‘Cash-for-candidates’ claims and party funding

The Jami-Lee Ross saga has raised to issue of whether candidates can influence candidate selections with donations.

I think that Colin Craig’s and Gareth Morgan’s money may have influenced their candidacy, but they are extreme examples.

It is difficult separating financial interests from political interests these days. Prospective candidates wanting to stand especially for National or Labour and especially for an electorate need to be in a position job-wise and financially to spend months campaigning, likely for more than one election.

It seems common for both the large parties to give first time candidates a go at a hopeless (for the party) electorate before earning their right to stand in a winnable electorate .

NZ Herald: National Party denies cash-for-candidates policy

The taped conversation between Simon Bridges and Jami-Lee Ross is opening the National Party to accusations of a cash-for-candidates policy, prompting the Green Party to call for sweeping changes to political donations.

Despite Ross’ comments on the recording, Bridges said this morning that he did not believe they discussed candidacy at the dinner.

“This was a very convivial dinner and we did not discuss that.”

He denied National Party list places were for sale.

“We have incredibly robust processes to become a Member of Parliament. It involves selection processes and competition … and what that’s about is the best man or woman winning the job on their merits.”

They do have contested selections, but that doesn’t rule out influence for a variety of reasons. And it doesn’t rule money (costs) being involved. Some National MPs have paid Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater to enhance their selection prospects, or probably more accurately, paid to fuck over opponents.

His comments were supported by National MP Melissa Lee, who said: “I did not pay to actually get here, and I don’t think anyone else has either.”

But it will have cost them money and probably also lost earnings opportunities, that’s the reality of modern democracy.

I think the Greens have always been opposed to big business donations.

But Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said the recording suggested that National list positions could be bought.

She said the current law allowed too much room for anonymous donations, and New Zealanders deserved to know who was trying to buy influence.

“It could be oil and gas. It could be tobacco lobbying. The Greens have an ethics committee to approve all donations over $5000. We will not accept – and have refused in the past – any donations that don’t sit with our charter.

I don’t think any party will want to be seen to have accepted unethical donations.

“It’s very clear that at the moment we are a bit ripe for corruption, and this is why the Greens are calling for powerful vested interests and big money to get out of influencing political parties.”

Large donations for The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand include:

  • Philip Mills $65,000 (November 2016)
  • James Jenkins $30,080 (April 2015)
  • Spoon Limited $48,295.40 (August 2014)

Should it be assumed that they are not trying to buy influence? If so, should it be assumed that any large donation is not designed to buy interest unless proven otherwise?

Another donation to the Greens:

  • Estate of Elizabeth Beresford Riddoch $283,835.99 (August 2016)

It would be safe to assume that a dead person couldn’t demand influence, wouldn’t it?

NZH:  Greens say big donation a mystery

The Green Party has received its largest ever donation, and says it knows nothing about the donor.

The party declared a donation of $283,835 last week from the estate of Elizabeth Riddoch.

Did they do a full ethics check first?

Helm said most of the Green Party’s fundraising was based on small, regular payments.

“We do have a quite comprehensive fundraising programme but a large bequest like this is extremely unusual for us.

“We tend to get a lot of small and medium-sized donations from people who perhaps have some disposable income but aren’t the very wealthy in society.”

So there could be some self interest involved trying to curb large donations when their own donations are mostly small and medium sized. As all the Green economy companies grow and thrive what if they offer to donate to the Green Party? Would that be seen as unethical?

Davidson called for sweeping changes, including removing anonymity for donations over $1000, capping individual donations at $35,000, banning overseas donations and increasing public money for campaigning.

They want state funded political parties. There’s a real danger that would favour parties already in Parliament, like the advertising funds dished out for election campaigns.

But New Zealand First leader Winston Peters disagreed.

“I don’t believe the taxpayer should be funding political parties to the degree that the Green Party says. The reality is, if you’ve got a consumer demand politically, people out there will back you.”

He said New Zealand First had never taken money in exchange for political influence, but the recording told a different story for National.

“It’s clear from those tapes that the National Party has a cash-for-candidates policy.”

It wasn’t clear.

What is clear is how brazen Peters is claiming “New Zealand First had never taken money in exchange for political influence”. It is unlikely to be a pure coincidence that fishing and racing donors to NZF happen to be pleased about the policies that Peters coincidentally gets pushed through as a priority in their coalition arrangements.

Party donations will always be contentious. And cast aspersions of influence will always be a weapon used by opponent parties.

Leave a comment


  1. David

     /  19th October 2018

    Peters is a trick isnt he, I love the way the journalist asks him for comment and then just nods and transcribes not anticipating the guffaws from the taxpayers up and down the country subsidizing his millionaire mates in the bloodstock / fishing businesses…otherwise known as donors.

  2. robertguyton

     /  19th October 2018

    “Another donation to the Greens:

    Estate of Elizabeth Beresford Riddoch $283,835.99 (August 2016)
    It would be safe to assume that a dead person couldn’t demand influence, wouldn’t it?

    NZH: Greens say big donation a mystery

    The Green Party has received its largest ever donation, and says it knows nothing about the donor.

