Drip of revelations continue on NZ First Party/Foundation

Winston Peters and whoever run NZ First with him seem to have tried to benefit both ways with the NZ First Foundation – they sold it as part of the party, as the name implies, but are claiming it is separate from the party. But the drip feed of revelations continues to suggest what looks obvious, the Foundation is an attempt to avoid donation transparency law.’

There is no evidence that donors to the Foundation, and therefore to the Party, were rewarded with favourable policies, or grants from the Provincial Growth Fund. But the best way to avoid these types of impressions is transparency. The secrecy used – even NZ First MPs and ex-party officials claim to have not known about the Foundation – is always going to raise suspicions. Especially given Peters’ past shadiness and dishonesty regarding donations.

Matt Shand at Stuff today: Who are the donors behind the NZ First Foundation?

Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters claims to be the leader who stands up to corruption and fights for the little man, but donations to the foundation show he is backed by wealthy investors, horse racing figures, food magnates, and property juggernauts.

Quite aside from the legal question over the relationship between the foundation and the party is the question of how Peters presents himself: the honest broker between two old sides of politics.

One of the crucial questions swirling around the NZ First donations saga revolves around who exactly knew what, and the relationship between the party and the foundation. Peters says the foundation is totally separate from the party, and that all questions about it are a matter for the party.

That sounds contradictory and confusing – but Peters often sounds contradictory and confusing.

“I look after the political wing of the NZ First party, that’s an administrative matter,” Peters said in Parliament on Tuesday.

“I’m in charge of the political body of NZ First.

That’s well known.

As for the administrative body, for 27 years we’ve complied with the electoral law in this country”.

That also seems contradictory. “We” suggests he is also in charge of “the administrative body”, bujt it’s not clear what exctly that is. The Foundation?

But Stuff reveals that Tauranga-based list MP Clayton Mitchell acted as one of the bagmen for the foundation – which appears to have operated as a political slush fund – financing NZ First’s party operations.

Many sources, on and off the record have confirmed that Mitchell solicited donations for the party, but would often give out the NZ First Foundation’s bank account details.

So at least one MP was also involved.

It can also be revealed that at least some donors spoken to by Stuff were not aware that donations were going to foundation and not the political party.

The revelation that Mitchell was one of the bagmen for the NZ First Foundation could derail Peters’ assertion that the party and foundation, which received more than $500,000 worth of donations, are not connected.

Donations to the foundation are under the $15,000 threshold required for the party to declare them, but several donors said they believed they understood were donating money to NZ First, and not the foundation.

It seems difficult to separate the two.

But there were other large donations, many of which are from companies and individuals who work in industries that have benefited from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund. Stuff is not suggesting any wrongdoing on the part of the donors, and it may be that those industries would have benefited regardless.

The largest series of donations occurs from Conrad Properties Ltd or companies and trusts connected to that company. The company donated $27,500 to the foundation in 2017 and 2018, as well as $15,000 in 2019 to date.

The largest of those is over the threshold requiring the donor to be identified.

The racing industry feature heavily within the donations, with at least $80,000 identified.

One investor, who Stuff has decided not to name, has connections with the mānuka honey industry, and has spoken out about the need to protect the brand’s copyright.

The Provincial Growth Fund, overseen by NZ First minister Shane Jones, has granted $5.7m granted to the Mānuka Honey Appellation Society to help protect its trademark. There is no information saying the two are linked.

Those sort of links emphasise the need for transparency. If there is no direct connection between donations and PGF grants then everything should be done openly to show it.

The volume of donations is at odds with what the party recorded in its 2017 and 2018 returns.

In 2017 NZ First secretary Anne Martin declared that the party received only 13 donations of $5001 to $15,001, totalling $135,994, for the 2017 calendar year.

In 2018 then secretary Elizabeth Witihera reported five donations totalling $65,000 in the same range, but foundation records show 10 donations totalling $135,000.

Up to April this year, the foundation had received $80,485 in donations.

That will no doubt be checked out by the inquiry started yesterday by the Electoral Commission after a complaint was made to them.

RNZ: NZ First’s political donations: A creeping feeling of deja vu

Swirling rumours of dodgy dealings over political donations, Winston Peters full of bluster and denial, and potentially a drawn-out series of combative but ultimately meaningless exchanges with the parliamentary press gallery.

There are perhaps lessons here too for Jacinda Ardern, as Prime Minister of the Cabinet, and who the opposition will ultimately hold responsible if these allegations gain momentum.

In 2008 it all went wrong for Mr Peters; the months of controversy around the Spencer Trust and attacks on his integrity resulted in a ballot box defeat, ejecting him and his party into the political wilderness.

The central allegation was around a $100,000 donation from businessman Owen Glenn – he insisted he made the donation to New Zealand First with the knowledge of Mr Peters – who said he knew nothing about it.

There were also theatrics – he summoned journalists to the party’s offices in Bowen House where he brandished the infamous “No” sign – the reply to every journalist’s question about receiving the Glenn donation.

Then there was the spectacle that was the Privileges Committee. A super-sized select committee room set up for the occasion with big screen TVs for prime viewing. Main antagonist and ACT leader Rodney Hide took up his position at the front of the public gallery each day as Mr Peters and loyal lawyer Brian Henry were put through their paces.

Mr Peters was censured by Parliament but in the end that was just a slap on the wrist.

More testing were his relationships with then-Prime Minister Helen Clark and Deputy Michael Cullen, who stood by Mr Peters until his resignation as Foreign Minister became inevitable.

National has described the latest claims, if true, as the most serious of their kind in New Zealand history.

But as with internal political scandals, National will have to step carefully as its nose is not completely clean.

For years it used blind trusts to transfer donations to the party itself, a practice that ceased with a law change. Even now there is still an active Serious Fraud Investigation into the National Party relating to the disclosure of donations.

But apart from NZ First the biggest political risks are for Jacinda Ardern and Labour, who chose to go into a coalition with Peters knowing his history.

Danyl Mclauchlan at The Spinoff: The NZ First donations scandal is very serious, and won’t let Jacinda Ardern hide

There are two separate issues here. The first is whether New Zealand First has broken the electoral law. That’s a matter for the Electoral Commission, and if they decide the law was been broken they can refer the matter on to the police or the Serious Fraud Office. Peters says he is looking forward to discussing the matter with the Commission, and is “confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years”.

The second is whether senior ministers in the current government could get caught up in accusations of corrupt practices. When you have companies and individuals making secret donations to a party that holds the portfolios in those industries, there is every reason for the public to ask questions about whether their government is behaving defensibly.

New Zealand First’s coalition partners have dreaded this moment for two years. The prime minister’s instinct will be to distance herself from the scandal and hope that it goes away. “We assume that the law has been followed.” “It’s a matter for the Electoral Commission.” “I am not responsible for the New Zealand First Party.” And so on. But the matter of whether or not she presides over a government linked to allegations of “corrupt or illegal practices” is not a matter for another party or office. The integrity of the government is the prime minister’s responsibility.

One of the things that led to the end of the Clark government was the endless drip feed. The allegations of secrecy and deceit swirling around NZ First just kept coming. And now this government is trapped in the same political hostage situation, with the same politician, facing accusations of engaging in the exact same practices. An early election might be worth the risk if the alternative is a year of ongoing leaks and allegations

I don’t think an early election would help Labour much. Ardern yesterday effectively ruled it out “I’m not Muldoon” but the way information keeps dripping out political reality and necessity may change.

Mclauchlan has been involved in the Green Party in the past. He is now an astute political commentator.

Andrew Geddis: One possibility is NZ First has broken electoral law. The other possibility is worse

Let’s pause and look big picture. We have a political party that is a keystone of the current government. Its members are ministers, with responsibility for (among other things) distributing $3 billion in government largesse around the country’s provinces.

And now we are told that a legally-opaque foundation intimately connected to the party has raised hundreds-of-thousands of dollars from “primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires”. That foundation allegedly has used the money for the benefit of the party and its MPs. And no-one outside of the party and those that gave the money are made any the wiser.

If this is legal, then there’s no way that it should be. You can’t have a country’s political system run in this way and be considered the second least corrupt nation on the planet. Or, at least, you can’t do it for long.

Geddis is a law professor at Otago University.

This is an important democratic issue. There have been past concerns about donation skulduggery by both National and Labour, and there is an SFO inquiry into National after a complaint made by Jami-Lee Ross.

But the biggest issues here are what is being revealed about NZ First – the party and the foundation – and the implications of that for the current coalition government and next year’s election.

Some diverters have canvassed past party malpractices here over the last few days. Please don’t repeat diversion attempts. Either comment on this week’s revelations and their implications, or desist from dredging up squirrels.

And if you continue to grizzle about what I choose to post, it may encourage more rather than less posts on topics you may be trying to bury. A post on diversion and discrediting techniques by political activists is tempting.


More from Stuff today – QComms: the mysterious firm revving NZ First’s campaign engine

An obscure company directed by Winston Peters’ personal lawyer is at the heart of the NZ First campaign engine, documents from a Stuff investigation reveal.

Brian Henry is the sole director and shareholder of QComms. The company that has no online profile, phone number or any other listed information – but in 2018 charged the New Zealand First Foundation for at least $93,000 worth of work and reimbursements to contracted employees. One of these contractors is Henry’s daughter.

Henry is a trustee of the foundation, the director and shareholder of the company, and also the judicial officer of NZ First. This web of connections suggests he receives political donations in one hand and pays his own company with the other.

Invoice records for the NZ First Foundation reveal that two contractors for Thorn Services Limited drew wages from the Foundation account acting on behalf of QComms. One was former NZ First board member John Thorn. The other is Henry’s daughter, Jamie Henry.

Records show at least $93,000 was charged to the NZ First Foundation in contracted wages, reimbursements and other expenses for work done for QComms, a company which appears to have no income other than political donations given to the foundation.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117570433/qcomms-the-mysterious-firm-revving-nz-firsts-campaign-engine

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47 Comments

  1. Reply
  2. Reply
  3. Blazer

     /  21st November 2019

    Another day another WP thread.
    Still all conjecture and speculation.
    Unlike the Natz actual crimes and misdemeanours outlined by Duker yesterday,that did not give rise to the same outrage and moral indignation.
    Whenever I think of the fact that 2 doors down from Natz P.M John Key was Jason Ede, whose sole task was dedicated smear and misinformation on political rivals, and the ho hum way it was accepted by the faithful and the MSM,I despair of any integrity in…politics.

    Reply
    • Funny. That was in 2014. Peters was probably doing dodgy donation stuff then too – and still is. Ede is long gone. So is key.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  21st November 2019

        So do you really think the culture has changed at National H.Q?

        The Crosby Textor successors Topham Guerin?…seem well aquainted with the scandal,beatup methode.

        Reply
        • Clearly the old don’t declare your donations play book is still in play at NZF.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st November 2019

            Havent you heard of Jamie Lee Ross… National are masters at that game.
            Plus of course the way the donations to MPs ( disclosure over $1500) are hiiden in the Party ( disclosure over $15000) before being laundered back to the MPs electorate expenses
            Here is the Nats candidate donations return for Northcote by election
            $146,834.04 was raised .Only ONE donor though
            yes they were all laundered through NZ National Party
            https://elections.nz/assets/2018-northcote-by-election/2018-northcote-by-election-dan-bidois-return.pdf
            Included in the expenses is Topham|Guerin, the Nats ‘social media consultants’ , which is what the Whaleoil was company was too!

