Len Brown was elected promising to open the books, but he has kept his own books on campaign donations firmly shut. The Herald headline is “Mayor relies on secret war chest” and the Dominion Post headline is “Auckland Mayor hides names of campaign donors”
Auckland’s first Super City mayor was elected using largely anonymous donations, despite promising to lead an administration of openness and accountability to the public.
Of Len Brown’s total campaign war chest of $581,900 in donations, $499,000 was folded into a single trust to protect the identity of those who gave money to help elect him but wished to remain nameless.
Only 15 donors were named in his returns yesterday to Auckland electoral officer Dale Ofsoske, the largest of $17,708 attributed to an entity called Fuqing, with $15,000 from casino operator SkyCity.
The Maritime Union gave $2000 each to Mr Brown and Auckland Council transport committee chairman Mike Lee, who listed no other donations in his election returns.
Mr Brown’s campaign also received $3375 from the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust, whose chief executive, Richard Jeffery, was appointed this week as a director of the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development council-controlled organisation.
Now I guess we know why the Chow brothers building was pulled down with alarming alacrity. We also know now how John Robertson and Richard Jeffrey scored their CCO jobs. John Robertson is a trustee if the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust and Richard Jeffrey is the CEO, but more on this in a moment.
Len Brown campaigned on openness, he even gets his lickspittle, tame repeater Bernard Orsman to print stories about how open Len Brown is. Yet when it comes to openness with his own election finance and donation we find that like almost everything else about Len Brown it is a stonking great secret. The hypocrisy of the man is astounding.
The secret trust, strangely called “The New Auckland Council Trust”, is an enigma. Questions need to be asked about this secret trust. When was it formed? Who are the trustees? Where is the trust deed?
It’s all very murky from “Labour’s Mayor“. Phil Goff and Phil Twyford really need to answer some questions about their Mayor’s use of big money secret trsuts to fund his campaign. They are on record being against such secret trusts and even passed a law to prevent such things happening.
“What I would like to see is a system where democracy works but doesn’t rely simply on the power of the dollar and you don’t have some clandestine funding which was the real concern that lay behind the Electoral Finance Act,”
Let’s see if Phil Goff and Phil Twyford have anything other than weasel words about Len Brown’s secret trust. Phil Twyford was especially concerned about the influence of big money in elections earlier in the year.
Since then, there has been the rather unhappy progress of the Electoral Finance Act, and to my mind the really unfortunate failure of this House to build a lasting consensus about the need to limit the influence of big money in our political system.
Quite apart from Len’s secret trust account used to hide his big money corporate backers there is a real problem surrounding the donation from Counties Manukau Pacific Trust.
Fors a start the trust is essentially part of the new city structure, and previously was, by definition a part of Manukau City Council (pdf pg 11.). The same trust now owes the new Auckland Council (previously Manukau City Council $7.5 million (pg 29).
Worse the Trust’s audited statements show an annual operations grant of $385,000 and the $7.5million loan from Manukau City Council: (pg 10)
But the real problem is that Richard Jeffrey is the CEO and John Robertson is a trustee. They are in control of what can only be described as ratepayer funds and they have donated some of those ratepayer funds to Len Brown’s campaign. The same person who pushed through council the funding in the first place and also the same person who secretly appointed the two of them to CCO board positions.
On the surface it would appear that Richard Jeffrey and John Robertson used ratepayers funds to donate to Len Brown’s campaign in order buy themselves cushy jobs on CCO boards. The only thing that could make this story worse would be if Richard Jeffrey also attended the still secret Volare dinner.
No wonder Len Brown was being very furtive and secretive over his board appointments and no wonder he wanted to rush them through in secret before the election donations were revealed. I seriously doubt whether even his supporters on the secret council committee would have countenanced the appearance of bribery in their decisions.
Certainly I think there is enough here for the Auditor-General to have a look see, especially around that massive secret trust of big money, but more importantly around the apparent buying of CCO board positions with ratepayer funds. Len Brown campaigned on opening the books, he campaigned on honesty (but with limits) and he campaigned on being straight with us.
So far he has shown that those were just tawdry lies designed to hoodwink voters into thinking he was honest.