Dodgy Donations the Devil’s Work?

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When Winston Peters announced the New Zealand First decision to enter into a Coalition agreement with the Labour Party, he observed it was ‘now or never for serious change in this country’s social and economic direction’. Equally, Jacinda Ardern signaled that she sought a change to capitalism and the way the economy is run. There appeared agreement that the neo-liberal experiment had failed New Zealanders, and the views of many, of “capitalism as foe”, “was not all wrong”. Winston said “capitalism must regain its responsible, human face” and that this view deeply influenced his party’s negotiations. He said he was confronted with the choice between a “modified status quo, or change’, the ‘devil and the deep blue sea”.

Two years on, in New Zealand, capitalism and the electoral term have indeed been marked by an internationally popular, humane face in the form of Jacinda Ardern, but many social indicators have worsened and much structural change has been stymied by New Zealand First while they claim credit for other Coalition policy gains. Apparently Jacinda has sold her soul to the devil himself.

New Zealand First (NZF) plays a zero-sum game – with reputational risks to Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party who are perceived / portrayed as weak by comparison, while NZF bank the benefits of vetoes (the Capital Gains Tax), dog-whistle politics (anti-immigrant hyperbole), and crony capitalism investments through the Provincial Growth Fund – with potential electoral benefits as these actions resonate with their supporters and undermine Labour.

On the back of Shane Jones’ ongoing cringe-worthy behaviour, most-recently demeaning immigrants, claiming credit for bureaucratic immigration crack-downs, calling protesting farmers rednecks – “defending Damian O’Connor and Jacinda Ardern’s honour”, and with the news of a dodgy forestry company containing NZF leaders bidding for $15million worth of Provincial Growth Fund largesse as well as the Billion Trees programme, this week we’ve had revelations of another winebox full of information, revealing shadowy donations, duplicitous election solicitations and slippery party funding processes.

Winston Peters says the New Zealand First Foundation funding pipeline of up to $840,000 to the NZF Party, comprising 85% of all anonymous donations in the last election, are within the law; he’s not in charge of the Foundation (his friend, lawyer and NZF Trustee Brian Henry is), and it’s a beat up by media ‘psychos’. He says the media should get advice into electoral law (The devil’s in the detail!), Henry has been described as the Party’s ‘dark shadow’, its enforcer, Peters’ ‘attack dog’. In threatening National MP Nick Smith with an incredible $30million law suit, and being Peters’ and the Party’s enforcer, Henry is the devil’s henchman.

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The Prime Minister distances herself from Shane Jones’ “toxic drivel” and Winston Peters’ “fake belligerence and feigned outrage”. She’s accused of a ‘shameful charade, pretending to turn a deaf ear to Peters’ diatribes’. She says it’s not her job to defend NZF rhetoric and practices, though obviously it’s not language that she’d use. When asked if she has sought assurances from Peters that the New Zealand First / Foundation donations are legitimate, and whether any of the (anonymous) Foundation donors have received funding or policy favours, she says that’s for the Electoral Commission to determine. It’s not her role to investigate or inquire into the internal practices of other political parties – whether they be National – currently under Serious Fraud Office investigation, or New Zealand First. But media commentators say this is an abdication of her responsibility, given that she is ultimately accountable for actual and perceived Government integrity. Max Rashbrooke says Jacinda is tainted by association, especially given her pledge that this would be the most open and transparent government ever. After all, “neutral men (and women) are the devil’s allies”.

Asked whether it is more difficult for the Prime Minister to ask Winston about the legitimacy and legality of the NZF / Foundation donations because he “gave her the nod for the PM job”, Jacinda reiterated that independent agencies are the arbiters of wrong doing, and that her expectations are that ‘we all abide by the law’, and she ‘wouldn’t want to cast aspersions’. As the saying goes, ‘it’s a brave man – or woman who dares to look the devil in the face and tell him he’s a devil’.

There are suggestions that the focus on questionable NZF funding and donation practices could undermine the Government to such a degree as to prompt a snap election, which is probably desperate and wishful thinking from the National Party. Electoral law expert and Professor, Andrew Geddis says either NZF has broken the law, or the law is not fit for purpose – as it lacks transparency about funders and especially in this particular instance about who might derive favours from the roles of NZF’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Racing, Forestry and Regional Economic Development. Danyl McLauchlin in the Spinoff says a snap election might not be a bad thing, though you can imagine that for Jacinda, it’s better the devil you know.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like Satanic panic. Still, if the devil ever incorporates he’s more likely to manifest as a foreign minister than an average Joe.

    Maybe the rumours are true?

