Political party donations / bribes

The top priority for political party bosses is to get as much money as possible for social media campaigns and election campaigns. This money makes the difference between winning and losing so they need to give those who make so called donations what they want in order to keep money rolling in each year.

There have been numerous articles and items published and broadcast over many years about the problems facing the environment and society but usually only token gestures have been made towards dealing with them. As the rich grow richer and richer, their control of political parties grows stronger and stronger. This needs to be reversed if democracy is to survive.

Politicians have known for 15 years that housing was becoming increasingly unaffordable but they failed to take any worthwhile action. Home ownership is now not possible for the majority of citizens and rents take up a high proportion of incomes.

Unlike most other countries New Zealand does not have a capital gains tax, inheritance tax, land tax, wealth tax or stamp duty on property transactions   so the situation is going to get even worse.

A Newsroom article on 9 December 2020 stated. “Previously, Winston Peters blocked anything that looked like a capital gains tax. Some of his supporters like Conrad Properties (big donors to the controversial NZ First Foundation) had lobbied against it.”

An overseas apartment property developer wanted to get legislation changed. They contacted a lobbyist and were advised to give N Z First $150,000.  The legislation change was passed later in the year.

When the Labour Party came into office in 2017 they said that they wanted to make big improvements in the areas of child poverty, inequality, unaffordable housing, freshwater and climate change. It appeared that big changes were going to be made but these problems have continued to get worse or not any better. At the same time those who are well off have been given a huge amount of taxpayer money and assistance so there has been a huge transfer of wealth to them.

Sir David Skegg wrote in his 2019 book ‘Health of the People’ about how the donations and lobbying of the alcohol and tobacco industries got the Public Health Commission abolished. While it spoke out about the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, one of its main functions was to prepare for a pandemic. The demise of the Commission and the underfunding of public health meant that New Zealand was not well placed in early 2020 to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. New Zealand had only 3 ICU beds per 100,000 of population and this was far fewer than other similar countries.

Business New Zealand put forward a wage subsidy scheme that was approved by Cabinet two weeks later. By October 2020 businesses had $22,700 million more in the bank than in October 2019. This was a 24% increase but businesses have never been asked to repay huge overpayments of the wage subsidy and other subsidies.

On 7 December 2021 well known economist and commentator, Bernard Hickey, wrote an article for The Spinoff and said that “New Zealand’s economic response to Covid was among the worst in the world in terms of widening wealth inequality and the wasteful use of taxpayer funds.  Asset owners’ wealth is on track to rise by $872 billion or 50% to $2.63 trillion within two years of the outbreak.   Working families and beneficiaries who pay rent are now mostly worse off or barely treading water.”    The Treasury later advised the government to cut spending.

The MSD loaned $400 million to beneficiaries and those on low incomes who were struggling to make ends meet. Those who cannot afford to give money to political parties are treated harshly and have their needs largely ignored.

On 9 January 2022 Newsroom published an article by climate change commentator Rod Oram in which he said that Government climate change plans were almost worthless and involved large taxpayer subsidies to farmers and businesses.

Large ‘donations’ can help get access to a Minister who has little time for making decisions. Most Ministers lack the knowledge and experience required for critical decision-making so can easily be persuaded that what a lobbyist wants will benefit the country and the short-term interests of their party.

The most comprehensive report on political party donations was written by Max Rashbrooke and Lisa Marriott of Victoria University and published in December 2022.

Link to the Bryce Edwards June 2021 cash for access article   https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/bryce-edwards-political-roundup-cash-for-access-to-politicians-continues

If a politician directly helped those who gave them money or other assistance, those involved could be charged with corruption. To avoid this happening, money is given to political parties and they then arrange for help to be given to the whole industry that the donor belongs to.  This comes at a huge cost to ordinary taxpayers and society.

The excessive borrowing and wasteful spending by the Government in 2020 and 2021 resulted in a huge transfer of wealth to those who were already well off. The $55 billion increase in Government debt and the huge increase in house prices has been disastrous for a third of society and for future generations. If urgent action is not taken to curb the power of vested interests, then the situation will continue to get steadily worse.


