Cunliffe “happy to be open” about keeping donations secret

David Cunliffe says he is happy to be open – about using a trust to keep the identities of his donors secret. He is claiming Labour Party rules enable him to get around Parliament’s rules that insist on disclosure.

Technically (open to question) Cunliffe may have arranged his affairs to work around the intent of the rules put in place by Labour Party but deviousness and hypocrisy seem to be fair accusations.

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reported in Cunliffe admits sidestepping donations issue.

David Cunliffe has admitted a trust was used to take donations for his leadership campaign, allowing him to sidestep the obligation to disclose donations in the MPs’ register of financial interests.

Mr Cunliffe confirmed yesterday he used a trust to collect donations for his bid for the Labour leadership.

Mr Cunliffe said his campaign team opted to use a trust because the Labour Party’s rules for the contest specified donations would be confidential.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog asks Will Cunliffe’s donations be revealed?

The party can align its rules with standing orders if it so wishes, and drop the confidentially clause around donations. I can only presume that what Cunliffe is proposing is that standing orders be amended to allow Labour leadership candidates in future not to reveal donations to their leadership campaigns.

If any Labour MP or candidate now tries to campaign on better electoral finance transparency laws, they’re going to be laughed at.

He updated with a Cunliffe quote from Parliament in 2008 and comments:

So he attacks people using trusts to hide the source of their donations in Parliament, yet uses the same device himself to hide the source of personal donations to his leadership campaign.

No Right Turn is inclined left but is prepared to criticise his side of the spectrum when a bollocking is deserved.

So, it turns out that David Cunliffe laundered his party leadership donations through a trust to hide them both from the Labour Party and from Parliament’s Register of Pecuniary Interests.

So, as usual, he’s claiming that it was All Within The Rules. But that’s not enough – his behaviour needs to be ethical as well. And by failing to tell us who he owes political debts to for financing his leadership ambitions, David Cunliffe has clearly failed that test and is unfit to be in Parliament, let alone a party leader.

But a friend of Labour at The Standard diverts and diminishes responsibility by looking back at past donation dodges. Bunji in How short are memories?

It’s an astonishingly brazen stone to throw given National’s glass house.

Do no reporters remember John Key, Hollow Man, or anything about National’s funding structure?  It’s just trusts obscuring any knowledge of their donors from one wall to the other.

Past blemishes don’t mitigate current ballsups.

Cunliffe managed a difficult pair of regulations – one requiring him to reveal donors, the other requiring him not to.  Labour / parliament need to harmonise their rules.  But Cunliffe’s Trust is but a grain of sand against the mountain of hidden murkiness that is National’s network of favours and donations.

But a commenter at The Standard carefully questions the author. One Anonymous Bloke:

Bunji, yes, the Left has to swim against a tide of media bias, but don’t you think some responsibility for this rests with whoever suggested a set of leadership election rules in direct contradiction to Register of Pecuniary Interests rules?

Back to Kiwiblog where Kiwi in America comments:

Cunliffe assumed an incurious media would buy Labour “nothing to see here – move along” spin if these trust sourced donations were revealed. Kudos to Claire Trevett. Can’t wait for Parliamentary Question time – Key will make further mincemeat of Cunners.

Oh and then there’ll be a complaint to the Standing Orders Committee to get Cunliffe to comply and if he doesn’t, next stop Privileges Committee! And that’s before the ABCs get going. If I were Shane Jones or Grant Robertson I’d be livid.

I really thought the Greens were the Olympic gold medalist hypocrites – looks like they have competition.

Shane Jones and Grant Robertson say they have fully declared their donations.

Regardless of whether Cunliffe is wangling rules to keep his donors secret he has left himself wide open to charges of hypocrisy – and to attack by opposing politicians:

Cunliffe should front up over donors – Key

Mr Key says Mr Cunliffe owes it to the New Zealand public to say who gave him money and who didn’t.

“The whole purpose of the pecuniary interests system is for there to be transparency and clarity and the really obvious question that you have to ask yourself is, `what is he trying to hide’?” Mr Key told reporters.

“Shane Jones thinks it’s OK to declare where your donations came from, Grant Robertson thinks it’s OK, but David Cunliffe, the person who’s constantly questioning the government about transparency is failing hopelessly on any sort of benchmark he sets for himself.”

Cunliffe will be clobbered by this, over and over.

Mr Cunliffe believes he has met all the rules.

“We did use a trust, the campaign used a trust and I’m happy to be open about that,” he said.

That’s weak, he’s “happy to be open” about keeping the source of his donations secrets.

Disclosure rules (NZH)

Why Labour leader David Cunliffe does not have to disclose donations:

  • Donations of more than $500 have to be declared in an MP’s register of pecuniary interests.
  • But if a trust is used, only the trust has to be declared – not the donations.
  • MPs must declare a trust if they are a trustee or beneficiary.
  • They do not have to declare any benefit received from the trust.
  • In 2007, Labour changed the law to prevent trusts being used to hide donations in general elections.

UPDATE: David Farrar hits harder – 

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  1. Cunliffe’s trust and 3 strikes | Your NZ

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