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Key under fire for Antoine’s donations

Prime Minister John Key faces charges of hypocrisy from his political opponents for receiving $165,000 of donations from Auckland’s exclusive Antoine’s restaurant owned by celebrity chef and National Party supporter Tony Astle.

The donations, of $105,000 and $60,000, date back to two dinners prior to the last election and were publicly disclosed by the National Party to the Electoral Commission and reported in the media in 2010 and 2011.

On TV3’s The Nation this morning, Mr Key was asked to reconcile accepting the Antoine’s donations with his criticisms of Labour leader David Cunliffe’s secret TR Trust.

Mr Key denied any wrong doing saying “people buying tables at a dinner is absolutely standard”.

However, on the left-leaning blog, The Standard, closely linked to Mr Cunliffe through his lawyer and electorate official Greg Presland, who writes under the pseudonym “mickeysavage” and is a trustee of Mr Cunliffe’s TR Trust, there are calls for Mr Key to repay the $165,000 or name who was at the dinners.

It is understood Mr Cunliffe is considering issuing a similar demand.*

But political commentator and NBR columnist Matthew Hooton, like Mr Key a regular at Antoine’s, says the two situations are not comparable.

“The Antoine’s thing is more a case of an eccentric restaurateur taking it upon himself to raise funds for National, than anything to do with Mr Key or the party,” Mr Hooton said.

“He rings round his friends, arranges a dinner, charges usurious amounts, invites Mr Key and then passes on some of the profits to the party.

“That’s really very different from Mr Cunliffe’s secret TR Trust or National’s dodgy old Waitamata Trust, where donors were directed by the party to the trust as a way of laundering donations.

“In fact, if each of the people at one of these dinner had been asked to write a $5000 cheque to National rather than to Antoine’s, each of them would have been below the threshold for disclosure so we wouldn’t know about it all.

“It was only because Mr Astle was acting privately, and aggregating the money, that the $15,000 threshold was breached and National quite rightly publicly disclosed his donations.” 

Mr Astle is refusing to comment but NBR understands he plans similar personal fund-raising efforts in the lead up to this year’s election.

He has previously been reported as saying he “loves” Mr Key who has been a customer for more than 20 years.

Labour's undisclosed event
It has also emerged today that Labour charged individuals $1000 a head to dine with an arch-critic of Mr Key, actor Sir Ian McKellen.  

Neither the donations nor the dinner were disclosed to the Electoral Commission because the rules do not require it.

* So far Labour has limited itself to an attack by front bencher Chris Hipkens, who said earlier today:

"John Key can’t claim that people donating to the campaigns of Labour leadership contenders somehow have a secret agenda but duck for cover when it comes to revealing those donating thousands of dollars to the National Party, Labour MP Chris Hipkins says.

“It’s utter hypocrisy for John Key to try to establish a new level of transparency for donations to Labour and then resort to technicalities when questioned about donations he has assisted the National Party in soliciting.

“He is being tricky. The same standards must apply to National.

“For decades the National Party has raked in millions of dollars in anonymous donations using trusts to hide the true identity of donors. It’s a bit rich for them to start throwing around accusations about secret agendas now."

Comments and questions

That's really funny. So unlike Cunliffe's attempt to launder donations through a secret Trust account in order to protect the names of his oh so secret backers, Key is accused of hypocrisy by the Left because he went to a dinner party at a restaurant that everybody knew was taking place to raise funds for the National Party, and that was subsequently declared as it is supposed to be.

So where's the secret? Did they all wear Guy Fawkes (Anonymous) masks including the Prime Minister? (It would be a bit difficult to eat the profiteroles through that) Was there a coded knock to get through the door that only approved people knew?

Well, if anything, at least they didn't hold the dinner at TVNZ. That's a Labour Party trick.

So, David B, you presumably know each attendee's identity?

Even more silliness, not even a ripple in a tea cup....

All I can say is our dinner was special for special people - not a doggy bag affair

Len & friend were not there, nor was David or Shane

I doubt that any other party will have much to say about this. They all run similar functions, dinners, auctions etc. for that matter. And it's all pretty transparent - so where's the problem?

It's sad how much the hard left are now just clutching at straws to try and deflect attention away from Tricksey Cunliffe.

So sad money buys votes. This definitely wins political friends.. i.e. giving them a large sums of money.

Do favours ever get called in?, the public asks, not without reason.

Once upon a time New Zealanders actually supported political parties by paying a membership fee.

It's a sign of the times they no longer want to, for very good reason.
So the money of the already well-off money is doing the support- and the talking...

Money talks, bulls**T walks....the more money you raise, the higher you go in your political party list ranking, understood by all party members, but not "written in stone".

"He has previously been reported as saying he “loves” Mr Key who has been a customer for more than 20 years."
Yes, well he won't be organising one for D.Cunliffe will he?

Pathetically sad and sadly pathetic from Labour.

Labour should exhume Michael J Savage grave, re-bury under Fraser House and with all the spinning in his grave, they'd have a perpetual motion generatior capable of supplying half of Wellington with renewable, power.

Labour is grasping at so many straws that their scarecrow is crying out, "Enough, already!"

Amazed at Labour's inability not to know what happens in its own backyard first. I believe every party has the right to fundraise and fundraising comes in many formats.

Labour needs to concentrate on policy and vision - NZ knows John Key and National are about business and operational matters and Labour is about social cures - at the moment the business model is solving our social cure overall - so unless Labour starts taking vision - not only are they dead in the water they are also going to be absolutely gone as a party much like the alliance. They will be rebranded under union rules and be a marginal party with an annual support of around 10-20%.

They will be overtaken by a more radical left wing thinking group of people who are socially minded - this carry on by Labour and media is the death-kneel.

Expect Shane Jones to break-away and create a new left wing party which will take centre left and NZ First party voters. 10-15% support by 2017 and head to 25% by 2020.

Helen Clark started the rot - Grant Roberston moved it to the minority and the unions destroyed it by funding the fall. David C only had one mirror in the house unfortunately.

I am sad for my mum and dad who were life long Labour supporters

Yes. There's something in this. It'll be interesting to see how the Greens position themselves. Because they are in growth mode, they are therefore more reliant on swing voters than the other two big parties (i.e. they have a greater proportion of voters who have never voted for them before).

They have to ask themselves which side of Labour do those votes come from. Currently, they get it from both sides.

Which means that if Jones wants to be Labour's alternative, he'd better get on with it. Plus it'd be shame for your mum and dad - and the party - if Jones has the same career that Anderton did.

Anyway, Cunliffe's right. The election won't be won by a single party, and hasn't since 1993. It'll be won by a coalition. Remember that thing we have called an electoral system?

So to summarize :

Labour is now saying they will not do any fund raising dinners, auctions etc unless those attending disclose their 'donations'?

That is, Labour forthwith will file the names of individuals who attend fund raising functions?

Talk about shooting themselves double barrel in their own crotches!

Who exactly is advising Labour? Whoever it is needs some lessons on how to bury an issue. If Labour want Cunliffes fund raising activities to quietly disappear, 'then least said soonest mended'.

Silly me. I thought all political parties have fund raising functions.

Politicians (of all "colours") really are so childish these days. And they are the front face of our country (faceless bureaucrats (many who are less than competent) actually run/manage us) No wonder we are not making any significant progress. 3rd world here we come !

The most important question here (which all the politically astute seem to have overlooked) is what was on the menu?

The Nats are doing well with cups of tea, dinners (Sky City included) and a glass of milk.