  2. Can almost guarantee all the political parties have one of these arms for donations. You cant simply just point the finger at the ones caught out or been found out.
    I remember Jamie Lee Ross pointing out how donations were handled by National and all the other parties went silent and had nothing to say on the subject. They are all guilty of this practice.
    Its why such things as this whole cannabis issue are being handed to rich people and corporations who had absolutely nothing to do with the work of getting it legal in the first place, the actual people who pushed this subject have long since been ignored and forgotten. Its being handed to people who ‘donate’

    • Yup totally agree Mark, all of them do it. World wide as well. So what’s the big deal? This is just the grubby little Bridges stirring shit as usual. Jacinda has indeed sold her soul in this first term and needs to stand up to NZF if indeed they are stifling progress of her promises. I’m not convinced they are, my gut says the bloody Redneck backlash is what’s stuffing things up.

  3. ” ‘it’s a brave man – or woman who dares to look the devil in the face and tell him he’s a devil’.”
    Surely? In these enlightened times, the devil must be referred to as an ‘It’ rather than as an ‘He’?
    I’m a ‘He’. I don’t like my gender being associated with the evils of devilish arse hole humans, thank you very much.
    It’s like the God. When will the non arse hole humans amongst us realise that the god that many ding bats still want to believe is a flying wizard coursing with righteous spite smiting down sinners come to realise that if we want stuff and things to rain down upon our hapless selves we must stop passing the buck to a The God and be less arseholish to each outher.
    The god is us. All of [us]. The God is our planet and everything in and on it.
    The God identity we have an inkling about is us. All of us. Not one or two of us, but all of us.
    The old pope with his bangles and bullshittery doesn’t have a direct line to the God. I know this because he hasn’t called me? Has he phoned you? No, would be my guess.
    In our politics we have the same denial/lunacy going on. We see the teeth, we see the hair, we see the gloomy face over the shoulder of a person in deep shock after a mass shooting by a mad man. We see that.
    But what we hear and experience is just another liar lying. While we know her and her collaborators bank our money.
    winston peters is a liar. He lies. Yes, he does. That, as a lawyer, is what he’s trained and educated to do. To lie. He’s lying to help cover the tracks of our abusers who, like the politicians they have in their pockets, bank OUR money.
    But wait!? There’s more!
    They, our politicians and our abusers, have us convinced that it is, in fact, we who are at fault for the abuse they must dish out to us. It is OUR fault that we refuse to work 24/7 for them. It is OUR fault that we complain when the price of food, electricity, rents and housing sky rocket as the bnz, for example, takes $1,0200,000.00 in NET PROFIT OUT OF AO/NZ. It’s our fault that we must sleep in the piss stained streets because we’ve fallen over and no one’s prepared to help us up. Sorry about the shouty Big Letters.
    Westpac? Right? $980 million dollars. Net. Profit. Gone.
    Where’s little winnie? Where’s jacinda ‘smile and wave boys’ adern?
    Spending your money is where they fucking are. Flying about from one first class hotel to another. Doing high end din-dins with other arse kissers here and there dahlings while we have homeless wretchedness and child poverty on a rich few islands while our food producing primary industry tanks under the weigh of greed coming from politically immune evil bankster scum.
    Now? Who’s The He-Devil again?
    I can tell you. ‘It’s’ in us too. ‘It’ can be identified as being our failing to act.
    To paraphrase:
    “Evil prevails where good people fail to act.” Edward Burke and a few others.

    • Agreed with you there CB;

      We ‘he’ are getting pissed off at being the battering ram for aggravated legions of ‘she.’

      Our ‘he’ Human rights are being trampled on here.

    • CB, self indulgent rave. Do you expect high flying politicians to stay in hostels when they travel? remember Winston led the Wine Box Inquiry when many were attacking him, like you.

  4. National Party speak-easy there Christine,

    Sadly as you let national off the hook; – remember Jamie Lee exposing the doggy Chinese billionaire donations to the national Party”?

    https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/cvtfok/former_trade_minister_todd_mcclay_helped_arrange/

    “Former trade minister Todd McClay helped arrange $150,000 donation from Chinese racing industry billionaire Lin Lang to National Party (paywall)”

    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.

    The revelations a minister was involved in facilitating National’s largest donation of the most recent electoral cycle – with the cash coming from a China-owned business – comes as Parliament mulls how to counter foreign interference in New Zealand’s political system.

    Ross provided the Herald documentation around the IMRHINZ donation, including a cluster of calls to and from McClay around correspondence with Lang’s representative, and an invoice showing the donation was paid into the party’s Rotorua electorate bank account.

