Labour’s Greg Presland highlighted a claim by John Key at his weekly media conference.
Argh I am just watching Key’s post cabinet press conference.
Did you know that the Labour Party receives hundreds of thousands if not millions from the trade unions and that the unions select the leader?
Where is a decent fact checker when you need one?
To deal with facts you first need facts about what Key actually said. I transcribed his comments:
Question: On state funding of election campaigns, Labour and the Greens say we need to have a conversation, a public conversation about that. What do you think about that idea?
John Key: Well I think it’s actually really healthy that they’ve come out and said what the real agenda of last week’s attacks were, because the reality is that Labour and the Greens fund raise extensively.
In the case of the Labour Party they get hundreds of thousands if not millions from the unions. The unions select their leader, and the unions have clear influence on their policies on labour and education.
Over the course of the thread facts were produced (mostly by me) to check these claims out.
1. In the case of the Labour Party they get hundreds of thousands if not millions from the unions.
This depends on what timeframe is being considered. “Millions” is a political exaggeration but in the context of what National has been accused of over the last week over their donations it’s not extreme.
It’s impossible to determine how much unions donate to Labour. Only donations over $15,000 have to have the donor revealed. As danylmc says at Dim-Post:
If a couple of directors of a business give a party $14999 a year for three years then you’re talking about a very large amount of money relative to New Zealand politics.
That could just as easily be “if a couple of unions” or “if a couple of union officials or members” or “if Greenpeace”.
In 2013 Labour reported receiving no donations over $15,000 and 114 donations totalling $483,506.26 in the following categories:
- Anonymous donations not exceeding $1,500
- Donations exceeding $1,500 but not exceeding $5,000
- Donations exceeding $5,000 but not exceeding $15,000
But this is not total donations, as Andrew Geddis points out:
By law, parties must each year disclose a bunch of info to the Electoral Commission. This includes:
(1) Names of everyone who gives more than $15,000 in that year and how much they gave.
(2) Number and total amount of donations received between $5000 and $15000.
(3) Number and total amount of donations received between $1500 and $5000.
(4) Number and total amount of anonymous donations received under $1500 (where “anonymous” means that no-one in the party knows or has good reason to suspect who the donor really is).
Note, then, what parties don’t have to disclose (and so don’t in practice do so): how much they receive from not anonymous donors who give the party less than $1500 in the year.
In 2012 Labour reported receiving a donation for $430,259.33 from an estate (not a union) and 73 donations totalling $240,430.97 – again this excludes non-anonymous donations under $1500.
In 2011 Labour reported receiving $225,200 from donations of over $15,00o including $105,200 from:
- NZ Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union $40,000
- NZ Dairy Workers’ Union $27,200
- Service and Food Workers’ Union $20,000
- NZ Meatworkers’ Union $18,000
There were 176 donations under $15,000 (not including non-anonymous donations less then $1,500) totalling $695,338.42
Labour’s election expenses were about double their total donations – $1,789,151.95 – but they could have used accumulated funds.
In 2010 (the rules were different) – 3 identified donors over $10,000 total $56,720, no donations under $10,000 disclosed.
In 2009 one identified donor (Phil Goff) totalling $10,063.
In 2008 (election year) identified donations totalled $422,917 including:
- NZ Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union $60,000
- NZ Dairy Workers’ Union $12,000
- Service and Food Workers’ Union $20,000
- NZ Meatworkers’ Union $25,500
This is an identified union total of $117,500 but I don’t know if any of the other named donors was union linked.
Prior to that Labour donations exceeding $10,000:
In 2007 total $1,030,446.39 (including donations from all MPs).
In 2006 total $240,988.04
- NZ Amal. Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union Inc $20,000
- Anonymous $100,000
2005 (election year) total $930, 977.04 including:
- Nation Distribution Union $24,000
- NZ Dairy Workers Union $20,000
- NZ Amal. Engineering, Printing & Manufacturing Union Inc $40,000
- NZ Meatworkers & RTU Inc $25,000
- Rail & Maritime Transport Union $10,000
- Service & Food Workers Union $20,000
– Union total $139,000
- Anonymous $315,000
Source: PARTY DONATIONS BY YEAR
Identified union donations are substantial in election years – over $100,000 in each of the last three elections – and many donors are not identified, plus small donation totals (under $10,000 until 2010, under $1,500 since then) are not provided so we simply don’t know how much Labour receives in donations.
Key’s claim of “hundreds of thousands” would stand scrutiny if stretched over multiple elections but “if not millions” is excessive.
However in the context of the current debate over party donations – I’ve seen claims of $800k of National donations buying favours – exaggerations in response are not a major offence.
If Labour attacks National and makes large unsubstantiated claims they shouldn’t complain if similar is thrown back at them.