Peters claims party financials legal, but no explanation of Foundation

Yesterday Winston Peters claimed that NZ First  has operated “within electoral laws” and that their financial arrangements using the NZ First Foundation are legal, but has given no explanation of how they have handled donations.

A media release:

Rt Winston Peters

Leader of New Zealand First

19 November 2019

Allegations raised this morning by Stuff Limited / Fairfax concern a party matter but I am confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years. Declarable donations were declared to the Electoral Commission.

Our system of democracy is based on the secrecy of the ballot and privacy of party memberships and donations within specified limits.

We look forward to discussing this matter with the Electoral Commission.

Their financials don’t just remain secret from the public. Newsroom: Peters under fire over ‘foundation’ loans

New Zealand First MP and former deputy leader Tracey Martin expressed ignorance about the reports, saying: “I don’t know anything about the New Zealand First Foundation.”

Asked whether she was concerned by the allegations, Martin said simply that they were “interesting”.

Remarkable that she knows nothing about the Foundation, presuming that she is telling the truth – (Peters has a history of making false claims and denials:

Peters would not comment on the allegations in detail when approached by media before New Zealand First’s caucus meeting this morning, but said he would put out a press statement later in the day to “put the record straight”.

“For 27 years we’ve obeyed the electoral law of this country, we’ve never deviated, the last time there was allegations like this was in 2008.

“There were three inquiries, the Serious Fraud Office, the police and the Electoral Commission – they all found us to be exonerated, we’re not going to have this again.”

But:

In 2008, Peters was indeed cleared by police, the SFO and Electoral Commission over allegations of fraud regarding a $100,000 payment from Owen Glenn to his lawyer Henry. However, he was formally censured by Parliament after its privileges committee said he had “knowingly provid[ed] false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests”.

The problem for Peters and NZ First doesn’t look like going way.

Newsroom: Peters allegations another political toothache for PM

Serious allegations about New Zealand First’s approach to electoral laws are some way from being established – but there is enough in the claims to concern both Jacinda Ardern and the public as a whole.

RNZ’s Guyon Espiner opened a crack in the door with a piece asking important questions rather than providing answers about the foundation.

Now, Stuff’s Matt Shand has busted it down with an investigation alleging a concerted effort to cloak hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from “primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires”.

Shand’s story suggests the donations were used to finance election campaigns, pay for legal advice, and even hiring Joseph Parker to speak at the party’s 2017 conference.

So far, Peters has done little to refute the substance of the article.

A press release he claimed would put the record straight amounted to little more than a dodge of the allegations, along with the tautological statement that “declarable donations were declared”.

To borrow another tautology, this is deja vu all over again for Peters.

In 2008, a cascade of claims about donations made to New Zealand First by wealthy businessmen such as Sir Robert Jones, Sir Owen Glenn and the Vela family – but concealed from the public – sparked numerous investigations and contributed to the ousting of the Labour-led government at that year’s election.

Over a decade later, Peters remains unrepentant and insists his name was unfairly dragged through the mud, noting that the police, Serious Fraud Office and Electoral Commission all decided against taking action.

But that is not the glowing exoneration he makes it out to be.

While SFO director Grant Liddell said there was no basis for laying fraud charges, he suggested there were unanswered questions about other possible electoral breaches – essentially punting the matter to the police and the Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commission’s final ruling on the matternoted that the party’s 2007 return was “materially false” but not illegal, as the party secretary had no intention to misstate or conceal the facts, while the 2005 and 2006 returns fell outside of the time limit for prosecution.

Party officials have been leaving the party because they have been put at risk over the financial transactions that they know little about.

It noted specifically that the decision was about the party secretary’s actions only, and not any other members of the party – such as Peters himself.

The police investigation also cleared the party secretary specifically, rather than New Zealand First as a whole.

So Peters claiming exoneration looks farcical, but typical.

Unravelling the claims seems set to take months, rather than days or weeks – and is yet another political toothache that Ardern would rather not be dealing with.

It may run well into election year. Ardern and Labour should be concerned after what happened in 2008.

Stuff: What NZ First slush fund was spent on: Campaign HQ, staff overtime, and a shredder

NZ First officials and MPs were kept in the dark while $38,000 was spent on campaign headquarters and staff overtime by the party’s political slush fund, the New Zealand First Foundation.

Expenses records for the foundation seen by Stuff show it collected more than $500,000 in donations from April 2017 to March 2019 that could be in breach of electoral donation laws, particularly if the foundation was paying party expenses.

