Almost half a million dollars in political donations appear to have been hidden inside a secret slush fund controlled by a coterie of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ trusted advisers.
The secretive New Zealand First Foundation collected donations from wealthy donors and used the money to finance election campaigns, pay for an MP’s legal advice, advertising, fund a $5000 day at the Wellington races and even pay an IRD bill.
A New Zealand First spokesperson said on Monday the foundation had been in existence across several election cycles. “There has never been any suggestion that it is anything other than lawful,” she said.
Records uncovered in a Stuff investigation show a complex web that appears to be designed to hide donations to the NZ First Party via The New Zealand First Foundation. . .
I was a regional and electorate chair for the National Party and am still a party member.
The necessity of adherence to electoral law has always been drummed in at every level of the party, especially for fundraising and financial reporting.
No-one with any understanding of what’s involved could believe that a party like New Zealand First could function and run itself and successive election campaigns on lots and lots of small donations and few if any over the threshold for declaring who’s given how much.
Former NZ First treasurer Colin Forster claimed he was moved out of the party after questioning the financial records.
“When Winston wanted to hire a bus for the Northland by-election we were on the bones of our arse,” he said.
“We had about $20 in the bank and I would not let the party take out a loan. We were told not to worry about it and suddenly there was money.
“I could not understand where the money came from.”
Stuff has seen records for the foundation that suggest there have been breaches of the Electoral Act and that the foundation is being used to obscure political donations to the NZ First Party.
Donors to the foundation are primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires. . .
Every other party in parliament, and most outside it, get donations like this, why would NZ First be any different?
Invoices paid by the foundation seem to show funds were being used for, what appear to be, party expenses.
Among other things, the foundation spent $9364 hiring boxer Joseph Parker to speak at the 2017 NZ First conference, $10,643 on travel reimbursement for MP Clayton Mitchell, $12,000 on legal advice from Russell McVeagh lawyers for Mitchell, and $5000 for a day at Wellington Cup Day races.
It also paid for the party’s Nation Builder website and donations platform, a cost of about $10,000 a month. . .
Until now it’s been reported that the Foundation only made loans to the party. These payments don’t look like loans.
Efforts have been made by party officials to find out details of the foundation and some say they were removed from the party when they challenged Peters or Henry about finances. There is now a conga line of NZ First Party officials who say they have been forced out of the party. . .
The party is known as Winston First because it looks like he has total control of it.
But absolute rule works only as long as there is absolute loyalty, or submission.
It looks like there are now enough people who are no longer loyal, or submitting, and they are talking.
The only surprise in this is that it has taken so long for the party’s funding to be questioned like this and that points to holes in electoral law or its administration.