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Why didn’t NZF use Nats’ donations playbook?

Written By: - Date published: 2:22 pm, September 4th, 2008 - 55 comments
Categories: election 2008, election funding, national, nz first - Tags:

This business with donations from the Spencer Trust going to New Zealand First but not being declared. I find it hard to credit that this was an accident. It seems beyond belief that no-one in the party would have seen the donation declaration at some point and said ‘hey, what about that $50K from the Spencer Trust?’

So why purposely leave the donation undeclared? Maybe NZF didn’t want to be seen as hypocrites, campaigning against big money but taking big money. Maybe some money came from a source which would be politically damaging. But that’s what National used the secret trusts for, why not do that? The secret trusts were legal at the time, National was moving millions through them. Well, NZF wanted to oppose the secret trusts too and not appear hypocritical by using them.

The obvious solution would to have been to not take the money but the other option would just been to spread the donations around so they were paid to NZF from several sources (this ‘funnelling’ is banned under the EFA but was legal beforehand) and make them in different years so that no payment in one year from one source came in over the $10K reporting threshold. A little complicated but legal and if it ever came out it, the paper trail would be clear from Bob Jones, through a trust or two to NZF.

But pooling donations into a trust and then making a large donation from that trust to the Party without not reporting the trust’s donation? Weird. Incompetent, really. Maybe they should have asked National for advice.

55 comments on “Why didn’t NZF use Nats’ donations playbook?”

  1. monkey-boy 1

    I think they made the mistake of asking for Labour Party President ‘Forgetful Mike’ William’s advice, which is why they are in this mess right now.

  2. Tane 2

    I never thought I’d say this, but I’m bored of Winston Peters.

  3. I know. I’m mindnumbingly bored by it but jokers want to say ‘The Standard refuses to talk about Peters, The Standard’s protecting Peters’, as if a blog can protect an MP, so thought I would do something on it. We’re not just a news cut and paste site like farrar, so i cast around for an angle on the topic that isn’t just repeating what’s widely avialable in the mainstream

  4. Tane 4

    Yeah, I know, just sayin’

  5. Matthew Hooton 5

    Exactly. There is a major difference between National and Labour’s trust arrangements, and those of New Zealand First which are much worse. If New Zealand First had done what National and Labour have done over the years, there would be no issue. But what New Zealand First has done is much worse. See http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/?p=211 for a more detailed discussion.

    [matthew. a) welcome to the blogosphere b) commenting on someone else’s blog in a thinly veiled attempt to promote your own blog is called link-whoring, is not welcome, and will be dealt with c) Labour hasn’t used trusts d) take back what you said about my suit 🙂 SP/Clinton Smith]

  6. outofbed 6

    Yeah isn’t anything else exciting happening like, I don’t know
    Ashcroft funding controversial Australian strategists Crosby Textor ?

  7. Scribe 7

    I’m mindnumbingly bored by it but jokers want to say ‘The Standard refuses to talk about Peters, The Standard’s protecting Peters’, as if a blog can protect an MP, so thought I would do something on it.

    And whatever you wrote had to be a criticism of National.

    Steve, can I recommend you read yesterday’s post entitled “Not good enough”. I read the beginning and just waited for it to turn into National-bashing. I was pleased to see IrishBill tackle an important issue but not turn it into anti-National rhetoric.

    Might be worth considering yourself.

  8. Matthew Pilott 8

    Not that I’d dream of putting you guys in the same boat as Ms Livingston, but someone else is bored. We’ll, more outraged, than anything.

    Remember, people: it only takes 1 in 20.

    End obsession with Mr Peters

    I object strongly to your editorial saying that residents in rest homes who vote for NZ First are confused and dotty. How dare you?
    Once editorials were signed, but not now. They are obviously written for the most part by ignorant nobodies.
    For goodness’ sake, give it a rest.
    We are all sick and tired of your obsession with NZ First leader Winston Peters.

    I did like Clark’s “They’re an amateur organisation” call, clearly as opposed to National.