    Ross said the episode should prompt action. He called the donation “the most obvious example from the last election, where a foreign individual was able to make a donation to a political party using a company. If we don’t make the right decision now we’re wasting our time.” McClay this week declined to be interviewed about the money or his relationship to the man behind it, but in a statement said his first meeting with Lang was arranged by Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff and the prospect of a donation was not raised until the second meeting in Rotorua. “During that visit [in April] he indicated for the first time that Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry NZ Limited would like to support the National Party,” McClay said. He asserted he had done nothing wrong as a minister, and the donation itself was handled in an “entirely lawful” manner. Questions to Lang’s Rider Horse group, which has been a big player at the annual Karaka stock sales and has airlifted 1700 New Zealand horses to China in the past six years, was answered with a statement describing McClay as Lang’s “friend” and saying he expected nothing in return for his company’s donation.

    The justice select committee is currently deliberating on reforming the country’s electoral finance laws, having heard from NZSIS director Rebecca Kitteridge in a rare briefing, saying foreign donations were a vector of concern.

    “One of the main reasons we become concerned about these activities is because as relationships of influence, or a sense of reciprocity is established, they may be used as leverage to facilitate future interference or espionage activity,” Kitteridge said.

    Ross said he hoped the committee would make a decision to limit political donations to people – not companies or other legal entities, despite the problems this would cause for union and corporate donations to Labour and National respectively.

    “I’m of the view if you’re not able to influence the outcome through voting, you shouldn’t be able to do it through donations,” Ross said.

    University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady said giving foreign donors the ability to use locally-registered companies allowed a “back door” into New Zealand’s electoral system.

    Lang first made his fortune in hot pot restaurants, and now also runs China’s largest horse farm. Thanks to his keeping of two pet wolves and his name sounding like wolf in Chinese, he gained the moniker Mr Wolf.

    Lang, McClay and lawyer Peter Kiely acting for the National Party, emphasised the donation was not from the man, but rather his company. Lang both directs IMRHINZ and is the chief executive and chairman of its sole owner.

    New Zealand electoral law forbids donations above $1500 from foreign nationals but classes New Zealand-registered companies as local even if their control or ownership is foreign.

    Otago University law professor Andrew Geddis said claims by politicians that foreign donations were effectively banned – with a $1500 limit on such donations – were undercut by allowing them from foreign-owned companies.

    “It’s one of these things that is technically true, while substantively false,” he said of claims by politicians that foreign donations were banned.

    Lang’s donation was mentioned in Brady’s groundbreaking Magic Weapons paper outlining China’s influence campaign in New Zealand. It noted Lang’s group was backed by a state investment fund set up as part of a “United Front” foreign influence apparatus.

    Brady told the Herald New Zealand’s foreign donations regime needed to be tightened: “What we need to do is change the situation where it’s possible for a foreign person or foreign company to make a donation through setting up a New Zealand-based company.” She noted the World Bank had regularly awarded New Zealand the title of “easiest country in the world to set up a company” and called current arrangements a “back-door into our electoral system”. Geddis said the involvement of Cabinet members in personal and political fund-raising was a long-standing concern, and he hoped the “hat juggling exercise by ministers” who played multiple roles at different times, would cease. He said the issue of involvement by ministers in party fund-raising was curious as the Cabinet manual was “completely silent” about the matter. “I suspect it’s not an oversight. Successive governments have decided maybe the less said about it the better,” he said. McClay said a potential donation was not raised in Beijing when he was on official business, was first broached only in the latter meeting in Rotorua and he did not meet Lang again while a minister. “There could therefore be no conflict,” he said. 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.” Since moving into Opposition, McClay said he had gone on to meet Lang at “some racing industry events and in a social capacity”. In the 2018 pecuniary interests register McClay declared having accepted gifts of travel and accommodation from the Yunnan Rider Jialize Horse Industry Co.

    McClay said this related to a three-day trip to China facilitated by IMRHINZ. “It was entirely business-focused visit and there were no meetings with any government or party officials,” he said. Chinese companies office records show Yunnan Rider Jialize Horse Industry Co is another in Lang’s Rider Horse group. TIMELINE: The minister and the mogul • July 12, 2016: Todd McClay, in Beijing for G20 trade ministers meeting, holds side meeting with Lang Lin. McClay says meeting was organised by Mfat staff and says, to best of his knowledge, it was his first meeting with the horse-racing mogul. • Early April 2017: McClay invites Lang to visit Rotorua, his electorate, where McClay says the prospect of a possible donation was first raised. • April 5, 2017 – McClay directs then National whip Jami-Lee Ross to call Lang’s agents in New Zealand to arrange a donation. McClay sits in on the call and looped into developments • May 15, 2017: A $150,000 donation is paid into the National Party’s Rotorua electorate branch account. • May 17, 2017: – National declares the receipt a donation from the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ). • 2018: McClay records in Parliament’s register of interests gifts of international travel and accommodation from the Yunnan Rider Jialize Horse Industry. The company is another in Lang’s group.

