I think we can probably start to ask some serious questions around our political funding rules.

There is some coverage emerging internationally over this government's lack of leadership around the NZ First Foundation. It wasn't helped by the fact the Prime Minister was overseas, and when she heads to places like Australia they focus on us and what's going on here.

The Government will ban most foreign donations to political parties and candidates
Premium - Editorial: Clouds over political donations need dispersal
Premium - Claire Trevett: Political donations - just a quid, or a quid-pro-quo?
Others likely to follow Telecom in ending political donations


Two themes emerged. One, too many of our political parties have issues around funding. Two, the Prime Minister won't do anything about it.

It's only just March of election year, and already we have SFO charges in court over Jami-Lee Ross and donations to the National Party. The SFO is looking into the New Zealand First foundation. And the SFO is looking into the funding of Lianne Dalziel in Christchurch.

You can toss in the Vernon Tava accusations last week if you like. Not in the same league given he's barely a party, but hardly an example of above-the-board operation if the claims are accurate.

Now, if the SFO comes out in the Dalziel case and the Peters case and says nothing to see, and the charges against Ross and his mates don't stand up, then maybe it's a storm in a tea cup. But what is clear, is that the rules are open to at the very least some large question marks.

The trouble is, if you accept things look potentially shady, what do you do?

Or could we argue that the system we run isn't perfect but at least there are checks and balances in place to call out and deal to those who break them?

The NZ First foundation money, for example. So person A gives $50,000 to the Foundation. They do it in different company names, to avoid name disclosure. That's not illegal. Should it be?

Obviously the connection between a foundation and a party is the real issue here. But the inference is, do people you don't know the identity of give money to parties in return for movement on policy?


And most importantly if they do, can you ever prove it? Or do people simply give to a variety of causes, one of which is a political party, as part of their desire to promote democracy?

Mike Hosking. File photo / Michael Craig
Mike Hosking. File photo / Michael Craig

Mostly, it's the latter, because not everyone is Machiavellian. But if these rules aren't up to much, should we go for public funding? You get what you get, and that's that.

Or should we go American style, and rich people can spend what they want and you have Super PACs and money flowing like water. The answer is, there is no answer.

It's like MMP. It's a system, it's not perfect, but neither is anything else.

What we do know is, under the system we do run, too much of it appears to be in front of the Feds, and that's not a good look.