  9. Did Mathew Hooton just linkwhore at the standard??? You guys really need to tighten up your commenting policy ‘cos after this and Ansell it’s starting to look like just any old nutter can have his say here…

    [Tane: Sod, play nice and drop the personal stuff.]

  10. scribe. are you saying that national was wrong to use secret trusts? if not, how is it ‘national baching’ to mention that they were used?

    I thought the not good enough post was excellent, but you’ll notice that half the comments are morons saying ‘yeah Labour sucks, that’s why we need National’, as if National would be restricting loan sharks more than Labour.. so when I criticise Labour for not doing well enough, I usually also include the fact that National’s record is worse.

  11. monkey-boy 11

    Yes I too enjoyed IB’s post yesterday. It was … ‘real’.

  12. we all love you Irish. At least, when you’re sober.

  13. Daveski 13

    SP – acknowledged but what Scribe said too

    Frankly, I’m over Winston in a big way and given my involvement with racing, I never ever expected the day when HC would be the Minister of Racing!! What next Bob the Builder Minister of Women’s Affairs!

    How anyone could vote for NZF after this beggars belief as does the fact that any party would want to work with Winston.

  14. Daveski 14

    SP – I hope you note I got modded for saying nice things about the Standard too 🙂

    Can I ask why you use SP when everyone knows you are Clinton Smith. Mind you, it works for Elvis Costello to name but one!

  15. Matthew Pilott 15

    Daveski, it’s not that the Party wanted to work with Winston, but that 5% or more of the population wanted the party to have to work with Winston!

    Check out my copied (and referenced, in case you’re reading, plagiarism-boy) letter above if you’re convinced he’s gone after this election…

  16. monkey-boy 16

    Did someone say Elvis?
    Well here’s a lyric for you:

    ‘The salty lips of the socialite sisters,
    With their continental fingers that,
    Never saw working blisters.
    Oh I know they’ve got their problems.
    How I wish I was one of them…”

  17. When we started out, we took on pseudonyms, like most blogs and most of the commentators. When I started writing, I chose Steve Pierson because one of the donors to the free speech coalition is an S Pierson and if you google Steve Pierson (NZ) it comes up with a few names – so I thought that would be funny.

    Later, we started getting media asking us for comment on things and we thought we should have a media spokesperson – we drew lots (not really) – and I got that job. But we thought I would keep the pseudonym for consistancy and because it would be used to pressure the others to use their real names – I can understand why they don’t want to, the stalking and the abuse isn’t a lot of fun, and I can understand why they don’t want to expose themselves and their families to that given they are just writing on a blog. Personally, using my real name for the posts might be good but that second point is the reason I don’t

  18. monkey-boy 18

    Well I for one would never lower myself by using a psuedonym….
    Or spelling it correctly.

  19. Tim Ellis 19

    I’m getting a bit sick of it too, Tane, to be honest. This is a very interesting post, and I happen to agree with it. There was a mechanism for parties to anonymise donations, which National used to its full advantage while it was lawful to do so. National’s trust mechanism have been used for many years. They were well known and publicly declared. They were tested by the SFO in 2002.

    It really is baffling why NZFirst didn’t use the same mechanism, and declare it. Their convoluted and contradictory explanations have come back to haunt them. Perhaps they thought they wouldn’t get caught.

    The big problem for NZFirst is that they railed for years against this sort of thing, and got the moral high ground for doing so. Likewise, Labour has railed against National’s use of trusts, and changed the law to stop it happening again. But when it relied on the support of a party that not only used trusts, but systematically broke the law by failing to declare donations from those trusts to the party, then their credibility takes a hit. So too, every time Labour tries to mention the Waitemata trust, will their credibility be knocked by the inference that Labour knew, or should have known that was going on, and protected NZFirst.

    Helen Clark said some time ago that the court of public opinion would decide New Zealand First’s fate. I suspect that the details of what has taken place is lost on many New Zealanders, and they’re a bit bored by the new revelations. I suspect also, however, that the jury has reached a verdict: that New Zealand First are hypocritical crooks, and Labour’s untainted credibility has taken a big whack. Whatever the outcome of the SFO, the Police investigation, or the Privileges Committee, there can be no good result for Helen Clark or Winston Peters.

