Wednesday, February 12, 2020

This is why we require donations to be declared

When NZ First entered coalition with Labour, it demanded control of the racing portfolio. Which didn't seem unusual: its a dying industry solely liked by zombies, which is basicly a metaphor for Winston Peters and NZ First. But it turns out that NZ First has been taking huge secret donations from the racing industry laundered through its secret trust:

The New Zealand First Foundation has been receiving tens of thousands of dollars from donors in the horse racing industry in payments which fall just below the $15,000.01 at which party donations are usually made public.


Records viewed by RNZ show one of the big donors was the Lindsay family. Brendan Lindsay sold the plastic storage container business Sistema for $660 million in late 2016 and a year later bought Sir Patrick Hogan's Cambridge Stud.

Three lots of $15,000 were deposited into the bank account of the New Zealand First Foundation on 11 October, 2018, according to records viewed by RNZ.

And there's more - a lot more. The article details $125,000 of secret donations from racing industry figures, all split into non-declarable sums, all laundered through the trust. Comments from those figures make it clear they thought they were donating to NZ First.

And they're getting what they paid for. As the article makes clear, Winston "has delivered significant benefits to the industry, including millions of dollars of government money spent on tax breaks and scrapping betting levies." His bill to "reform" the racing industry and deliver even more regulatory pork (while removing its compliance, integrity and regulation of animal welfare from public oversight) is currently before select committee.

Shit like this is literally why we have a transparency regime: so people can see who is buying our politicians and ensure that they do not gain any advantage by doing so. But its very obviously not working. We could make it work, by lowering the declaration threshold to $500 or $250, requiring realtime disclosure of all donations, and ending the ability to launder through front companies. But the establishment parties show no interest in doing so: Simon Bridges doesn't even want to talk about it, while Jacinda Ardern has punted it until after NZ First's case is resolved. The natural conclusion is that they are perfectly happy with the current arrangements, and with the corruption that it enables. And that is not acceptable.

As for Winston's racing bill, it is the fruit of corruption. All non-corrupt parties in Parliament should vote against it. It is that simple.