Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who's buying our cabinet ministers?

A couple of weeks ago, the Chief Electoral Office released the details of electorate candidate donation and expense returns. Unfortunately, they only released them in summary form [XLS], but some of the amounts some cabinet ministers received were sufficiently large that I thought they were worth OIAing. Today, I got a fat packet of returns in the mail. Most of it is boring - candidates funding their own campaigns, $1,000 here, $1,000 there - but a few bits caught my immediate attention:

  • Maori Party co-leader - and now Minister of Maori Affairs and Associate Minister of Corrections and Education - received a total of $35,000. $20,000 of this came from Fletcher Construction, who would benefit greatly from any future prison construction. $10,000 came from Pie Melon Bay Farms, which is wholly owned by Bruce Plested (who in turn founded Mainfreight, but is also a trustee of Alan Duff's "Books in Homes" program). $5,000 came from the Waiuku Trust of 11 Stanmore Road, Grey Lynn. No information was given on the donors to that trust.
  • Allan Peachey isn't a cabinet minister, but received a massive $46,250 - including $10,000 from photocopier company Ricoh, $10,000 from Corporate Cabs, $10,000 from gym membership company Adfit, and $10,000 from loyalty scheme promoter Incentive Solutions. I guess people must really like him.
  • Wayne Mapp declared donations down to $300, well in excess of disclosure requirements. Way to go Wayne!
  • Rodney Hide received $10,119.70 - all of it from ACT New Zealand. Many candidates receive donations from their local party, but this seems to be a conscious effort to exploit the higher disclosure threshold for party donations to launder donations and avoid disclosure.
  • Nick Smith - now Minister for the Environment and Climate Change - was given $5,000 by the Road Transport Forum. That's a pretty significant conflict of interest, neh?
I shouldn't have had to OIA this information. The full returns should be online - and online in a fully searchable form. The Chief Electoral Office has refused to do this, citing privacy concerns around the private addresses of financial agents. But that information can be easily removed (and isn't required from next election anyway). If the government isn't willing to do this, then there's a perfect opportunity for someone to do it privately. Whobuysthem.org.nz, anyone?