Conservatives finish top of big donor table as Days chip in another $750K in final week
UPDATE / Sept 25: Sorry Kim, in the end you didn't even top the big money race.
The Internet Party's final tally of $30,000-plus donations was $3.55 million — almost all from its founder (and I'm not counting the $1 million Dotcom claims to have spent outside of official returns filed with the Electoral Commission).
That put the party even with the Conservatives.
But in the final week, Colin Craig's party got another two big donations: one from its leader, for $50,000, and another $750,000 from Hamilton couple Laurence and Katrina Day (Mr Day is a shareholder in recently listed Intueri Education Group). The Days have donated $1.43 million ot the Conservatives over the past 12 months.
That took the party's big donation total to a whopping $4.3 million — or about $43 a vote assuming the Conservatives get roughly a 4% of specials.
Of course, as history has already recorded, money can't buy you love.
Dotcom not only spent $577 for every extra vote Mana received over 2011 (vs the major parties' $2 to $3, and NZ First's next-to-nothing). He also achieved what Labour and other rivals failed to do across three elections and a by-election: he ruined Hone Harawira's career.
While Internet Mana finished with a miserable 1.26% of the vote, the Conservatives lifted from 2011's 2.65% to 4.12%. The party missed the MMP threshold, but Mr Craig billed it as solid progress for a three-year-old party. The vote increase did at least give him some material to spin with.
Labour and National get most of their money from sub $30,000 donations, so we won't know their tally (and what Intenet Mana and the Conservatives actually spent from the funds they collected), until they file receipts.
But there was an interesting footnote in the final donation returns: NBR Rich Lister couple Earl and Lani Hagaman took a split vote approach, so to speak. Earl donated $100,000 to National while his wife Lani swung a little further to the right, giving $35,000 to ACT.
Another big Dotcom donation sees Internet Mana pull even with Conservatives
UPDATE / Sept 4: Internet Mana has pulled even with the Conservatives in the race to attract big donations.
Kim Dotcom has chipped in another $250,000, taking his total donations to $3.50 million. His party has also received its first major outside support, with just under $50,000 from billboard company M5 (see below), putting its total haul from big donors at $3.55 million — even-stevens with Colin Craig's Conservative Party.
Centre right commentator David Farrar argues Internet Mana is ahead if you count the $1 million Dotcom claims to have spent before the party was registered, but I'm going by the official Electoral Commission records only. Who knows how much the bragging matched the facts ahead of that time.
The Commission requires a donation to have actually been received by a party, not merely pledged, a spokeswoman told NBR ONLINE yesterday. However, it's worth noting that a couple of donors, including Spoon and M5 — see below — tell NBR they've donated services in kind rather than cash).
It's also worth noting that money helps, obviously. But neither does it buy elections (see cost-per-vote 2011 election table at the end of this story).
In the latest polls, Internet Mana is stuck around 2%, which puts a huge focus on whether Hone Harawira can hold off Kelvin Davis' challenge in Te Tai Tokerau (the Labour candidate came within a whisker last time). It'll be intriguing to see if Mr Harawira's better resourced campaign this time around helps him get over the line this time around, or whether he's hurt by the Mana backlash over Dotcom (Sue Bradford leaving, Georgina Beyer sniping, general flak over Harawira doing a u-turn on decrimilisation of cannabis to bring himself into line with the giant German's thinking).
I'm expecting Dotcom's September 15 "Moment of Truth" rally a the Auckland Town Hall to have lavish production values. But even if the Internet Party founder drops a bombshell on the PM as promised, I'm not sure how much cut through GCSB and mansion raid issues have in Mr Harawira's hard-scrabble electorate.
Monster donations see Conservatives pull ahead of Internet Mana in big money race
Sept 2: The Conservatives have pulled ahead of Internet Mana in the race to raise big donations — albeit with a little help from the boss.
Under the Electoral Act (1993), political parties are required to report all donations over $30,000, which are in turn made public by the Commission.
The latest disclosure statements have Conservative leader Colin Craig donating $350,000 to his own party ($250,000 on August 21 and $100,000 on August 27).
The Conservatives have now raised $3.55 million since the last election, although $1.62 million has been spent retiring debt left over from the 2011 campaign (where the big-spending party got 2.65% of the vote).
The bulk of the money has come from Mr Craig, but Hamilton couple Laurence and Katrina Day have chipped in $675,000 over the past year. Mr Day is a shareholder in recently listed Intueri Education Group.
Internet Party money shuffled across to Internet Mana
The latest disclosures also show the Internet Party (which has raised $3.25 million from founder Kim Dotcom) donating a total of $616,747.95 to Internet Mana between July 24 and August 11.
The money has helped formerly cash-strapped Mana and its leader Hone Harawira, who is in a close-fought race with Labour's Kelvin Davis for Te Tai Tokerau.
However, some commentators have asked if it's more than a coincidence that Mr Harawira has suddenly dropped his longtime opposition to the decriminalisation of cannabis, bringing his personal view into line with Dotcom's Internet Party (the Mana leader denies any link).
Internet Mana also broke tradition by receiving its first big donation not from Kim Dotcom as billboard company M5 supported it to the tune of $39,479.50. The company manager was not immediately available, but a former staffer told NBR the donation was in the form of discounted rates on M5's billboards, not cash.
Union money for Labour, Spoon cash for Greens
Elsewhere, Labour received $40,000 from the Dairy Workers Union on August 29.
National was donated $500,000 by the estate of Christchurch businessman Cyril Smith.
Mainfreight chairman Bruce Plested made a personal $100,000 donation to the Maori Party. It came on top of an earlier $110,000 from Rorohara Farms Ltd, a company owned by Mr Plested.
And the Greens got $48,295 of support from Grey Lynn, Auckland production company Spoon. The company tells NBR it did production work for the Greens totalling $48,295 rather than donating cash.
Is the spending paying off?
Curiablog's latest poll-of-polls (as of Sept 2) has:
- National: 49.1% (61 seats)
- Labour 26.1% (33)
- Greens 12.2% (15)
- NZ First 5.2% (6)
- Conservatives: 3.1% (0)
- Internet Mana: 2.4% (3 - assuming Hone Harawira wins Te Tai Tokerau)
- ACT: 1.4% (1 - assuming David Seymour wins Epsom)
- Maori Party: 0.8% (3 - assuming it holds all its current electorates)
- United Future 0.1% (1 - assuming Peter Dunne wins Ohariu)
Money helps of course. Just ask Hone Harawira who didn't have two beans to rub together in his close 2011 race against Labour's Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau. In 2014, Internet Mana is all flash vehicles, flash events, paid support staff and high production values everything.
But as the Conservatives found in 2011, it can only take you so far. The party stalled half way to the 5% threashold.
NZ First, by contrast, raised next to nothing, but cruised to 6.3% as Winston Peters gleefully exploited comments made around a certain cup of tea. You can't buy media smarts, and alley cat instincts.
Here's David Farrar's Kiwiblog crunch of party spending per vote in 2011, based on Electoral Commission returns: