Bryan Bruce – Democracy For Sale Part 2 – Where did the money go?


Yesterday I listed the donations made to political parties who succeeded in getting candidates elected to parliament in 2023 and asked whether the underlying principle of Who Pays Wins is undermining our democracy?

In today’s post I look at how much the various parties say they spent fighting the last election and what they spent it on.

Part 2: Where did the money go?

The first thing that struck me after I lined up the 2023 Parties Declared Donations with the Declared Expenses available on the Electoral Commission’s site, was the quite large amounts of money that have disappeared from the public gaze.

Here’s a brief summary. (NB. Amounts rounded to the nearest dollar)


- Sponsor Promotion -

Donations $10,383,230

Expenses    $ 2,555,655

Difference: $7827575

Unaccounted 75%


Donations $4,262 ,712

Expenses:  $2,776,458

Difference: $1,486354

Unaccounted 34%

NZ First

Donations  $1,877,416

Expenses    $99,274

Difference: $1,778,142

Unaccounted 89%

Green Party

Donations $3,314,650

Expenses   $1,336,920

Difference  $1,777,730

Unaccounted 56%


Donations $ 4,769,395

Expenses: $ 3,511,056

Difference  $1,258,339

Unaccounted 26%

Te Pati Maori

Donations $160,749

Expenses $98,781

Difference  $61,968

Unaccounted 39%

So at first blush all of the Parties took in more money than they spent.

The largest apparent surplus being the National Party’s $7,827,575 and the smallest Te Pati Maori Party’s $98,781. However when the unaccounted difference between money in to money out is calculated as a percentage then Labour seems to spend a greater proportion of its donations on fighting the election and NZFIRST spends the least of its donated money during the election period.

When donation amounts to audited election expenses are calculated as a percentage of money in to money out the results are as follows:

25% of money donated to National appears as election expenses (75 % does not).

34% of money donated to ACT appears as election expenses (66 % does not).

11% of money donated to NZ FIRST appears as election expenses (89 % does not).

44% of money donated to THE GREEN PARTY appears as election expenses

(56 %  does not).

74% of money donated to LABOUR appears as election expenses (26 % does not).

61% of money donated to ACT appears as election expenses (39% does not).

So why is there apparently so much the missing money?

It may very well be that the differences are all explained by legitimate expenditures not directly related to the precise dates of the election period. However it seems to me that in the interests of transparency and fair democratic elections that the Parties should be required to publish a full set of accounts that detail what happened to all money they brought in by donations.


We need to put a cap on the total amount that can be donated to any Political Party between elections because Who Pays Wins will always favour the election of Right Wing governments who are able to tap very wealthy donors in order to maintain the status quo of low taxes and untaxed wealth accumulation opportunities.

Many countries cap donations in order to put a limit on how much you can give to any political party and thereby limit the influence wealthy individuals can exert on governments. We should do the same because the current situation is widening the gap between the rich and the poor in our country and that’s not healthy for our democracy or the well-being of our society.



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


      • So what you’re saying THE Chairman is non-Māori are the only ones entitled to use their acumen to capitalize on the non-Māori engineered government ‘schemes.’

        Should it be that only non-Māori endeavours go unscrutinized ?

        Seems as if you’re a bit pissed off at the Main table being turned where your chair has become rearranged , whereby you have to now SHARE the feast instead of gobbling 99% for yourself.

        E tipu e rea mo ngā rā o tō ao

        Ko tō ringa ki ngā rākau ā te Pakeha Hei ara mō tō tinana

        Ko tō ngākau ki ngā tāonga a ō tīpuna Māori

        Hei tikitiki mō tō māhuna

        Ko tō wairua ki tō Atua, Nānā nei ngā mea katoa

        How dare Māori use all their talents?

        • I haven’t said anything. Merely highlighted the investigative report. Which doesn’t point to or conclude with anything you’ve just stated, OToole

          So it seems you’re the one that’s a bit pissed off and went off on some crazy rant.

      • Chairman there is way more Pakeha elite than Maori elite and our Pakeha elite have been in the trough for much longer.

    • We must remember our entire systems were primarily set up by Pakeha for Pakeha and these systems were based on the premise ” we are all one people” the one size fits all model, and we all have to fit into it and yet we know that is not true.

  1. ” We need to put a cap on the total amount that can be donated to any Political Party ”
    But first, we need to know where that money came from since we’re an agrarian primary industry economy.
    I know what happens to a kg of wool sold for .70cents. It becomes hundreds of dollars.
    I say fuck the caps for the moment. Let’s track down the money before it’s washed via tax free donations, cash back handers, laundered through tax havens etc.
    You need to come to terms with the uncomfortable truth within this question @ B.B. Who’s money was it?
    Farmers? If you’re wondering the same thing then go strike for a year and you’ll soon find out.
    Here’s a way of finding out FYI. Buy a sheep and buy a cow. Shear the sheep then follow it’s wool through every rich bludger in Ponsonby then beyond. Kill then chop up the cow and follow its flesh to the bowel motion.
    Back in the 90’s a Hong Kong banker described AO/NZ as being one of the most corrupt countries he’d ever had to deal with.
    Excellent work @ Bryan Bruce.

  2. Many countries cap donations and yet their Governments still serve the elite.

    Clearly, a cap doesn’t go far enough.

    Very disappointing.

    Why haven’t you opted for what really needs to be done?

    What is holding you back from supporting taking the money out of politics?

  3. Seems like Donors were ripped off too.
    Eg. For Winnie they all paid for the same horse.
    Over $4M for little Dave to represent the minority. Something stinks.
    Over $7M left in Nat’s accounts !
    It all suggests there’s a truckload of pre- purchased favours for the NACTZi to deliver still.

  4. So what are the other expenses.
    Advertising throughout the year?
    Purchase of favorable opinion polls?
    Payments to spin doc mates?

    Does other, include politician salary top ups?
    Does other include politician expenses, accomodation, vehicles?
    Does other include payments specifically tagged to particular policy outcomes?

    Right wing parties are always calling for “transparency” ! More freedom of information needed here.


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