NZH EDITORIAL

Now that some time has elapsed since the troubled MP Jami-Lee Ross went to the police with accusations of electoral finance impropriety against his former party, it needs to be acknowledged that National has some explaining to do.

Ross's ulterior motive in making the accusations may be transparent, and the way he went about trying to entrap National's leader Simon Bridges, reprehensible. But that is water under the bridge that Ross has crossed never to return.

His career in the National Party is over and if he survives next year's election, it could be in the ranks of NZ First whose leader loses no opportunity to support him in his accusations against National.

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But NZ First's survival at the election hangs in the balance and it probably will not have an electable position for Ross on its list. The voters of Botany will decide his future in Parliament and he appears to have little to gain besides vengeance by pursuing his financial allegations.

But they are important. The police have passed the information he provided to the Serious Fraud Office which will decide whether to investigate a $100,000 donation which was divided into smaller amounts, presumably so that it would not have to be identified as a single donation in party financial disclosures required under the Electoral Act.

Ross has claimed the donation was made by a Chinese businessman, Yikun Zwang, at a dinner with Bridges in May last year and that Bridges asked Ross to split it into smaller amounts.

Bridges has confirmed attending the dinner where, he said Zwang, "told me he and his supporters wanted to donate a large sum of money, I think around $100,000. I thanked him and made it clear that is something Jami-Lee Ross should deal with".

Bridges says he did not tell anyone to split the sum into smaller amounts, an assurance he repeated this week after reading the police announcement.

"On the face of it, it seems to be about the National Party," he added. "I think there are questions for them to answer and you'd hope in due course they'll do that."

Indeed, we do. This is not the first time the public has heard an allegation of this sort.

Former National MP and Auckland Mayor John Banks was accused by Kim Dotcom of suggesting a $50,000 donation to Banks 2010 mayoral re-election campaign be split in two for anonymity.

Banks was eventually acquitted of a charge of filing a false return but the fact remained the source of the donation had not been identified.

Likewise, regardless of who may be at fault, Zwang's donation to National last year is said to have been split into eight smaller sums for the purposes of anonymity.

Nobody has suggested it was done at the donor's suggestion or insistence.

Anonymity serves the interests of the receiving party probably more often than it matters to the donor.

The party naturally wants to avoid the accusation it is beholden to any individual or corporate supporter.

But that is exactly the reason public disclosure of large donors is required.

If the National Party is not meeting the spirit of its public obligations in this regard, it deserves to be disgraced.