Editorial: Money talks, but we don't need to listen

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Invercargill businessman Louis Crimp. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Invercargill businessman Louis Crimp. Photo / Steven McNicholl

For the second time in as many months, a large political donation has returned to haunt its recipient, former Auckland mayor John Banks in the first instance and now, the party he represents in Parliament.

The latest embarrassment, a $125,520 donation to the Act Party's election campaign by a man who dislikes the prominence of Maori culture these days, again raises the question, what principles should apply when a party or a candidate accepts a substantial donation?

Invercargill businessman Louis Crimp, the largest single donor declared by Act in its 2011 election return, says he gave the money to support the party's opposition to "special treatment" for Maori. Expressing his attitudes fairly bluntly in an interview with the Weekend Herald, he said he had been embarrassed at the Rugby World Cup - "they take all their clothes off, stick tongues out and wave spears ..." - and added, "all the white New Zealanders I've spoken to don't like Maoris, the way they are full of crime and welfare".

The kindest comment that might be made about this multimillionaire, who does not care if he is called racist, is that he may be naive.

He said his donation to Act was inspired by the 2004 Orewa speech of former National Party leader Don Brash who took over Act last year. He was disappointed when issues of Maori favouritism did not feature in the election campaign and raised this with Dr Brash. He says he was told Act was promoting the issue but media were not picking it up.

In fact, by then Act was treading very carefully on the issue. Its advertising enthusiast, John Ansell, had quit because the party had toned down his appeal to resentment at "the Maorification of everything" and Dr Brash was resisting opportunities presented to him, mainly by Hone Harawira, to reprise his Orewa sentiments.

Much had changed in four years. National had come to power, it was governing with the support of a new Maori Party as well as Act. Dr Brash might not have liked that alignment but with Act's declining support, National's survival after the election might depend on it. Mr Banks, not Dr Brash, was going to stand for the Epsom seat and Mr Banks, not Dr Brash, would be welcome in John Key's second ministry.

All of this might not have been obvious to Mr Crimp when he parted with $125,000, but it must have have been known to the Act Party when it accepted his money. Political parties ought not to take large amounts from people whose hopes they know they are not going to meet. It is hard to have much sympathy for rich donors such as Mr Banks' mayoral campaign benefactor Kim Dotcom, and now Mr Crimp, when they discover how little a donation can buy. But they should not be misled.

Mr Crimp, 79, is an elderly man. He lives in Invercargill ("there's hardly any Maoris down here") where his views might not meet much challenge. He was probably surprised that, after his views were aired at the weekend, Mr Banks disassociated himself from them.

A spokeswoman for Mr Banks said the present Act leader had never met Mr Crimp and spoke to him for the first time last week, by phone. That conversation, about the cost of Maori television, gave Mr Crimp the impression Act is still led by a kindred soul. He told our interviewer, "He's lonely. He needs somebody else in there [Parliament] with him."

Mr Crimp must have been surprised that Act's president, Chris Simmons, also disagreed with his views of Maori, while arguing that the donation gave Mr Crimp his right to have a say.

Mr Simmons says future donations from Mr Crimp would be welcomed if he wants to make them. By rights, he should ask for his money back.

- NZ Herald

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