  20. Daveski 20

    Thanks SP 😉

    Daveski is Russian for Tane …

  21. Draco TB 21

    …the inference that Labour knew, or should have known that was going on…

    Why should Labour have known about NZFirsts donations? They really shouldn’t have known any more than the general public and they shouldn’t be expected to.

  22. gobsmacked 22

    I think Helen Clark should send Matthew Hooton and Rodney Hide a big bouquet of flowers (red roses, naturally).

    The latest poll (Morgan, out today) shows NZ First have lost support …

    … to Labour.

    National 44.5%
    Labour 38%

    Has John Key still got Winston’s phone number?

  23. Tim Ellis 23

    Draco, that’s a good argument. Perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly. I’m not saying Labour as a party did know about the donation from all the unusual places New Zealand First appears to have got its money from. But we do know that the Prime Minister and Trevor Mallard were informed by Owen Glenn of his donation to New Zealand First back in February. The Prime Minister has argued this was merely a “conflict of evidence”. Labour cannot go around saying they did not know about it. What is clear is that the PM and one of her senior ministers did know about it, and did very little to bring the “conflict of evidence” to a resolution.

    I didn’t say Labour needs to take responsibility for the donation. I’m just saying that I think the public have largely made up their minds on the fiasco, that the PM’s hands aren’t clean, and that both NZ First and Labour will take a big hit for it.

    Now, I’m prejudging future poll results, and there’s no point in arguing it, I’m just saying what my prediction will be for the next round of polls. It won’t look good for Labour or New Zealand First. If they do take a hit, I don’t think anybody would credibly argue it is because of anything other than the Peters donation saga. Time will tell if I’m right. I’m happy to say that I was wrong if there isn’t any impact on the next round of polls.

  24. Matthew Pilott 24

    Tim, I’m not sure if that whole post was meant to be a simplified version of what went on, or what you percieve the average punter to understand of the situation, but I find it a stretch to think Labour’s credibility tained by this when you consider all that has changed is Clark revealed she knew Glenn said he paid money to NZF or an account related to them (subsequently shown to pay a legal bill independently of NZF), and that she did not sack him the second allegations were made. Acting when the SFO said it was going to act was entirely consistent.

    Sure, what you said might be the simple perception, which either means Labour isn’t doing spin as well as National, or the media isn’t interested in providing facts to the public, but there’s only so much you can blame Labour for. Essentially you’re trying to blame Labour for something NZF did in 2005. They could have handled the situation better, I suppose, but then their actions would have been inconsistent and, to a degree, irrational. Not a good look either.

  25. gobsmacked 25

    Sorry, I forgot the Greens … 8%

    Don’t worry Nats, those brilliant billboards will turn it around. Got anything else?

  26. Given the apparent close cooperation with Teh THE Party over electoral petitions you would think that Winston would have gone to Williams for party funding advice more likely.

    How much has Teh THE Party received from trusts in the past few years? Here’s a test for you Steve P.

    btw Linking – who remembers Tane’s frequent visits to Kiwiblog to link-whore back to here. Pot. Kettle. Black!

    [lprent: see my comment below. I always like annoying dickheads with systematic spelling issues.]

  27. Daveski 27

    MP – if you’ve been to Waipukurau you would understand 🙂

    There is a risk that the 5% will come out strongly in favour of Winston. Mind you, that 5% is 100% of those who think Elvis is alive and serving petrol in Timaru … “Elvis* has left the garage, thank you very much, thank you very much”.

    The Presley guy, not the real Elvis.

  28. Given the apparent close cooperation with Teh THE Party over electoral petitions you would think that Winston would have gone to Williams for party funding advice more likely.

    How much has Teh THE Party received from trusts in the past few years? Here’s a test for you Steve P.

    btw Linking – who remembers Tane’s frequent visits to Kiwiblog to link-whore back to here.

    Or these recent efforts from Steve?



    Pot. Kettle. Black!

    [lprent: Fixed your spelling errors. I see you found the moderation trap for them. ]

  29. Billy 29

    never thought I’d say this, but I’m bored of Winston Peters.