Many of these apparent donations to the foundation do not appear on the party’s electoral returns.

Invoices, seen by Stuff, reveal the foundation spent $325,000 in about 18 months to March 2019 – with most of the money appearing to directly benefit the NZ First Party.

This included renting and furnishing the party’s campaign office for the 2017 election as well as advertising material, reimbursements for travel, internet bills, legal advice and consultancy work.

It does not appear this spending was declared to the Electoral Commission by the party.

Nor revealed to many in the party.

One former MP said that discovering details about the foundation “slush fund” undermined the work of NZ First’s volunteer fundraisers.

Former NZ First treasurer Colin Forster said the accounts were disorganised and inaccurate when he took over the role in 2008.

“All of the accounts were all written in a A4 exercise book, like a child would use for school,” he said.

“It would be fair to say they were inaccurate.”

Forster said he had questioned the party’s income at meetings and he could not figure out where the money came from.

“A lot of people have given a lot to this party and they have been kept in the dark.”

In October 2019, Lester Gray resigned from his position as NZ First Party president after refusing to sign off on its financial statements.

Gray said in a letter to the NZ First board that he had not been shown documentation he requested and therefore could not sign off the returns.

“I refuse to sign off the 2019 financial reports with the information I have been provided,” he wrote to the  board.

“As president, the limited exposure I have had to party donations and expenditure leaves me in a vulnerable position.

“This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the party any longer.”

Former MPs say the financial reports and party expenses were never presented to members.

NZ First Party presidents – who are ostensibly in charge of the organisational wing of the party – are not welcome at caucus meetings.

While the NZ First constitution states that “the president has the right to attend any party meeting”, a party spokesman said it was a “longstanding convention since the inception of NZ First” that party presidents did not attend caucus.

NZ First are in disarray with ex MPs and officials apparently willing to break the secrecy.

I don’t think that denials and claims by Peters can be trusted.

And given that Peters appears to have maintained secrecy and control along with few cronies, I think the secret buck stops with him.

Stuff: Electoral Commission probes NZF

The Electoral Commission, which oversees electoral law, said it would contact the party this morning following revelations from Stuff around donations to the party’s foundation that were not declared to the commission.

“The documents being referred to in the media have not been shown to the Electoral Commission,” a spokeswoman said.

“We will be contacting NZ First and the New Zealand First Foundation to seek further information.”

Leave a comment

34 Comments

  1. Ray

     /  20th November 2019

    Here we go again.

    Reply
    • lurcher1948

       /  20th November 2019

      How’s the investigation going on into Nationals $100,000 donation split into $15000 lots from the Chinese “business man”.Most honest and transparent opposition…Yer right

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  20th November 2019

        Still with the Serious Fraud Office as far as we know, neighbour, since 12 March this year.

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  20th November 2019

        Easy, old timer. Nationals possible past indiscretions are about to pale into insignificance.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  20th November 2019

          IMPOSSIBLE.

          Reply
        • Corky

           /  20th November 2019

          NEWS FLASH:

          Sean Plunket has stated this affair is going to grow by the day. Talk of a snap election is even being talked about.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  20th November 2019

            Talk of snap elections occurs around 3 times a year, at least, I reckon.

            Mind you, if this does turn out to have prosecutable legs it’ll be the third time Winston’s crashed a coalition government.

            Reply
            • Corky

               /  20th November 2019

              I’m just remembering the NZ1 treasurer resigned. What was the story behind that? Wasn’t it because he couldn’t obtain the financial records he required?

          • Blazer

             /  20th November 2019

            some newsflash….at least 24 hours old.

            Reply
            • Corky

               /  20th November 2019

              You old spoil sport, Blazer. How dare you steal my thunder….as Kitty would whine…and whine…and whine.

  2. Meanwhile DPF details an attempt by NZF leadership to gain $15 million from the taxpayer for a feasibility study in forestry in Gisbourne. This study was to be undertaken by a company formed just days previously and whose business address is Brian Henry’s flat.

    Time for an early election Jacinda.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  20th November 2019

      Well, yeah, but Shane Jones recused himself from the decision-making on that one & it got declined, for reasons that might have had to do with its dodginess but who knows?

      Meantime, according to the Herald, Simon Bridges has said there needs to be an independent investigation into the NZF foundation. Quoth he: “While Ardern could stand down NZ First leader Winston Peters, who is Deputy Prime Minister, that would not let her “wash her hands” of the matter, Bridges said.

      “What we need is a full independent investigation,” he said.

