Peters confident of position over donation
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters says he has legal advice that there is no need for him to declare donations to his legal action fund under electoral law or parliamentary and ministerial rules.
The National Party Deputy Leader Bill English has said Prime Minister Helen Clark should say whether she believed Mr Peters acted "ethically and responsibly in meeting his disclosure obligations as a minister in her Government" in the wake of revelations expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn donated $100,000 towards his legal action fund.
Mr Peters told NZPA in his first one-on-one interview since the donation was revealed that there was a "huge difference" between a legal action fund and other political funds.
Under the laws at the time political donations of more than $10,000 had to be declared even if they were anonymous.
MPs are also required to declare donations and financial interests.
Ministers are also bound by Cabinet rules about receiving gifts and how they handle factors that could be seen to influence their decision making.
Mr Peters argued that neither he nor New Zealand First benefited from the legal actions or the funds put it into it.
Mr Peters has strenuously denied any knowledge of the donation before the Friday night phone call from his lawyer Brian Henry told him one had been made.
This lack of knowledge meant he could not declare it before and Mr Peters did not believe Mr Henry had to declare them either.
Asked by NZPA if he should declare them now, Mr Peters replied: "I asked my lawyer about that and the answer is no. Because it is not a campaign issue it is a straight legal cost."
The solicitors account was controlled by the Law Society, he said.
"It is not a trust fund in that respect. It is purely used to pay legal costs."
He said National were talking "unadulterated drivel".
"This is an outgoing, an impost, a cost to fight a legal battle on an action to do with democracy," Mr Peters said.
The legal fund was set up in 1991 when Mr Peters became involved in a series of legal actions.
The most notable of these were relating to the winebox scams.
Mr Peter said an anonymous fund was set up to protect the identity of those who wanted to help fight the cases.
He said people tried to shut him down with defamation actions during the winebox case.
"Many people wanted to help but didn't want to be known because of their business interests or the fact they might become victims of a campaign against them," Mr Peters said.
Mr Peters said he did not gain financially from those cases and the shortfall had cost him "plenty".
"The fact is in the mass of cases I had, where you are paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The bulk of that I met all myself and I don't quite know how that benefits me and conversely my children would think very differently."
Mr Glenn's money has been directly linked to Mr Peters' attempt to overturn National MP Bob Clarkson's election night victory in Tauranga in 2005.
Asked if this action was taken to benefit both Mr Peters and his party (If he had won Mr Peters would have become the local MP), Mr Peters said it was not the point of the case.
It was about how candidates declared expenses.
"I was confronting a crime punishable seriously by law and I set out and found out for the first time ever, that unlike every other party that had given advice to every candidate over decades about having to declare fair and actual costs, this court said he (Mr Clarkson) could have mates rates."
Asked if he had or NZ First had not benefited as it would have had paid $100,000 more without Mr Glenn's donation, Mr Peters replied: "No it doesn't work like that".
In a statement on Friday night , Mr Peters said Mr Henry had decided to break the anonymity rules over the fund and told him Mr Glenn had donated "a sum in the order of $100,000" towards the legal costs of the Tauranga electoral petition.
Some have linked Mr Glenn's donation with his desire to become the honorary consul in Monaco, but this has been dismissed by Mr Peters.