5,000 each I believe. The limit was $15,000 at the time so no reporting at all was required.
      I find it rather funny that people who see nothing wrong when Labour do it were totally oposed to the National Party dinners.

      And vice versa of course.

      • I fear your memory is leading you astray

        you could be right there.

        Tony Astle, the resteranteur concerned became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. That is a very minor award.

        I’m concerned that he got an award for, apparently, being nice to National. I read the reviews and his restaurant is shit so getting an award for something like, IIRC, services to restaurants was bollocks.

        And nobody should get such an award for merely doing their job anyway.

        • alwyn 13.1.1.1

          ” I read the reviews “.
          In other words you never ate there?
          I did, once, and I thought it was overpriced. The food was fine but not worth the money charged. On the other hand it was one of the early, and longest lasting fine-dining places in Auckland. He deserved the award as far as I can see. Cuisine Magazine certainly rated it highly for many years and I’m sure their reviewers knew a great deal more about the subject than you do. What did you do? Look up Trip Adviser?

          “And nobody should get such an award for merely doing their job anyway”.
          Wow! How can you justify “Sir” Michael Cullen getting his gong? He didn’t even do his job properly did he?

          • Draco T Bastard 13.1.1.1.1

            How can you justify “Sir” Michael Cullen getting his gong?

            I don’t.

            He didn’t even do his job properly did he?

            He’s probably about the best we’ve had at that job for some time.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 13.1.2

        Yes, because selling access to Ministers is exactly the same as selling donated paintings.

      • reason 13.1.3

        It used to be $25,000 for a secret dinner date with Johnny made-off … our ex-pm.

        And you got your money back …. if the secret got out http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11619417

        “But isn’t it just so very, very curious that the donation most likely to cause the National Party the most amount of embarrassment in the lead up to the 2014 election got treated in a way so radically different to every other donation received by that Party and its candidates, thus allowing it to remain hidden from public sight until after the election is over? So very, very, very curious.” https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/curiouser-and-curiouser

        I’m sure the SST was part of the dirty politics last election …. reporting and spreading lies about Labour and Cunliffe ….. and not reporting on the very real $25,000 donation …. made when John key* was present …. and on the piss with the dodgy donor.

        *Johnny was a Key before he became a made-off

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    1 week ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago

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