Labour, the party that brought us the Electoral Finance Act, has been busted laundering donations and misleading over who the true donors are:
The Labour Party is hiding tens of thousands of dollars in donations behind over-inflated art auctions – and naming the artists as donors instead of the secret individuals handing over the big bucks.
The artists had no idea the party was naming them as the donors – they never saw a cent of the money. They say their works are auctioned off at well above market value to wealthy benefactors who want to keep their support for the party secret.
Labour says the practice complies with electoral rules. But one party operative described the practice as “whitewashing” – a way to keep big donations private at a time when corporate contributions to political parties were falling because of public scrutiny.
“What’s the value of a painting?” the operative asked. “It’s hard to put a price on it, not like a car or an airfare or something that can easily be valued. But a painting can’t be valued, and that’s exactly how auctions are used to launder the money.”
Naming someone other than the true donor should be fraud. They are signing statutory declarations that the donations was received by someone who had no idea that they were named as a donor.
Labour has hosted at least three art auctions in the past year – two in Auckland and one in Wellington – selling pieces from esteemed artists such as Dick Frizzell, Bill Hammond and Judy Millar.
The works were assigned valuations before going under the hammer, where they sometimes sold for thousands of dollars more.
After sale, the values were recorded as party donations from the artist – even though the artist never saw the money and often had no idea what was going on.
The difference from any auction price remained secret unless it surpassed the $15,000 disclosure threshold. So, the party could sell a painting valued at $20,000 for up to $34,999 before anyone other than the artist was disclosed as a donor.
Two such artists have appeared on Electoral Commission returns this month, listed as giving donations exceeding $30,000. Neither had seen a cent of the money, and neither was aware the donation had been listed in their name.
That is just dishonest, misleading and thumbing their nose at electoral laws.
Wellington artist Karl Maughan provided Labour with two paintings for auction in the last year. He said he gave them to campaign staffer Barbara Ward, who works for Labour leader Jacinda Ardern.
“Once I’ve given them the painting, that’s it, I don’t have anything to do with it then,” he said.
Maughan said he was a Labour supporter and understood his paintings were being sold to raise funds, but questioned the transparency of the process.
“I didn’t know they used my name when declaring the donation,” he said. “I guess the donation should be in the person’s name who bought it because it’s their money.”
One of his paintings was listed as selling at auction last month for $36,000, he said, a “few thousand more” than it usually would.
Dead right. The real donor should be named.
Labour hasn’t yet declared who the donors were behind Matt McCarten’s slave Labour scam either.
Auckland artist Stanley Palmer also provided artwork. According to the Electoral Commission register he had donated more than $39,000 to Labour since June.
“I suppose it’s from both the artist and the buyer. Labour get something and I end up with nothing.”
Palmer said he unaware he had been listed as a big party donor, but wasn’t concerned by the disclosure.
Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton said the party usually notified artists like Maughan and Palmer if their names were made public.
“It’s so bloody complicated. Barbara is often in touch with them. I know in the past that’s been the case. I’m not sure exactly what’s gone on in this situation, but usually we’d let people know if they’d tipped over the $30,000 disclosure limit. And a lot of them are aware of the situation.”
Artworks could sell for more or less than market value, Kirton said. Some buyers paid more than $15,000 above market price at auction and were disclosed in the party’s annual returns.
The party consulted art dealers, and sometimes the artist themselves, to set a price for each artwork, Kirton said. Considering that amount to be a donation from the artist was fair, he added.
“Those are the rules at the moment . . . A donation can be cash or it can be goods or services in kind.
“In this case it’s a piece of art and it’s basically what they would usually get if they gave it to a dealer who then sold it at auction. Whatever the artist gets back, that’s essentially what they’re forgoing in income by donating the piece to us and therefore that’s what we record from their end.
“It’s sort of similar to some of our local party members will bake a cake or sell little badges at a market stall somewhere. People are buying them for $2 or whatever, they’re not really donating. The concept of selling things at market value is not new. Essentially an auction is probably a more exacerbated form of that.”
More weasel excuses from Andrew Kirton, who is yet to properly answer questions over Labour’s slave labour scam.
And the scam on these donations goes right to the top, with the missus of David Parker, who also works in Jacinda’s office deeply involved in the laundering scam.
Wellington artist Karl Maughan is listed as donating $60,000 to the Labour Party in less than a year, the proceeds from the sale of two of his paintings.
This month he was listed as donating $36,000 to Labour’s election campaign, slightly more than the $24,000 he pledged in October last year.
“My friend Barbara Ward is a woman who works for the Labour Party in Auckland,” he said. “I give her a painting which goes up for auction at Labour event and whatever the painting makes is donated to the Labour Party.
“I’ve always been a supporter of Labour, I like their policies and what they stand for so I’m keen to help out where I can.
“I have donated before, always through auctioning off one of my paintings.
“I was already donating before Jacinda was in, but now she is in I think it’s fantastic. I feel good that it might happen for Labour this time around – I hope it does.”
He said he handed over the paintings to Barbara Ward, who was the partner of Labour frontbencher David Parker and helped run Jacinda Ardern’s campaignsin Auckland.
“I just give them a painting and say ‘here, go for it’. I tend not to go to auctions for my own work, it feels weird being there because sometimes it sells, sometimes it doesn’t.
“I’m not sure who attends these auctions, I guess Labour has certain people who are really keen supporters of the party and are keen, I’m guessing, into giving to the party.
“I didn’t know they used my name when declaring the donation. I guess the donation should be in the person’s name who bought it because it’s their money. But I guess I have given them the painting to sell so I don’t know.
“I don’t mind they are using my name on the donations list, I’ve never said anything different, but they should probably identify who it was that donated the money. I hope they do tell you who it was.
“Once I’ve given them the painting that’s it, I don’t have anything to do with it then.”
Maughan’s painting he gave for the July auction sold for $36,000, which he says it sold for “a few thousand more” than it would usually would.
“It was a painting I had already here, I didn’t paint it for the auction particularly.”
Labour have been busted and frankly Jacinda Ardern’s claims about needing “a balance between transparency and bureaucracy” is rather hollow from the party that introduced the Electoral Finance Act. Labour are being sneaky and furtive about their financing. They need to come clean.