GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Democracy For Sale Part 1 Should We Cap Donations


While it is often difficult to convince the few who have great wealth to share some it with the many who are struggling to make ends meet, the latest release by the Electoral Commission detailing Party Donations reveals the rich are less reticent when it comes to spending some  of their cash to protect their incomes.

Over the last couple of days have been working through the declared donations and expenses of the political parties who managed to get candidates elected and there is so much to be gleaned from the available data that I will be offering my analysis over two consecutive posts.

Today’s post,Part1, I look at some donation trends.In Part 2 I will try to trace how and where that donated money was spent before raising my concerns about the influence of Big Money on our democracy.

Part 1: Donations

According to the official returns available on the Electoral Commission’s site the donation amounts (to the nearest rounded dollar amount) pulled in by each party to fight the 2023 Election were:

- Sponsor Promotion -

National  $10,383,230

ACT   $4,262,712

NZ First  $1,877,416

Which means the three parties forming the Coalition of the Political Right  collectively had an election war chest of $16,523,358.

The total donations for the three parties on the Political Left gave them a war chest of roughly half that amount at $8,244,795.

The Green Party $3,314,650

Labour $ 4,769,395,

Te Pati Maori $160,749

Who Pays Wins then, is clearly becoming a major factor in deciding New Zealand elections.

If we then ask the Cui Bono? Or Who Benefits? analytical question, the patterns becomse apparent as you read through the various lists of donors.

National’s donors are by and large very wealthy individuals.

Their largest donation last election of $500,000 came from Warren Lewis, managing Director of Fairview Metal Industries.

But it is the donation strategy of Graeme Hart,New Zealand’s richest man, that I find most interesting.

Both Hart and The Rank Group Ltd ,of which he is the sole shareholder, donated the following amounts to the following parties on the Right.


Rank Group Ltd  $150,000

Graeme Hart $100,000


Graeme Hart $100,000

Rank Group Ltd $104,000


Rank Group Ltd  $110,000

In total: $564,000

So Lewis and Hart , between them, delivered $1,064,000 in cash to help the current Coalition get into power moreover looking down the donors lists of these three parties the money tends to come from wealthy individuals.

In sharp contract the donations for parties on the Left tend to come from organisations representing groups of people such as Unions.Left Invidiual donors offer smaller amounts than National and ACT donors and many Green and Labour MPs also donate to their Parties -a practice that does not so seem as common among National,Act and NZ First MPs.

Whilst being able to access how much money was donated by whom and to which party from the Electoral Commissions site is healthy for our democracy, clearly the leeway available to wealthy individuals to influence the outcome of an election is not.

In Part 2  I will be looking at what the amount of money the Parties spent on their campaigns reveals about the financing of political parties as well as addressing the whole issue that money in politics raises for our democracy.


Bryan Bruce is one of New Zealand’s most important and respected documentary makers. His work is available on


  1. Labour and the Greens could have fixed this. But didn’t.
    Elections should be a battle of ideals and ideas, not dollars.

    • Why do you say Labour and greens should have sorted this. As with anything they did it would have been on the 100 day hit list.
      To get it enshrined for ever you need a 75% vote in favour and that will never happen.

      • Because they pretend to have a mortgage on moral purity. In reality they are exactly the same as National, ACT and NZ First.
        Allowing any money to influence politics is a very slippery slope.

  2. But the Maaaaris are stealing the water!!! fucken weak mainly pakeha will vote against their own interest because of fake news depicting Maori as the elite?

    Free Aotearoa

  3. It would be interesting after finding if all the money was not actually spent during the campaign where it actually went.
    It would also be fun to know how much each vote cost each party. Perhaps someone with good information and maths skills better than mine could work that out.
    I wonder does the Act donation amount include the donated jet costs or who paid for the costs of the entourage’s of civil servants following these guys from all parties around.

  4. Well Mr Lewis will be gutted as the money he handed out has led to the shut down of the construction industry .No ali windows being sold at the moment so he will be quietly laying of staff and not saying any thing as the egg runs down his face .He would have been creaming it for 5 of the last five years with record house builds .No the trade has no confidence in the government he has bought .I know a major roofer in Hamilton who says he always makes money when Labour is in power but because of tribalisim votes national because thats what business does for no real logical reason .

  5. Excellent work @ B.B.
    You might also like to read this in this mornings The Guardian.
    The Road to Freedom by Joseph E Stiglitz review – a vision of progressive capitalism seems too little, too late
    “The case for minimal government was made by the nemeses of Stiglitz’s book, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. The former, a Viennese economist whose 1944 book The Road to Serfdom was so prized by Thatcher she handed out copies at cabinet meetings, insisted that tyranny would result from government control of economic planning. The latter economist’s scorn for big government was typified by his remark: “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”
    Scum Douglas and his *scum cronies saw easy pickings so they used thatcherism as a manual for the easy thievery of our financial and now social wealth.
    14 multi-billionaires, 3118 multi-millionaires and four now foreign owned banksters stealing our wealth at a rate of $180.00 a second after tax 24/7/365 might be able to expand on that. Perhaps from court where the cringe like greedy cowards answering to charges of embezzlement. Aye boys?
    * No disrespect to actual scum.