            Reply
      • Duker

         /  21st November 2019

        This is the web of deceit English was spinining even as late as 2017.
        “Prime Minister Bill English was also dragged into the mire when he claimed on Tuesday morning that he did not recall who told him about the alleged recordings. He revealed four hours later he had in fact made a formal statement to police that Barclay had told him.”
        [That was because word got out that the suppressed police report of Englishs statement to police was available to the media , and that English realised he had been caught in a lie..this is the PM at the time!]

        “English’s stunning about-turn not only contradicted Barclay’s assertions the recordings did not exist, it also appeared to confirm English allowed Barclay to continue with his public denials, even after Barclay had privately admitted they did. ”

        Remember back when you said Barclay was a ‘media obsession’ PG? The evidence showed the rot went to the top. And yet its Peters who some say is untrustworthy – compared to what.
        Key …English ….Joyce..Bennett…Bridges ?

        Reply
          • Blazer

             /  21st November 2019

            ‘fake news’…is that where you file news you do not want to…know arty?
            ‘rubber Billy’ was always flexible! Bol.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  21st November 2019

              This is the guy who swallowed the full fake story of the ‘Southland Farmer’ but ignores the actual post of Hataitai branch chairman. I havent even covered the deceit over the taxpayers paying English to live in his own home ( Wellington where he lived after University). Did you know Artcroft the ‘sheep farmer’ loved going to the Ballet in Wellington too – yes they got some extra funding when other ‘culture’ had to live within their means.
              https://rnzb.org.nz/news/rnzb-receives-a-significant-funding-boost-budget-2016/
              Who would have guessed the bright kid who went to boarding school and onto university and then Treasury and loved high culture would play the country rube to fool ‘some of the voters’ at elections

        • QComms: the mysterious firm revving NZ First’s campaign engine

          An obscure company directed by Winston Peters’ personal lawyer is at the heart of the NZ First campaign engine, documents from a Stuff investigation reveal.

          Brian Henry is the sole director and shareholder of QComms. The company that has no online profile, phone number or any other listed information – but in 2018 charged the New Zealand First Foundation for at least $93,000 worth of work and reimbursements to contracted employees. One of these contractors is Henry’s daughter.

          https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117570433/qcomms-the-mysterious-firm-revving-nz-firsts-campaign-engine

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  29th November 2019

            oh dear…..!
            From Guyon Espiner at Radio New Zealand:
            One of the leaked documents is called ‘Proposal to Establish a Strategic Fund Raising and Management Vehicle for New Zealand First’ and lays out the reasoning for the Foundation.
            It says the “generally weak” state of electorates and a “lack of success” at board level in raising funds meant a new business model was needed to bring money into the party.
            “The precedent is clear. It is the National Party’s National Foundation. In essence this proposal suggests a cloning of that model into the New Zealand First Foundation,” the document says. “There can be little doubt that the model is legally sound and is operated in a manner that meets all legal and ethical obligations.”
            The proposal says the fund would be a “legally established autonomous organisation that would operate independently of and at arms length” to the board.
            The idea was to set up a capital protected fund. “This means contributions will never be removed from the fund. Instead they will be invested with the proceeds ensuring a stable and diverse revenue stream to support our activities and the capital will continue to benefit our party ‘

            Reply
  4. Clearly Stuff have the financial accounts themselves. Who gave them those I wonder. Maybe it was Jason Ede. This is going to be a long drawn out and very enjoyable lynching. So long Jacinda.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  21st November 2019

      Was there a break in at the NZF accountants offices ?
      Funny to see one of the donors complain that after he gave the money they didnt go with the ‘party with 46%’ , like he wanted . Did he really think he was buying the ‘decision makers’ (and it was only 44% )

      Reply
      • I imagine that NZF is available to the highest bidder and this punter simply didn’t front with enough cash. Events suggest Labour are happy with this scenario.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st November 2019

          So National told NZF to go ‘jump’ for 9 years and they expected to get a nod ‘4th time lucky’
          The memories of the Nats splitting NZF in 2 back in 98 , so the Nats could cling to power hasnt faded….it was the under arm delivery and experience since shows they play dirty politics full on.

          Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  21st November 2019

    Anyone who thinks Winston doesn’t run the administrative side of NZF is in LaLa Land.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st November 2019

      Well, I think he’s probably right about how the donations-for-influence system has worked in NZ, but he seems to be ascribing a kind of saintliness, & a political philosophy & strategy (rescuing NZ business from the thrall of globalists & financialists – 1 donor at a time) to Winston that I don’t think are warranted. To me Peters is a populist politician whose jello-based principles are founded on his own ego & fortunes.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  21st November 2019

        if you’re not ‘popular’ you have NO chance.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  21st November 2019

          There’s a difference between being populist & being popular in politics. Once can be principled & have a genuine political philosophy, & still be popular – although I grant you the line between popular & populist is getting blurrier every day.

          Winston seems to have the uncanny knack of being more popular with buyable punters than with his party hierarchy.
          … … … …
          “Former New Zealand First Party presidents are denying any knowledge of the mysterious NZ First Foundation, with one saying the party’s board is “just for show”.

          Asked about the foundation, Kevin Gardener – who was party president from 2010 to 2013, said: “I don’t know a damned thing about it”. But he said he was not surprised to hear the news of its existence.

          Lester Gray – who resigned as NZ First president in September after refusing to sign off financial reports for “moral” reasons – also denied knowing about the foundation.

          The NZ First Foundation was “nothing to do with my role as the president or the NZ First board,” he told the Herald.

          Former treasurer Colin Forster has also said he had no knowledge of the foundation.
          On Tuesday, Stuff reported that the NZ First Foundation appeared to have hidden political donations worth almost half a million dollars between April 2017 and March this year.”
          -The Herald, today.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  21st November 2019

            They arent Hidden political donations.
            Foundation isnt a registered party so doesnt need to say where its money is coming from
            When it does give money , it appears on NZF website
            Spending outside election periods isnt counted either , even for parties

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  21st November 2019

              Knowing the Foundation’s funded SOME NZF campaign activities is all very well.

              But that’s not really the issue that’s got folk interested.

              It’s knowing who’s donated to the Foundation & what (& who) the Foundation’s spending it on that’s intriguing.

              And the wider issue of the trucks of money that seemingly can be driven through the system to all parties, working their own little dodges, hidden from the public gaze, all quite legally, or at least arguably legally – and whether these donors are secretly influencing policymakers & government dosh-dolers to act in their favour.

              There’s a case for all donors to all parties at all times over a mom n pop limit to be declared.

  6. Gezza

     /  21st November 2019

    “Mikey”, resplendent in black T-shirt, another of Kate’s jackets, & yuppie right wing jihadi chic beard, takes a minute to warn Jacinda of portending doom:

    “Do you think the Prime Minister understands the trouble her party and Government is in?

    The answers to the Peters problem, the drama around the New Zealand First Foundation, would seem to indicate not. It’s not her business, she is claiming. Which technically is true, but irrelevant.

    No, she shouldn’t be poking her nose into New Zealand First affairs, but surely it defies all common sense that she can’t see that Winston’s troubles are her troubles, and vice versa.

    She is tainted by association. Let us not forget that Winston has always been questionable company. From the early days with the Bolger-Shipley government, to the trouble with Clark that appears frighteningly similar over a decade later. If you hang with New Zealand First – at its very best, it’s a colourful ride.

    At its worst, it’s the end of your government come election time.”

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12286987

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  21st November 2019

      Mikey..the Remuera angel of death.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  21st November 2019

        Remuera ?
        Sold that up and is now chatelaine of a penthouse apartment a stones throw from the Newmarket railway station ….fits the phony millennial image he trys to portray when hes really a tail end boomer (55yrs old or so , and where he really fits)

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  21st November 2019

          Yes, you are right, I forgot about that. But as I remember it was a lifestyle block he purchased. Maybe the penthouse is for workday accommodation.

          Reply
    • duperez

       /  21st November 2019

      Of course it’s Ardern’s business. Her business to be informed and be interested. Any suggestion that there isn’t that realisation in her is silly.

