Feb 24, 2008

Glenngate: Time To Call In The Police?

Matt McCarten writing in the Herald on Sunday draws a parallel between Glenngate and UK cash for honours scandal - which he reminds us is being investigated by the police. We can see no difference between the UK scandal and aspects of the Glenn case. Indeed if Glenn has donated one cent to NZ First after a discussion about the Monaco Honorary Consulship then we would have a clear case of cash for honours. Given that we are not getting anything close to a credible answer from NZ First, shouldn't we have a proper investigation launched?

We make some other quotes from McCarten

There's an old saying that goes, "be careful what you wish for, you just might just get it". The Labour Party and New Zealand First were the two main parties that rammed through new electoral finance laws to stop businesses and other vested interests from secretly funding their opponents.

They made much ado about sinister forces using money to buy political influence.

This week's revelation of Owen Glenn's funding for Labour is potentially catastrophic. Labour's president, Mike Williams, normally extremely astute, has landed himself, Glenn and his party in deep trouble.

One of Williams' main tasks is to be bagman for corporate campaign funds, which he does well. I think it surprised everyone when Glenn made a half-million-dollar donation to Labour's last election campaign, and a close watch was kept on whether he was rewarded for it.

It's clear now that when Labour agreed to pay back the $800,000 to the taxpayer after the Auditor-General's findings, this money wasn't just raised by rank-and-file party members - Williams also tapped known business supporters for large cheques.

What I think has happened is that, given Glenn's high-profile donation at the previous election, there would have been a reluctance to be seen to be making another large public donation. The electoral laws require all donations to be declared, but a loophole allows someone to make a so-called interest-free loan with no settlement date without declaring it. What any fool can see is that these are, in fact, donations and are paid as loans to avoid disclosure.

Meanwhile, there are questions over a $100,000 donation to NZ First. NZ First President Dail Jones seemed to imply there may be some connection with Owen Glenn. Peters, a much sharper operator, realised the danger immediately and quickly smacked Jones down, claiming he and the party had no idea where this money came from.

But anyone in politics knows that there is no such thing as an anonymous donation of this size. Someone has to give them the bank account number.

McCarten ends with an interesting point

For Labour's sake, there had better not be any other so-called interest-free loans from benefactors on its books. If there are, its arguments for transparency in political donations when pushing through the Electoral Finance Act will be seen as deeply hypocritical, making an already difficult election year virtually impossible.

Are there any more interest-free loans?