  6. There is so much gold to dig into here.

    “Green and Labour MPs also donate to their Parties a practice that does not seem as common among National, Act and NZ First MPs.” Is this because Green and Labour MPs believe in capitalism and are happy to invest in advertising budgets to secure a sale (get elected). While entitled National and ACT candidates always feel others should pay for their lifestyles.

    Is there a ready market for what the right is selling but the left’s customers don’t believe the promises on the packaging and don’t open their wallets.

    It would be great to see a chart of the individual donations and the law changes and regulatory benefits achieved for the donation money plus actual $ tax savings.

  7. “In Part 2 I will be looking at what the amount of money the Parties spent on their campaigns reveals about the financing of political parties as well as addressing the whole issue that money in politics raises for our democracy.”
    What we think of as a democracy isn’t that. The most polite way I can think of describing AO/NZ is as a fiefdom. Where we dom fife’s get fucked by a mafia organisation aka neo-liberalism but worse, we thank them for it, but then agree to have them back to fuck us again and again and again.
    We’re like sheep dogs. We get called over for a hiding from which we might run away from afterwards but then we’re able to be called back again to get another hiding. ( While on that note I have a broken pinky bone on my right hand, all healed now, from when I punched a fellow farmer for whacking his dog on a dog dosing strip once. I’m proud to say I caused quite the scene.)
    The complex nature of just how fucked we’ve become and for why and of how we acquiesce to our abusers is a deeper problem than simply knowing what they did, and still do to us. We need powerful outside help. We need impartiality with some proper clout.
    @ Maori. For God’s sake don’t let them have the Treaty. Seymour might have Maori genes in him but so what.He’s still a dodgy little shit.
    We all share mitochondrial DNA with The Original Mother of all human kind. The ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ so to speak. I’m NOT writing this to denigrate Maori, in fact quite the opposite.
    Non Maori. We must cling to The Crown while we still can. If we become seymour’s wet-dream republic we’re fucked and not in that good way.

  8. This is a comment that just comes to mind without close scrutiny of all the details in the post. But maybe some light relief before the heavy going of confronting the effect of such uneven contributions. What comes to mind – if Labour had any substance and guts, they would have recognised this imbalance, and the insane spending on electioneering and brought in a Bill that would limit what could be spent by all Parties. It would have given us a more even playing field even if we still didn’t score winning goals.

    • Why do you think Labour should have sorted this. As with most things they did it would have been on the 100 day hit list anyway.

  9. ” So Lewis and Hart , between them, delivered $1,064,000 in cash to help the current Coalition get into power moreover looking down the donors lists of these three parties the money tends to come from wealthy individuals. ”

    That is serious money.

    That buys you a seat at the cabinet ( executive council ) table no doubt.

    Influencing the decisions and outcomes by legislation that effects the majority of the country by buying the sovereignty of our parliamentary system.

    So these people get three votes based on their lucrative donations.
    And Cabinet.

    Lewis and Hart must be onto a sure thing here. No one gifts this amount of money without wanting a payback

    With the government and its fast tracking process overruling the checks and balances of rushed and under urgency legislation that has been heavily criticised all designed to deliver for their wealthy benefactors by any means necessary.

    I am sure they were assured their programs would move ahead without the pesky rules of our liberal free democracy getting in the way.

    At Cabinet level with this current coalition everybody is getting the influence they paid for when you add Winston and Shane First and the Atlas party who all have two more years of surprises in store and some like Labour relations changes that have begun already and the assurance that our unequal draconian tax system continues to deliver for the high end of town with the repeal of the Taxation Principles Reporting Act.

    ” Back in 2020, IRD began a hugely controversial (among rich people) study of how much tax the rich are actually paying. earlier this year, it reported what we all knew: the rich aren’t paying their fair share. The government refused to act on that, but they did pass a law, the Taxation Principles Reporting Act 2023, requiring IRD to report annually on the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of the tax system, against a specified set of measurements and principles. Effectively, this would provide ongoing evidence of the need to tax the rich more, as well as of any other problems in the tax system. ”

    This kind of government is confirming what many Kiwis already feared that New Zealanders believe the economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful and traditional politicians aren’t doing anything about it.

  10. democracy has always been for sale….this is what history shows, BUT now it’s for sale to foreign ‘think tanks’ rather than domestic intrest groups

  11. Someone did an experiment in the US where they “invested” only in companies that donated heavily to political parties. Their portfolio did very, very well indeed. But this isn’t the only problem in the US – and let’s remember that when they sneeze we tend to catch a cold. This is pretty powerful stuff.


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