    • Cleangreen: “University of Canterbury professor Anne-Marie Brady said giving foreign donors the ability to use locally-registered companies allowed a “back door” into New Zealand’s electoral system.”

      I wonder if you’ve read “Magic Weapons”. I have, in its entirety. For the life of me, I can’t see what the fuss is about. I’ve yet to see any substantive evidence that I should be more concerned about Chinese activities here than about, for instance, the US and the UK. Australia, even.

      China’s a one-party state? I’m not sure why any of us ought to be overly concerned about that. This country trades with many non-democracies: in the past, we traded with the USSR. Such countries care about trade rather than proselytisation. Though I’d point out that Uncle Sam and his mates did a real snow job on us with regard to neoliberalism, didn’t they?

      “Thanks to his keeping of two pet wolves and his name sounding like wolf in Chinese, he gained the moniker Mr Wolf.”

      Ha! Many years ago when I was studying Mandarin as an undergraduate, some of us did a political skit, as part of our in-class activities. At that time, Bill Clinton was POTUS. He featured in our skit as “lao lang Kelindun”: in English: “old wolf Clinton”. In retrospect, I realised that we were being too kind to him: the Mandarin word for goat – shanyang – would have been more appropriate. And, given that “lao” means “old” as in “respected, venerable”: laoshi (teacher), eg, we’d have been better to use the term “jiu” which means “old” as in worn out, shabby, done for. Thus “jiu shanyang Kelindun”. Much more appropriate….

      I’d add that when the Republicans impeached Clinton, they were firmly focused on the wrong issue (to coin a phrase). He should have been impeached on either the Whitewater controversy or on his egregious foreign policy decisions during his time in office up to that point. Both were of far more import than a bit of rumpy-pumpy with Lewinsky in the WH map room, and what he’d said (or not said) about it.

  5. “…. NZF bank the benefits of vetoes (the Capital Gains Tax), dog-whistle politics (anti-immigrant hyperbole), and crony capitalism investments through the Provincial Growth Fund….”

    The CGT was a dead dog from the beginning; if NZF vetoed it, that was the correct decision. I, too, was annoyed about this issue, until I read this:
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/opinion-analysis/114628351/an-inconvenient-truth-about-tax-in-new-zealand

    If NZF were indeed turning its back on neoliberalism, I’d expect it to turn away from unfettered immigration, which has been a core tenet of neoliberalism. The globalised labour market – a notion enthusiastically pushed by neoliberals – is a race to the bottom, as everybody knows who has paid attention to the contemporary employment market.

    I disagree about the Provincial Growth Fund. I don’t see it as crony capitalism: rather, it’s the state enabling spending in the regions, something that has been sadly lacking over the years that we’ve had to endure neoliberal economics. I see this as another manifestation of a turning-away from neoliberalism. Given how small this country is, conflicts of interest are almost inevitable. So long as the decision-makers recognise them and recuse themselves when funding decisions are being made, that’s the best we can expect.

    “….Shane Jones’ ongoing cringe-worthy behaviour, most-recently demeaning immigrants, claiming credit for bureaucratic immigration crack-downs, calling protesting farmers rednecks…”

    Jones has always been fond of rhetoric (and the sound of his own voice, some might say), and he tends to demagoguery; but he makes me laugh. And occasionally he surely does speak truth, even if some people don’t want to hear it!

    “….this week we’ve had revelations of another winebox full of information, revealing shadowy donations, duplicitous election solicitations and slippery party funding processes.”

    This is Dirty Politics 2.0. Anybody who’s read Nicky Hager will recognise it instantly. Be very sceptical about the entire narrative.

    I’d expect a more conservative approach from political parties and governments which are intending to reset the economic and social direction of this country away from the path it’s been on since the Rogernomics bulldozer flattened the economy. It’s not called “neoliberalism” for nothing.

  6. You could say that NZF are just ahead of the curve? They know the labour party have adopted the Democratic party of the US’s philosophy and with that a homogenous UN quazi(modo) Scandinavian bent.

    NZF has figured this all out and have hit the gas pedal!

    Good luck to them!

    The World is going to end anyway!

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