McCarten and the intern scheme donor

When Labour’s intern scheme story broke in June it was reported that the scheme had been funded by one large donor.

Stuff: Two on Labour’s intern programme may have broken immigration rules as council member stands down

McCarten’s original plan was to have union funding, but it seems that was not forthcoming.

A big donor did back the plan, but their identity has not been released to the party or to the public.

Little said the party had disclosure obligations, both in terms of donors and spending. The party was dealing with that.

Little said the party had a moral responsibility to look after creditors and suppliers because there was the “potential” for a shortfall in funding raised for the intern scheme.

NZH: Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who

A mystery backer funded the volunteer scheme for overseas students working on Labour’s campaign – and even Labour does not know who it was or how much was involved.

Matt McCarten, who set up the scheme and ran it under his “Campaign for Change” organisation, told the Herald it was funded by a “private funder” who thought the scheme was a good idea.

McCarten’s confirmation of a “private funder” followed the release of a document obtained by Newshub which showed McCarten expected it to cost at least $150,000 and planned to get $100,000 from the FIRST and Unite unions, as well as seeking contributions from other unions and fundraising.

However, those unions said yesterday they had not put any funding in.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the party would disclose anything it was required to and would ensure third parties did as well. However, the party was still working out what funding there was in place.

At the time this sounded like avoidance from Labour (and it was successful avoidance). It should have been a simple matter of asking McCarten how the scheme had been funded to that stage.

The Herald also quoted Mike Treen, the Unite union’s National Director:

Treen said the union had taken part in the programme and planned to use the interns for a programme to enrol Unite members, but had not provided any direct funding.

No ‘direct funding’ is a curious reference.

David Farrar wrote to the Electoral Commission asking them to investigate the donation and funding. He published their response last week on Kiwiblog:  Electoral Commission rules Campaign for Change counts as Labour candidate donations

The Electoral Commission has investigated the Campaign for Change and made the following determinations:

  1. All funds spent by the Campaign for Change are Labour candidate donations and must be declared in returns after the election
  2. McCarten personally paid for the costs
  3. $65,095 was spent up until Labour formally took over
  4. The Campaign for Change was not a neutral enrolment exercise

McCarten had referred to a ‘private funder’, which clearly implies someone other than himself.

If McCarten was always the funder why did he mislead the public, and also apparently not divulge this to Labour?

This leaves questions unanswered.

Was there a private funder who backed out when the scheme became public and it looked likely the funder would be named as a donor?

Did McCarten donate with his own money? Or was it an indirect donation, with money given to him by ‘a private benefactor’, and then he handed that over to Labour?

Does it matter?

Labour seem finished with their use of McCarten’s services, and so they should be. He was always a high risk to them. McCarten must now surely be seen as politically toxic by any party.

 

Private funder for Labour’s intern scheme

Matt McCarten says that the Labour intern scheme had a private funder “who thought the scheme was a good idea”.

NZ Herald: Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who

A mystery backer funded the volunteer scheme for overseas students working on Labour’s campaign – and even Labour does not know who it was or how much was involved.

Matt McCarten, who set up the scheme and ran it under his “Campaign for Change” organisation, told the Herald it was funded by a “private funder” who thought the scheme was a good idea.

McCarten must have also thought the private funding was a good idea.

He was chief of staff for David Cunliffe and Andrew Little, and ran Labour’s election campaign in Auckland until he quit to balls up the intern scheme last month.

Has he no clue about the requirements of political campaign funding? Or did he think he wouldn’t be found out?

It is understood Labour itself still does not know who that funder is or how much was spent on the programme and it has been left to cover some of the costs of housing the interns at Awataha Marae, although McCarten said he believed the payments were up to date.

This has put Labour in  a very difficult situation, as by association they may end up being responsible for this.

Labour’s General Secretary Andrew Kirton took over the programme this week after concerns about how it was being run and the ability to manage the numbers involved.

He would not comment on the funding issue, saying he was still working on taking care of the interns and “sorting the mess out”.

After that he may have a funding mess to sort out.

Heading into an election campaign this is a terrible diversion for the Labour Party.

Labour will also have to consider whether it needs to declare any contributions to the costs of the programme as a donation.

Electoral law expert Graeme Edgeler said it would have to if it was a Labour Party programme, but it probably would not have to if it was a third party campaigning for Labour.

It was advertised as a “Labour Party Fellowship”, involved Labour MPs, and was set up by McCarten while he worked for Labour until May – but was run by his Campaign for Change.

The Campaign for Change change seems to have been a rush job to try to distance the scheme from Labour, but ” third party campaigning” could be very difficult to argue.

Other Labour Party activists and staffers have been names as involved in the scheme.

One could wonder if a more effective sabotage of Labour’s campaign could have been executed, but I think it’s more likely that this was a mix of arrogance and ineptness from McCarten and those directly involved, and a glaring lack of oversight by the Labour Party at best.

Labour leader Andrew Little said the party would disclose anything it was required to and would ensure third parties did as well. However, the party was still working out what funding there was in place.

Awkward.

Interns have given mixed reviews – yesterday one told the Herald that much of the attention had been on the standard of accommodation, but that had not been the problem or the reason Labour officials had to step in. Nor had complaints by individual interns.

“There’s pushback from many who feel it shouldn’t have been shut down so quickly, but I really don’t know how much longer it would have lasted, especially since the whole programme was labelled ‘Labour’, without clear connection to Wellington. It was a ticking time bomb until Wellington found out and shut it down. That’s ultimately why it was shut down – it had Labour’s name all over it, but Wellington had no control over the situation or even knew many details about it.”

So it seems that McCarten was out of control.

Unite’s National Director Mike Treen said the union had taken part in the programme and planned to use the interns for an programme to enrol Unite members, but had not provided any direct funding.

“Matt is ambitious, and where there is a will there is a way is often his attitude. He may have tried to reach too far in this case. We thought there were positives and are a little bit sorry to see it’s all fallen on its face.”

So Treen was also involved. He stood for the Mana Party last election and has links to socialist groups – see  Mana Party and Socialists

It looks like a misconceived attempt at a coup of Labour – see Labour policy coup attempt?