Other democracies have experienced the frequent corruption resulting from political party donations, lobbying and the other activities of vested interests so they have introduced far stricter rules than we have here. Our lax rules and complacency mean that unacceptable arrangements can be made behind closed doors without any risk to the participants.

The current New Zealand donation caps are far too high. In Canada for example, citizens are limited to C$1500 and only up to C$100 can remain anonymous. Businesses and other organisations are not allowed to make donations.


      1. Vested interests, who make a lot of money by providing funding for political parties, will use lobbying and other means to try to convince the Government and officials that any changes are a bad idea.  
      2. Surveys consistently show that the public has extremely low trust in politicians and most people have a fatalistic attitude to what goes on behind closed doors. Our news media do not have the resources to carry out sting operations and the public have been conned into believing that New Zealand is corruption free.  
      3. When compared to other countries that are perceived as being more corrupt, New Zealand has very poor regulation of political party donations and no proper regulation of lobbying and the other activities used by vested interests to get the decisions they want. Whenever the need for substantial improvements is raised, it is common for those who are opposed to change or ignorant of what goes on to say that New Zealand is one of the least corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International.  
      4. The main objective of TINZ is to ensure that New Zealand maintains a high perception rating in order to help businesses make more money. When corruption has been exposed, TINZ has refused to comment or has issued a diversionary news media release about corruption elsewhere in the world. The perception rating relates to countries where Government officials receive a low rate of pay and are expected to supplement their income with user pays bribes. This does not happen here so the rating is of little value, particularly as we have far more sophisticated corruption in the form of party donations, lobbying and other activities. The perceptions rating is in reality only the vague ideas of a few people in other parts of the world who lack the time, knowledge and resources to arrive at any sort of meaningful perception. The small size of the New Zealand population, the lack of reporting by TINZ and the false 100% PURE advertising could all affect the perception of New Zealand. TINZ reaction when questioned about the SFO investigations in 2021 was to say that controls were needed on overseas money and that there was a lot of complacency about corruption and a select committee of politicians should look at making changes. This ignores the fact that when scandals have arisen in the past, the two main parties have only made the minor changes that suited them.  
      5. Some people have said that three wealthy people each tried to establish a political party but failed to get over 5% of the vote so this shows that money does not affect election results. This is not correct because the two main political parties have been getting free publicity in the news media on a daily basis for many decades and this gives them a huge advantage. The Green Party is well established and has policies aimed at improving the social and environmental problems that affect most voters but it struggles to get over 5% of votes at each election. Most people are reluctant to vote for third parties because their vote will be wasted if they do not get over the 5% threshold. Another reason is that right wing parties put some of their large financial and other resources into anti small Party branding. They pay retainers to journalists, commentators and social media influencers who are ready to say whatever is required.  
      6. Claims are made that any changes would restrict freedom of speech but more money buys more access to voters. In 1936 the New Zealand National Party was formed to look after the interests of businesses, farmers and those on higher incomes. They represent about 20% of the voting population so it is necessary to spend a lot of money to convince other voters to vote for the party. Longtime National M P and retired Minister and Speaker, Sir David Carter told RNZ on 9 August 2021 that “When we did a substantial review after the devastating defeat at the last election, two things were evident in that review.” One was the dysfunction of the governance of the party and the other was a lack of money to run a suitable campaign.” Published figures show that in 2017 and 2020 the Labour Party received about $1.6m and $1.5m and the National Party $4.6m and $2.8m.  Clearly, the National Party relies heavily on getting a lot of money from vested interests in order to gain and retain power. A large proportion of this money is used for social media and other activities that are not open to public scrutiny. The 2014 book ‘Dirty Politics’ was able to document some of these activities as a result of a computer hack.  
      7. Claims are made by party leaders that they do not know who has given money to their party but recordings made by Jami-Lee Ross in 2018 clearly show that he and his party leader were well aware of large donations and had dinner with donors and that money could even buy a good place on the party list.  
      8. Claims are made that those giving money are doing so to support democracy but this seems very unlikely in view of the extremely low levels of trust in politicians and political parties. Vested interests giving money expect to get a big payback so when this is delivered it undermines democracy.   
      9. Claims are made that SFO investigations showed that the system was working but the reality is that politicians and political parties are prepared to circumvent even very lax rules in order to get the money and other assistance they require in order to obtain or retain power. The old saying that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” rings true.  
      10. Claims have been made that the public would not accept taxpayer funding of political parties but these claims have been promoted to the public by those who get huge benefits from the existing system. If the public were educated about the advantages of taxpayers funding political parties, this would increase support for changes to be made.