      It’s a pretty simple situation – she’s [Jacinda] talked about the spirit of the law. This isn’t the spirit of the law, it’s the black letter of the law.”

      Why is that SFO investigation into JLR’s allegation taking so long?

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  20th November 2019

        because Mr Bridges is a hypocrite and National are the worst at adhering to any ‘spirit of the law’….they of the ‘pretty legal’…defence!

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  20th November 2019

          There’s more hypocrisy in politics than in all the world’s dictionaries. No party or leader here is immune to it.

          But Mr Bridges being a hypocrite shouldn’t cause delay in an SFO investigation?

          Reply
    • Corky

       /  20th November 2019

      Time for the lead to fly, Arty. Is this the Northland Kids final stand?

      Reply
  3. Corky

     /  20th November 2019

    Mikey applied the hurt to Winston this morning. Winston put on one of his best ever shows. Vague, slow to the point and masterfully redirecting questions with consummate ease.
    However, the proverbial is starting to stick. Let’s hope it’s ”goodnight nurse” for Winston and his band of merry indeterminates. Just imagine Shane ‘prince of the provinces’ Jones, going from parliament to working as a truck driver. 😁

    Reply
  4. duperez

     /  20th November 2019

    Whether or not affairs are legal or not is irrelevant. An impression has been created that Peters and his party are up to no good and that’s all that counts. The right language is being used with ‘slush fund’, ‘accusations’ and ‘disarray.’

    Simon Bridges has carried it on in the House this afternoon. He was a big deal feature on RNZ Morning Report hours eliminating followup of the PM (and NZ) being featured on a popular US TV show. He was very righteous and suitably affronted that there could be anything untoward about electoral spending. The Electoral Commission is looking into the allegations and any necessary next steps I imagine will come from there.

    So, something’s happening, but little enough to satisfy him. My disappointment is that Bridges’ great day could have been so much better if somewhere along the hours he and his advisers could have brewed a $100,000 bottle of donated wine. That usually works and would have been good for a laugh.

    Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  20th November 2019

    “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refused to say whether or not she has confidence that Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been acting within the law at all times.

    National Leader Simon Bridges in the House today repeatedly asked Ardern if she had confidence that her Deputy Prime Minister – Peters – was acting within the law at all times.

    Ardern would not directly answer that question.”

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12286893

    Reply
      • Gezza

         /  20th November 2019

        Ardern definitely won that one. Played it straight down the middle with the appropriate answer – and reminded smug try-hard Mr Bridges that she also refrained from commenting on the allegations of his funding fancy footwork, as the appropriate independent authorities are considering these issues.

        Reply
    • duperez

       /  20th November 2019

      Must’ve been some rhyme and reason for handling it as she did.. There was no, “I have no reason to not have confidence about any of my Ministers acting within the law.”

      Or ‘Until I have information to the contrary …?’ or ‘If the Leader of the Opposition has information he thinks I should have … I invite him to go to the relevant authorities …

      Then again she may have been with Peters when he was driving at 51 kph. Or maybe she was just trying to piss him off.

      Reply
  6. Gezza

     /  20th November 2019

    David Seymour says he might go to the police over the matter.

    “Meanwhile, data compiled by the Parliament library reveals the total amount of anonymous donations New Zealand First received in 2017 dwarfs that of all other political parties combined.

    New Zealand First received $342,129.27 worth of anonymous donations that year.

    That compares to $28,270 for the National Party and $26,400 for Labour, the data compiled for National’s Nick Smith shows.

    Under New Zealand’s Electoral Law, any donation to a political party more than $15,000 must be declared. Anything under that, however, remains anonymous.

    Political commentator and public relations consultant and lobbyist Matthew Hooton told Newstalk ZB his company, Exceltium PR, gave $10,000 to “either the New Zealand First Party or the Foundation – I’m not sure who it was”.

    When contacted by the Herald, Hooton would not comment further on the donation.

    Property investor and rich lister Sir Robert Jones told the Herald that major political parties have always hidden the names of major donors as they “want to avoid the impression of being beholden to them”.

    Jones himself was at the heart of the 2008 NZ First donation scandal. At the time, it was revealed that Jones – along with fellow rich lister Owen Glenn – had donated to the party.

    “Conversely, the donors have an image concern, the cynical assumption being they want something in return. Sometimes that’s the case but not always, rather the motive is simply supporting the system,” he tells the Herald.”

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12286959

    Reply
  1. Peters claims party financials legal, but no explanation of Foundation — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s