Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The whiff of corruption

The Herald this morning has a major story about National's fundraising from foreign businesses [paywalled / depaywall script], courtesy of former National MP Jami-Lee Ross:

Former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross has dropped a fresh donation bombshell, revealing then-trade minister Todd McClay helped facilitate a $150,000 donation to his party in 2016 from a company owned by a Chinese racing industry billionaire known as "Mr Wolf".

McClay first met horse-racing mogul Lang Lin in July 2016 while the then cabinet member was in Beijing for a meeting of G20 trade ministers. The pair met again in April 2017 in Rotorua, McClay's electorate. A month later National declared a six-figure donation paid by Lang's company, Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry NZ (IMRHINZ).

The donation was largely organised by a phone call made from Ross' parliamentary office to Lang's representatives on the evening of April 4, 2017. Ross claims he was asked to make the call by McClay, who was in the office listening to the call on speaker, and the minister was kept informed of developments.

This is whiffy in all sorts of ways: McClay organising the donation while a Minister, the use of a New Zealand-registered company to circumvent the law against foreign donations, the question of why National is so eager to get Chinese money. But especially stinky is this bit, which shows the nakedness of what is going on:
Representatives for Lang said he expected nothing in return from the donation, and it was made in appreciation for National's "promoting trade between the two countries".

They added that the mogul had expressed an interest in a gong: "Lang also considered that he made so much effort to open the China market in exporting NZ horses to China, the NZ Government should award him an honour."

And based on past practice, I think its a reasonable bet that if National hadn't been tossed out at the 2017 election, Lang would have gotten what he paid for.

As for the use of corporate fronts to circumvent the law, its clear that this is a loophole which needs to be closed. We should ban company donations immediately, and restrict donations to natural persons and membership-based organisations only.