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Public want donor names - Darby

LIZ WILLIS
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014
Chris Darby
Chris Darby.
Len Brown
LAWRENCE SMITH/Fairfax NZ
BLIND TRUST: Len Brown’s spin doctors defend his election funding.

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Mayor Len Brown's election campaign was funded by $273,375 in anonymous donations banked just 17 days before rules stopping secrecy became law.

And Shore councillor Chris Darby says people want to know who donates to election campaigns.

"While I can understand from afar that the mayor has done everything by the book, I think there is a case for greater transparency," Mr Darby says.

"That is what politics demands."

Mayor Brown's electoral return shows a $273,375 donation by the New Auckland Council Trust on June 12, 2013.

From June 29 donors to the trust would have had to be public due to changes to the Local Electoral Act.

Instead, all his election team would reveal publicly is: "The campaign raised funds from people who supported Len's vision from across the political spectrum".

"While Len Brown would prefer the entire political donation system to be public, his campaign had to work within the legal framework in existence at the time," the spokesman says.

But Mr Darby says he chose to name all donators to his North Shore ward campaign even though he wasn't required to by law.

"I have made a point of writing the names down," he says.

"I think the public do expect it."

People want to know whether there could be a perceived or actual conflict of interest because of donations, he says.

Mr Darby says mayoral campaigns require big budgets and public disclosure may put some people off donating but openness is more important.

Mr Brown's campaign spokesman says the mayor does not know who anonymously donated to his campaign.

"He is deliberately kept removed from fundraising to prevent any conflict of interest."

The spokesman says Mr Brown suggested in 2009 that the spending cap for mayoral elections be lowered so candidates didn't have to raise so much.

He says there was a deliberate strategy to run a smaller campaign this election but it still requires "relatively large sums".

"Most donors requested that their contribution be private, as permitted under the previous laws, simply because they are private persons with no interest in being in the media.

"All monies raised after the law change have been treated under the new rules."

The mayor's electoral donations return shows only $70,000 of the $343,375 was raised after the rules changed.

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His return names the 10 donators towards that $70,000 with the largest $20,000 from multimillionaire businessman Sir Noel Robinson.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule says it supported electoral act changes after issues on blind trusts arose in the 2010 super-city elections.

"LGNZ also believed that there was value, where possible, in aligning local election donation provisions with the provisions applying to national elections."

He says LGNZ would not consider Mr Brown's actions in the 2013 campaign to be unethical because he was acting lawfully.

The New Auckland Council Trust appeared on Mr Brown's 2010 electoral return as contributing $499,000 to his $581,900 campaign. Donors Mr Brown revealed in 2010 included SkyCity, which handed over $15,000. Mr Brown said last year he would not accept any donation from the casino towards the 2013 campaign.

- North Shore Times

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