Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How many slush funds does Winston have?

The Dominion Post this morning reports that NZ First has been receiving money from one of New Zealand's richest families, seemingly structured to avoid declaration limits. So far, so normal - this sort of corruption was par for the course before the Electoral Finance Act's lower thresholds and tighter disclosure rules, and the old Electoral Act allowed parties to be wilfully blind about where money was coming from in order to keep the identities of their backers out of public view. but then it gets interesting:

A special investigation by The Dominion Post can reveal that a series of donations from accounts linked to the Vela family - heavyweight operators in the racing and fishing industries - and totalling at least $150,000 were made to the party.

But NZ First sources say nothing like that much Vela money was deposited in the party's bank account.

(Emphasis added)

Which raises the question: how many slush funds does Winston Peters have? The prospect that Winston was operating a "leader's fund" (as it was euphemistically put) was first raised by Ben Thomas in the NBR last Friday (column duplicated on Tumeke). And again, it raises all sorts of disclosure problems. Its one thing to have your party donations laundered through a nominally independent lawyer; it's quite another when its the party leader doing it. And its another thing again if this money disappears into a black hole and is never declared in the party's annual returns.

This smells very bad, and someone needs to get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, I'm just glad that the passage of the EFA will have put a stop to it.