        1. The information already outlined above supports the need for substantial changes to be made starting with rules regarding political party donations.  
        2. Other developed countries that are perceived as being more corrupt than New Zealand have much stricter rules to try to prevent the corruption of political parties. They also often have better labour and consumer protection laws and other legislation that puts the interests of the community ahead of business and farming interests. This is a good indicator that they are actually less corrupt than New Zealand.  
        3. There are numerous examples of how New Zealand political parties have assisted vested interests at the expense of the community and future generations. Democracy has been undermined and the situation is getting steadily worse. New Zealand may have a higher level of corruption than many other similar countries on a per head of population basis due to lax rules, complacency and lack of news media investigations.  
        4. The Court cases brought by the Serious Fraud Office in 2022 demonstrated that political parties readily exploit and circumvent even the most inadequate of rules regarding funding.   
        5. A 2020 survey by Victoria University of Wellington found that 34% of the public believed that corruption was widespread throughout the Government in New Zealand and that 71% had no or very little confidence in how political parties are funded. Only 6% had trust in politicians and political parties. These disturbing findings indicate that action is now required on political party funding and that a Royal Commission of Inquiry is needed to recommend major reforms rather than relying on political parties to decide on what changes they would like to make.  
        6. Few voters have a good knowledge of the policies of political parties when they vote at an election. Voters are subjected to a lot of misinformation on social media and have been conditioned to not trust anyone and to take the easy way and just vote for the leader they like best.  It takes a lot of money to promote this to the public so strict controls are needed. Taxpayer funding would be required to make up the funding shortfall.

      Used car salesmen and politicians have a very low ranking in public opinion.  No money is donated by the public to trade organisations to which used car salesman belong but political parties to which politicians belong receive many millions of dollars each year. This money was not handed over because the public have a high regard for politicians or want to support democracy.   The only reason the money was handed over was to get special favours in the form of tax concessions, subsidies, lax regulations, protective legislation and a range of other favours.  Those giving donations buy access to Ministers and officials who often only hear one side of the story before making a decision.

      While Ministers are careful not to take bribes themselves, the parties they belong to need big money for every election campaign so Party bosses have to arrange for those giving donations to get all or some of what they want.  If they do not deliver then they miss out on future donations.

      Some examples that have been exposed and are the tip of the iceberg, include the following:

      The Prime Minister, John Key, had dinner with the Directors of the Skycity Casino. He had a vast number of more important things to do than this so it is not clear what went on behind the scenes to get him to do this.  After talking to the directors, he agreed to change legislation to suit them. The deal was that they could install a lot of extra gambling machines and tables if they built and operated a convention centre. No account was taken of the fact that the community would suffer a lot of harm due to problem gambling.

      Former Cabinet Minister, John Banks got donations from Mr Dotcom and then phoned the Minister of Immigration, who was a friend, to try and get special treatment for Mr Dotcom.

      Minister of Immigration, Shane Jones approved citizenship for a Chinese fraudster who made a large donation to the Labour Party and boasted that as a result he would get citizenship.

      Companies sponsor arts and sports which influential ministers are interested in. Telecom sponsored the arts which Helen Clark supported and it got away with hundreds of millions of dollars in overcharging for many years. When public complaints got too great the Government was forced to make changes to reduce overcharging and Telecom then stopped its arts sponsorship.  Corporate boxes at sports fixtures are used to influence politicians and officials.

      Check out more than 20 articles about political party donations

      2023 - Bryce Edwards.- Political roundup - Is it time for an anti-corruption commission?
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