Not so long, the Labour Party and the Green Party moved to try to neutralise the fear voters will be put off a Labour-Greens combo because of a belief they could not handle their pocket money and would make unseemly raids on the public purse.

The two parties signed an agreement not to spend too much, not to let debt get out of control, and to try to return a surplus every year.

Now Labour has moved on to try to address another matter of financial management: its own poverty.

As former leader David Cunliffe signed out of Parliament last week, he bemoaned he might have been more successful in 2014 had he only had more time and money.


Others privately wondered if things might have got even worse had they had more time but a lack of money was certainly a glaring problem in 2014.

Things have come to a rum pass indeed when the Green Party could rake in more donations than the main Opposition party and in 2014 the Greens fundraised $970,000 while Labour declared $940,000.

National declared almost $4 million. That is quite an imbalance.

So Labour has taken a leaf out of National's book - although it insists it is not a leaf out of National's book at all.

A fortnight ago, Labour President Nigel Haworth launched his "President's Club" for well-heeled donors.

It has various 'tiers' of donor. There are the common bronze mob (who donate $1000-$3000 a year), silver ($3000-$5000 a year) and gold ($5,000 - $10,000).

The best of them all are the Platinum donors who give more than $10,000 a year.

See it as a Frequent Flyers scheme if you like, and if you fly with Labour, you get an 'I Can't Believe It's Not Platinum' fake bronze, silver, gold or platinum fern badge and invites to various dos such as the occasional drinkies and policy announcements.

The party tells donors what their money is going toward. Those are things like campaign colleges for candidates, policy launches, and advertising. The Platinum crew get to choose whether to put their money into either campaign reach, research or organisation.

About 25 people have signed up so far, including Haworth himself (he is a Bronze member of his own club).

It comes with a very quiet 'may include MPs' on the label. The reason is it very quiet is because this all looks suspiciously like National's 'Cabinet Clubs.'

At least, they used to be called Cabinet Clubs but underwent hasty name changes after controversy over them in 2014 and are now known as Anything But Cabinet Clubs.

National said the Cabinet Clubs (which also existed when the party was in Opposition) were harmless groups of supporters run by individual electorates who would pay to go and hear MPs, ministers or sometimes even the Prime Minister bang on for a while at a party fundraiser.

It was standard fundraising fare, they said.

However, Labour was very critical deriding them as 'cash for access.'

Haworth claims the distinction between the Cabinet Clubs and his President's Club is that the President's Club is run by the party and donors are not paying to attend events with MPs at them.

However, sometimes MPs might happen to stumble upon the same events as President's Club members. Just by coincidence, you know. It is, after all, hard to have a policy announcement without an MP to announce it.

Things have come to a rum pass indeed when the Green Party could rake in more donations than the main Opposition party.


It is based on a similar scheme in the British Labour Party - the 'Thousand Club' for donors who give upward of 1000 pounds a year. In return, the members get invited to social events "where you will have a chance to meet high-profile Labour politicians."

The Thousand Club also has tiers - a Vice-President's Tier (2,500 a year) and President's Tier (pounds500). The perks involved in those are rather humdrum - they include a ticket to an 'exclusive' dinner with fellow tier members, a daily media brief, and 'regular communications.'

Haworth has also claimed since Labour is in Opposition no ministers are not involved, unlike National. That is ridiculous.

The whole point of the President's Club is to set up a long-term framework for funding the party from regular donations.

Labour presumably expects to be in Government at some point in the future, at which point it will have ministers and they will likely do what all ministers do - make policy announcements and help to fundraise.

What Labour is trying to say is that 'donor' is only a dirty word when it is a National Party donor.

Those who know Haworth will see some humour in all this. It sounds rather elitist and he is a jovial socialist academic who escaped England to escape Margaret Thatcher and frowns upon things like hierarchy. Now here he is, the Grand Poobah of his very own club of big money donors set in hierarchies according to wealth (or at least generosity).

He is doing what Labour desperately needed to do - setting up a more professional fundraising outfit using its greatest asset (its MPs) - but is trying to pretend it is not doing that at all.

Labour can spare us their blushes. It can not afford to be high and mighty about such fundraising methods. Nor does it need to.

When a donor goes rogue or there is even a slight hint a politician is giving a donor special treatment, it makes a very tempting political target.

Sometimes it is a cheap hit but in other cases there is a genuine need to question it.

Ministers have lost their jobs over such things - Maurice Williamson was forced to resign after he contacted Police for a progress report on an investigation into Donghua Liu.

The disclosure regime now in place is responsible for the apparent increase in instances where questions are raised about donor's links to a political party. Derring do is far more easily caught out.

The evidence that the transparency is working should provide some reassurance about the use of such 'clubs.'

Nor is life always that pleasant for the donors, many of whom give because they can afford to and believe in the party of their choice rather than any expectation of personal return but find themselves the subject of opprobrium.

As National donor Garth Barfoot once pointed out, when it comes to self-interest donating was a hazard rather than a benefit because political parties were sensitive to any perception of doing special favours for its donors.

Labour leader Andrew Little also found that out when he landed in court on trial for defamation for questioning whether there was a link between a donation from hotelier Earl Hagaman to National and the award of a contract to manage a hotel in Niue a month later.