Cunliffe to repay some donors

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Last updated 11:08 04/03/2014

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Labour leader David Cunliffe has admitted he made a mistake by having donations towards his leadership tilt channelled through a trust and has moved to pay back the big donors who still want anonymity.

He said he was satisfied the trust complied with party rules and the parliamentary pecuniary interest register.

However he had asked the trustee, his top electorate official Greg Presland, to ask the donors who gave move than $500 if they were prepared to reveal who they were.

Three donors had agreed to waive anonymity: businessman Selwyn Pellett, a longtime friend Perry Keenan and Labour party supporter Tony Gibbs.

Together they had donated $9500 but he had not been told how much each donated

Another two had said they were unwilling to waive confidentiality. Cunliffe said he respected that, and the trust would return the $8300 they donated to it.

Cunliffe said the rules around donations needed to be tightened

He admitted he had a lapse of judgement.

‘‘I don't think in hindsight that a trust structure fully represented the values that I would like to bring to this leadership, and that's why I have encouraged donors to be as transparent as possible."

Cunliffe said his wife, a lawyer, was not a trustee but he did not know if she was involved in seeking donations. As a lawyer she knew if a trust had been set up and he did not know who the donors were. There were some thing she would not discuss with him.

He estimated he had spent about $20,000 on the campaign to lead the party.

If there was a shortfall in the trust he would pay it himself.

"There may be a deficit and the buck stops with me."

He did not know the names of the two bigger donors who were being repaid from the campaign trust, which was named the TR Trust.

He also did not know how many trustees it had. He was not a beneficiary of the trust but it "forgave debts of the campaign".

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- Fairfax Media

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