The Labour Party is refusing to release details of the donations its three leadership contestants received in the leadership contest last year and can escape the usual disclosure rules for donations the contestants subsequently passed on to the party.

The rules of the contest last September required the contestants to disclose to the party hierarchy any donations of more than $1500.

David Cunliffe, Grant Robertson and Shane Jones were also required to give any unspent donations to the party after the contest.

There was a spending cap of $30,000 for each contestant.


Mr Robertson was the only one who initially said he would be happy for the return to be released provided his two colleagues did the same and only donations of more than $1500 were disclosed. He later declined to do so after discussing it with Labour's general secretary Tim Barnett. A spokesman for Mr Cunliffe referred the issue to Mr Barnett, who said the party would not release the returns even with their consent because all three had originally agreed to confidentiality.

Asked if that was hypocritical given the Labour Party had introduced stricter donation disclosures for general elections and criticised National for its lack of transparency, Mr Barnett said it was for an internal party procedure rather than an election.

He would not say how much was passed on to the party's coffers but said if any candidates provided more than the disclosable limit of $15,000 for party donations, it would be declared in its return in April. Any such donations would be declared as from the contestant rather than the donors who originally gave the money.

The Electoral Commission confirmed Labour would not have to disclose the original donors because the donations were for an internal party matter rather than an election. In effect, that process could allow Labour to get around donation disclosure rules by filtering significant donations through a leadership contestant, although Mr Barnett said that was not the intention.

In a bid to prevent National filtering donations anonymously by using trusts, Labour introduced new donations disclosure rules in 2005.

Money trail
* Labour will not disclose donations leadership contenders received.
* Contestants had to pass all unspent donations on to the party.
* Any donations of more than $15,000 will be disclosed as from the contestant, rather than donor.
* Electoral laws do not apply because it was not an election.