Businesses support politicians on their wavelength but often also to push pet policy, says academic.

Analysis of election candidate donations has shown a wide variety of businesses are willing to open their wallets for politicians.

Talley's Group, a family-owned fishing and meat processing company based in Nelson, poured $42,500 into no fewer than nine separate races, mostly favouring National candidates fighting for regional seats.

Three members of the primary production select committee - Chester Borrows, Stuart Smith and Damien O'Connor - each received $5000.

O'Connor did not return calls yesterday to shed light on why he was the only Labour candidate to receive a Talley's donation.



In the past Talley's has also donated to Labour Party prodigal son Shane Jones.

National Party MPs Todd McClay and Sarah Dowie also received $5000 from Talley's, as did former West Coast mayor Maureen Pugh, who appeared on the cusp of entering Parliament on election night before special votes saw her seat reallocated to the Green Party, and the recently-resigned Mike Sabin. List MP Alfred Ngaro rounded out the list of recipients, but only received $2500.

Managing director Peter Talley was unable to answer questions yesterday about his donations. His secretary said he was out on the water and unable to take calls or check emails.

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Borrows said he expected the donation to multiple MPs was to bolster Parliament's understanding of the primary sector.

"I grew up in Nelson and know what fishing means to them and the town. I guess they want to encourage people who understand their business into Parliament, not that we'll necessarily agree with everything they do."

Borrows also received donations totalling $5000 from Manuka honey firm Nukuhau Carbon and its managing director Neil Walker, which the MP chalked up as merely the latest expression of a long-running friendship.


These findings were uncovered by a crowd sourcing experience by the Herald to process and analyse donations and expense returns for all 462 candidates at the 2014 general election. The Herald built its own microsite, Money in Politics, to upload nearly 900 documents and allow members of the public to interact with and process the data into a consistent and useable format.

Nearly 500 readers contributed to help create a database tracking $2.8 million of candidate donations on which this story was based. Figures have been verified by Herald staff and the complete spreadsheet of candidate finance data will be publicly released next week.

Further analysis and investigations into relationships between candidates and donors, and public processing of 2011 campaign finance data, is ongoing.

Otago University political science lecturer Bryce Edwards said donations were rarely altruistic and were often part of a wider strategy to support a particular line of policy.

"Donations might be part of a larger strategy, and of course it's not unnatural for the wealthy to give money to politicians - especially those politicians who are seen to be in sync with their own political ideologies," Edwards said.

The donation and expenses declaration of political parties, separate from this recent release of individual candidates' spending are expected to be made public by the Electoral Commission in April.

The findings also show property developers are a contributor to electorate candidates, with Tauranga MP Simon Bridges receiving two donations totalling $20,000 from Carrus Corporation.

Some companies are also happy to hedge their bets: Dormer Construction backed Labour's Clayton Cosgrove's failed bid for Waimakariri to the tune of $7000, but also gave $2000 to ultimately successful National Party candidate Matt Doocey.

Doocey also received $4000 from two timber companies while Cosgrove accepted $10,000 from Resource Finance, part of the rich-list Vela family's empire.

Money in politics

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