    The party declared a donation of $283,835 last week from the estate of Elizabeth Riddoch.

    Did they do a full ethics check first?”
    Seriously, Pete? You ask that question of the Greens, about a donation from someone who has died???

    • So they wouldn’t have cared if it was a person who had a Chinese name and had owned an oil drilling company? Or they wouldn’t have even investigated?

      • robertguyton

         /  19th October 2018

        Wouldn’t they????

      • High Flying Duck

         /  19th October 2018

        The Greens are pretty squeaky clean on transparent donations Pete. The other parties – Labour and NZF included, not so much.In fact:

        “The worst offender is NZ First: Most years, it allows every single one of its donors to remain secret.”

        “…It comes as Labour is revealed to have collected tens of thousands of dollars in anonymous donations through art auctions. The party declared the money to the Electoral Commission in the names of painters like Karl Maughan and Stanley Palmer, even though the artists never saw the money and had no idea they were being named as donors.”


        There is a good argument for donations being kept private that seems to be being missed in this rush to transparency.
        People and companies can be targeted for their political leanings and affiliations, which is a threat to basic democratic freedoms.
        A balance should be found that prevents corruption but enables people to support whomever they like without it being broadcast.

        From a Stuff article a while ago:


        “The Greens supported a greater transparency in political donations.

        Green Party leader James Shaw said the $15,000 threshold for disclosure was too high and the public should be consulted on a new, lower threshold.

        The party has previously put that number at $1000.

        “We’d like to see more transparency around political donations. That needs to happen for all political parties at the same time, so none are disadvantaged.”

        “I can’t see any good reason why disclosure of big donations can’t happen faster too, like week-to-week.”

        The Greens publicly disclose where most of their money comes from, but the big parties keep it under wraps. 83 per cent ($8.7 million over six years) of the money donated to National is from anonymous donors, and 80 per cent ($2.8m) of that donated to Labour.

        In the past the Green party turned down donations from the oil and gas industry as they didn’t fit with the party’s values, Shaw said. “

  3. Peters must think people who might vote for him have poor memories.

  4. Gezza

     /  19th October 2018

    There might be some value in a law which requires all donors to political parties to be dead?

  5. PartisanZ

     /  19th October 2018

    “There is a strong argument for changing the law so limits on expenditure extend throughout the electoral cycle … Non-citizens and businesses not registered in NZ should not be permitted to donate money … Individual donations below $5000 could be given tax credits and matched by state funding to encourage small donors … A basic level of state funding to support party organisations outside Parliament … ” etc etc …

    ” … the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System 1986 should be revisited.”

    – ‘Towards Democratic Renewal’ – Palmer & Butler (2018) pgs 233 – 234

    • PartisanZ

       /  19th October 2018

      No downtickers … of course not … what was I thinking!?

      We want to maintain “wriggle room” in the system for corruption … Right?

  6. Blazer

     /  19th October 2018

    hmmm…I’ll see your Indian and raise you…2 Chinamen.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  19th October 2018

      How much is an Iranian refugee worth do you think? Ticked all the boxes except competence.

  7. Kitty Catkin

     /  19th October 2018

    I would be very surprised if many people wanted to buy a Parliamentary seat, and even more surprised if they succeeded. We don’t hear much about most MPs, no fame and glory there.

    I can only think of one of all those whom I have known for whom the pay was more than she could have earned before and was earning.

    Being a List candidate means hours of slogging around the electorate (as I know; I was married to one)

    My response to the fool who said that List MPs & candidates were there because of favours called in and returned was that if that’s Roger Douglas’s bloody idea of a bloody favour, then I hoped that he never bloody well did me one*. I did also go into detail of what these people did and the hours they put in just as candidates.

    * I was quite restrained in my language because of the company, and refrained from landing the person one – somehow.

    • Gezza

       /  19th October 2018

      Somehow I cannot quite see you as a brawler, Kitty.
      Fart in their general direction, possibly.

    • PartisanZ

       /  19th October 2018

      They may not be seeking “fame and glory” Miss Kitty …

      Instead they may be obsessively hell-bent on maintaining the status-quo?

      And/or getting well paid – perhaps in various ways – for pushing the views of a variety of aligned corporate elites, business interests, ‘lobby groups’ and ‘Think Tanks’?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  19th October 2018

        I think that in NZ, anyone hoping for payment in that way would be in for a very big disappointment.

        Gezza, hearing some idiot who knew nothing about it holding forth when my old man and another man were putting all those hours in and doing really hard work (and the other man was running a large farm as well) was maddening. He was going on about how the List candidates and List MPS did nothing except (in the case of the MPs) collecting their pay and a lot more drivel of that kind. I don’t know when I have been so angry or wanted to smack someone so badly. I told him exactly what the candidates do (among other things, walk every street of various towns, twice in some cases), lug billboards around and erect the frames that they go on….those are incredibly heavy, much heavier than they look. We and someone else put one back up when it was blown over and damaged (we’d put it up in the first place) and it was very hard work indeed.

        Who did he think did things like putting the posters up and taking them down again?

        He’s one of these who doesn’t vote but does bellyache about the government.

  1. ‘Cash-for-candidates’ claims and party funding — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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