      It defies all common sense to suggest that she can’t see that Winston’s troubles are her troubles, and vice versa. In fact it’s idiotic to suggest she wouldn’t see implications.

      Of course she is tainted by the funding issues by association. It would be idiotic to suggest she can’t see that.

      And of course she is not that stupid she doesn’t know that it is the mission of numbers of people to implicate her, to taint her, to visit anything untoward about NZ first and/or Peters on her. Any aspects about Peters being ‘questionable company’ being used against her as part of that would be no surprise.

      The mission to be rid of her will take many forms. NZF funding is just another vehicle. The goal of the Mikeys with their “The end of your government come election time” is well-served by it.

      Reply
  7. Blazer

     /  21st November 2019

    Well National wanted him to go into coalition with NZF too….so they had the same knowledge of NZF’s fundraising as …Labour did.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  21st November 2019

      I’m giving you an uptick for that, B. English’s biggest and fatal mistake was not ruling out a coalition with Winston.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  21st November 2019

        How does 43% give you more than 60 seats?
        Bill may not have been a sheep farmer but he did know his medieval poets and how to add up.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  22nd November 2019

          Folk like Ray would have voted Nat not NZF if they knew they were voting for Labour.

          Reply
  8. Gezza

     /  21st November 2019

    Brian Henry demands apology, threatens to sue Simon Bridges & Nick Smith

    “Winston Peters’ lawyer and the man behind the New Zealand First Foundation – Brian Henry – is threatening to sue National leader Simon Bridges and senior MP Nick Smith.

    Newstalk ZB’s political editor Barry Soper has seen emails sent to the National MPs today.

    Henry’s apparently lost a major contract with the United States as a result of claims by the MPs that there’s been an electoral loan scam by the party.

    He’s inviting Bridges and Smith to either repeat their claims outside the House, where they’re not covered by parliamentary privilege, or apologise.

    He’s produced a spreadsheet showing one loan to the party from the foundation which was fully repaid.”

    (Letter to Bridges embedded in article)

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12287240

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st November 2019

      Is it just me or does this look weird?

      Reply
      • Gerrit

         /  21st November 2019

        Hardly high powered lawyer talk. And are defamation rates not set by the judge after hearing evidence? You can claim billions, doesn’t mean a judge will award them.

        More ammunition to haunt Peters with. How many claims has he made under privilege and never fronted with the evidence outside of parliament. Ferry groundings anyone? Or the sale of Huka Lodge?

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  21st November 2019

          Well he joins Simon , who phoned all the media political editors to threaten a defamation action when he was under fire about donations , and Paula who course did the same ( letters this time) about whether during the time she was on the DPB there was any thing other than ‘ the intention’ for complete honesty, as we know shes always completely honest

          Reply
      • Where did they get the money to repay the loan? Was the repayment a donation to NZF. Did they declare this. Was the foundation simply repaying itself?

        Reply
        • That’s a bit what claims sounded like. Some clarification is needed.

          The party either received it’s own donations and/or revenue, or they may have operated some sort of slush fund merry go round.

          Reply
  9. Gezza

     /  21st November 2019

    National’s attempt to apply the heat & score points off this shemozzle backfired badly at Question Time.

    Two MPs were ordered out – Damien O’Connor was one; not sure who the other one was yet.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  21st November 2019

      “Fletcher Tabuteau: Point of order.

      Hon Gerry Brownlee: —and particularly at a time—I’m in the middle of one. Sit down, fella.

      SPEAKER: Sit down!

      Fletcher Tabuteau: This isn’t a point order; it’s a speech.

      SPEAKER: I think for the first time since I’ve been Speaker, we’re going to have two out at the same time. Away you go.

      Fletcher Tabuteau withdrew from the Chamber.

      SPEAKER: He was, of course, right.

      Hon Gerry Brownlee: Beg your pardon?

      SPEAKER: He was right. It is not a point of order yet.”

      Reply

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