    Yeah, I know. The relentlessness with which the Standard has pursued the issue is tedious.

    When National uses a piece of music which may or not be similar to a Coldplay song we get three posts a day on the topic. When a coalition partner of the government is found to have been lying for years when it says it doesn’t take money from big business and is found to have breached the electoral law what do we get? This is an unimportant side-show.

  30. Tim Ellis 30

    MP, my first post was a bit ambiguous on that point. I was referring to the public perceptions. There has been pretty much information overload on this issue for the last two weeks. It’s been all bad for Winston Peters. I do think, rightly or wrongly, it’s been all bad for Helen Clark as well.

    I very much doubt that the public engages in the level of detail that we do, and I’ve said before that I think we make big mistakes if we assume that they do. The trouble for Labour is that this is the big issue as far as the media are concerned. It will remain the big story until Parliament rises. It’s very hard for Labour to hope to push that off the front page with anything else.

    I’m not crowing about this, because I realise how frustrating it must be for you guys who support Labour so wholeheartedly, to see your electoral hopes dashed for associating with a guy whose policies and approach to politics you have loathed for so long. I felt the same when Winston made a mockery of the National Government’s credibility, by association, from 1996-1999. I privately told National people that having Winston in the tent would end in tears for everybody except the Labour Party. Being proven right didn’t give me any satisfaction.

    We’ll see what comes out in the next round of polls. I suspect that it’s the last nail in the coffin for the Labour government.

  31. gobsmacked 31

    Tim, I’ve given you the next poll. (I can’t link, as I’ll get stuck in moderation, a real pain in the neck).

    Just Google Morgan poll.

  32. Matthew Pilott 32

    Daveski – I have, I do…

    I thought that was the best example thus far of what has been mentioned repeatedly – that no matter what is reported, people will see it about him sticking it to the bad guys.

    You’d think that him sticking it to the bad guys over being proven wrong about doing (badly) exactly what he used to stick it to the bad guys about would have put a few people off (if that makes sense – talking about use of trusts). We’ll find out soon enough.

  33. We’ll see what comes out in the next round of polls. I suspect that it’s the last nail in the coffin for the Labour government.

    That would be today’s Roy Morgan:

    Labour: 38%
    National: 44.5%
    Greens: 8%
    Maori: 3.5%
    Act: 1.5%
    UF: 1%
    NZ First 2.5%

    That’s an L/M/G govt.

    The right’s attack on Winston may go down as the stupidest play in NZ politics. Ever.

  34. Tim Ellis 34

    gobsmacked, I have seen that. It was taken from August 18-31. It didn’t include the PM’s revelation that she knew about the donation. It did have, during the middle of it, Maurice Williamson’s idiotic performance on Agenda promoting toll roads. It didn’t include the PM standing Peters down, or the SFO investigation.

    It is useful data, and is an important part of the polling trend, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up that polls released in the next few weeks will mirror it.

  35. Billy 35

    Well, on those numbers no-one has to work with NZF.

  36. Yeah – good eh? Although I have to confess to feeling a bit sorry for the old sod.

  37. randal 37

    is that really the hysterical mathew hooton…hows ya mental complaint mate?

  38. Testing 123 38

    I suppose Labour would never use secret trusts then?

  39. I suppose Labour would never use secret trusts then?

  40. Matthew Pilott 40

    So did this poll include the ‘secret tapes’ eposode?

    Tim, yep I agree it hasn’t been good for Clark, rightly or wrongly. I can’t see it being as bas as you suggest, and given that Peters went without a fuss the problem is Clark knowing Glenn believed he had made a donation to NZF when Peters did not.

    This isn’t the stuff that will get Peters in really hot water though – it’s the trust stuff. Whether that is associated with Clark is going to be the most crucial thing.

    Given that Glenn’s name is well known, I think there’s enough there to differentiate the two issues for most people.

    They’ll see Clark knowing about Glenn’s donation, which went towards the Tauranga election court case, but Peters getting nailed on the trust donations from the Jones and Vela cheques.

    Enough of a difference? I reckon.

  41. Lets see if this works then…

    Given the apparent close cooperation with THE Party over electoral petitions you would think that Winston would have gone to Williams for party funding advice more likely.

    How much has THE Party received from trusts in the past few years? Here’s a test for you Steve P.

    btw Linking – who remembers Tane’s frequent visits to Kiwiblog to link-whore back to here.

    Or those little slip-ups from Steve on the stuff blogs?

    Pot. Kettle. Black!

    [lprent: repeated messages go straight to spam. I’m sure that while I didn’t like your radiantly positive personality, you didn’t used to be quite this thick!]

  42. (Are my captcha responses that bad)

    Given the apparent close cooperation with THE Party over electoral petitions you would think that Winston would have gone to Williams for party funding advice more likely.

    How much has THE Party received from trusts in the past few years? Here’s a test for you Steve P.

    btw Linking – who remembers Tane’s frequent visits to Kiwiblog to link-whore back to here. Or Steve’s little efforts at the stuff blogs?

    Pot. Kettle. Black!

    [lprent: repeated messages going to moderation are then referred to spam. You seem to have gotten a bit thicker? recent lobotomy ?]

  43. Given the apparent close cooperation with THE Party over electoral petitions you would think that Winston would have gone to Williams for party funding advice more likely.

    (wondering why a longer comment disappears)

    [lprent: Blockhead – stop using your favorite juvie mis-spelling and I’ll have to stop bailing you out of moderation and spam. If you don’t take a hint shortly then I’ll just ban you for terminal stupidity in wasting my time.]

  44. Hey DS – what were you testing? Whether the proxy you use to ensure you don’t show as posting from the National party research unit IP address is working?

  45. lprent 45

    Bugger this for a lark. Either TDS reads my notes on his previous messages or I’ll just ban. Can’t be bothered wasting my time because someone is slow to catch up with change.

  46. Draco TB 46

    I do think, rightly or wrongly, it’s been all bad for Helen Clark as well.

    I don’t think it’s going to be as bad for Labour as you think. Most people will, IMO, differentiate between Labours responsibility and NZ Firsts as far as NZ Firsts finances goes. Even the conflicting evidence that HC had I think people will realise that she just couldn’t do anything with it – she didn’t have access to the accounts to make a definite decision. To do so requires an act of law through the police and due process.

    Well, on those numbers no-one has to work with NZF.

    They do if NZF wins an electorate. Those numbers do show that Nationals actual chance of leading the next government are very slim though and decreasing.

  47. randal 47

    tds is justa nark and most probably a scab too..lprent you are being far too generous in dealing with these people who put out to be interested in political debate but are more intent in crapping on anything and everything they dont beleive in. not worth the space.

  48. forgetaboutthelastone 48

    “I do think, rightly or wrongly, it’s been all bad for Helen Clark as well.”

    This saga has highlighted (among other things) Helen Clark’s long record of integrity and honesty – even the right have been talking about it instead of the usual comparisons to Mugabe, Stalin, Hitler etc.

    This poll shows that new zealanders are waking up to the slipperiness of Key – the constant dishonesty, the secret agenda, the evasiveness. In comparison Clark has made an understandable error after a long record of integrity and honesty. You want honesty and integrity in your politicians? You’ll take Clark over Key any day.

  49. Rex Widerstrom 49


    The latest poll (Morgan, out today) shows NZ First have lost support

    to Labour.

    No need to be gobsmacked about that 🙂 I’ve been explaining to people for years that when NZF was polling 29-point-something percent back in the mid-90s it was the Workingmen’s Clubs and the RSAs that were clustering round to hear what I had to say. If I went to the bridge club or the bowling club I’d get a polite hearing and, if I was lucky, a cucumber sandwich.

    A lot of NZF’s support comes from conservatives who’d otherwise support Labour. Working class people of my parents’ generation who believe in social justice and equality and access to affordable education and medical care and all the other socialist fundmentals but who are deeply uncomfortable with what they see as a radical liberal social agenda. They’ve been happy to return NZF knowing they’d go straight back in to coalition with Labour because they’re happy with Helen’s economic policies and with Winston’s social conservatism – for them it’s a match made in heaven.

    (And those NZF supporters who were National supporters pretty much left in disgust when he destabilised Shipley’s government to the verge of collapse).

    Push the conservative Labour voters out of NZF and they’re not going to going to National. They’ve never voted National in their lives. They’re going to return to Labour and hope like hell Phil Goff becomes leader.

    Which is another reason I cannot understand the PM doing the whole “stand by your man” act, unless her political instincts aren’t as good as I give her credit for. Cut Winston adrift and a possible result is a more stable “LPG” (god how I hate that nonsense) coalition.

    Yes, severing Winston is a gamble but it’s a gamble worth taking for the sake of going some way to restoring people’s faith in democracy. Maybe Key has rolled the dice and lost. Maybe he too didn’t understand the true nature of NZF voters, and thought they’d all go to National. But on the face of it, he looks more courageous than Clark.

  50. randal 50

    rex w it looks like you come fromm the garner/espammer/dallow/hooter/mould/mulch hysterical school of political analysis. the reason HC is prime minister is because of wff, kiwibank and not privatising state assets. Bedrock planks for NZF too. once you understand that it will all become perfectly clear.

  51. Tim Ellis 51

    Ah, randal, the resident right-wing troll disguising himself as a left-wing troll for everybody’s entertainment. That’s right, randal. Everyone else’s political analysis is “hysterical”.

  52. Pascal's bookie 52

    Rex, there is the impression within (some) National Party circles that WP essentially steals votes that are rightfully theirs.

    “Afterall he was a Nat, he wouldn’t even be in Parliament if it weren’t for us” and so on.

    I suspect it’s this treachery that fuels much of the hatred for him, his ethics aren’t something if not shit, but let’s be honest, Brash, Boag, and Steven Joyce aren’t exactly paragons of public virtue, and they’ve gotten a pass.

  53. Felix 53

    Tim when you can sum up complex interwoven concepts as succinctly as randal does (rather than stretching out single-celled simple ideas into novellas as you do daily) then perhaps more people will actually read your (often insightful) thoughts instead of scrooooolllllling on by.

  54. Rex Widerstrom 54

    Pascal’s bookie:

    I agree that impression exists among some Nats, and it’s even true insofar as the ‘blue rinse’ support Winston attracts. It’s certainly what kept him afloat in Tauranga – those little old ladies could vote for “their” Winston as MP and still give their party vote to National.

    But just as it’s no longer enough in Tauranga it’s no longer enough across the country. Brash, Boag and Joyce, whatever you think of their ethics, didn’t repeatedly hold themselves out as paragons of political virtue prior to being fund not only to be crooks but also hypocrites – that honour belongs solely to Winston.

    I’d love to see some in-depth research on NZF voters – who they supported prior to the advent of NZF, their demographics and so on. I vaguely recall being interviewed by Jack Vowles on the topic at one point, when I have time I’ll see if I can find some statistics.


    It looks like you come from the “criticise what you think/hope someone said rather than attempt to comprehend it” school of blog commenting.

    That NZF’s attitude to economic policy – and specifically its willingness to support Labour policies, particularly opposition to privatisation of state assets, is precisely the point I was making.

    There is considerable commonality between the two parties on matters economic. Less so on matters social. Try asking Peter Brown or Ron Mark what they really think of, say, civil unions. Then stand well back to avoid the spray of spittle.

  55. Rex Widerstrom 55

    Oops somehow half a par got lost (and we have no editing now, Lynn?) above.

    What it should say is:

    That NZF’s attitude to economic policy – and specifically its willingness to support Labour policies, particularly opposition to privatisation of state assets – aligns extremely closely with Labour’s and where it differs that difference isn’t significant is precisely the point I was making.

    [lprent: Depends on the browser etc. But it is noticeably worse as the load goes up. It seems if it craps out once in a session then it keeps dying – the joys of ajax. I’ve been a bit busy to do anything about testing the later versions. Between paid work and unpaid work, the work I have to pay for (ie this place) hasn’t been getting its usual attention. Youall know what it is like coming up to an election.]

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