Morgan's donations to his own party near $1m

PLUS: The donation history of Mainfreight's angry chairman

Gareth Morgan has donated $900,000 to his own party, according to the latest Electoral Commission filings on donations above $30,000.

Mr Morgan gave $500,000 to TOP on June 16. Over March, April and May he donated a total of $400,000.

TOP got 1% in a recent Colmar Brunton poll, its highest rating so far as its leader pushes attention-grabbing policies on everything from pot to water rights.

PLUS: The donation history of Mainfreight's angry chairman

Notably absent – so far – from the commission’s major donor list is Mainfreight chairman Bruce Plested.

In the run-up to the last election, the $300 million NBR Rich Lister donated $35,000 to National and $100,000 to its coalition partner the Maori Party. Additionally, a company in which Mr Plested is a one-third shareholder, Rorohara Farms, donated $110,000 to the Maori Party.

Mr Plested drew headlines for blasting the government in Mainfreight’s annual report.

In his chairman’s letter to shareholders, he says that housing has become unaffordable and New Zealand's environment is suffering.

 “The market cannot sort out this problem,” he said on housing. On water quality and associated issues he writes, “The problems mentioned here are not fixed by the market.”

The Mainfreight founder blamed recent goverments – plural – for inaction on these issues. How it affects his donations this year has yet to be seen.

The other major donation in June saw the E tu union giving $100,000 to Labour (and although it is not yet recorded by the commission, E tu says it will also give $30,000 to the Greens).

Since NBR last checked in, other donation activity saw retired High Court judge Robert Smellie, QC, donate $100,000 to Labour on May 19.

And on May 15, Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ) donated $150,000 to National. The company exports horses to Mongolia, and races them locally. It is 100% owned by Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (Mongolia) with Lang Lin and Meng Qing serving as its directors.

Donations more crucial this year
Donations matter more this election than last, due to a law change that means TVNZ and RNZ are no longer required to carry free party political broadcasts.

Political parties still get money from taxpayers for general advertising, however, which they can spend on top of whatever they raise through their own fundraising efforts (as long as they stay within total spending caps).

See this year's funding allocations here.

Can't buy me love
Earlier, ACT leader David Seymour told NBR big donations are not necessarily a route to success, and can even be a bad look if a founder is the only one making a major contribution to a party.

His theory stacks up if the last election was anything to go by.

The (then) Conservative Party leader Mr Craig and Internet Party founder Kim Dotcom both donated about $5 million to their own parties during the 2014 election cycle.

The Internet Party, aligned with Mana, received just 1.42% of the vote and the alliance’s only sitting MP, Mana’s Hone Harawira, lost his seat.

The Conservative Party also fell short of the 5% MMP threshold, receiving 3.97% of the list vote, and it did not come within cooee of winning an electorate.

National (47.04% of the vote) raised $2.6 million in the 2014 election cycle while Labour (25.13%) attracted just under $1.27 million in donations – actually slightly behind the Greens (10.70%) who pocketed $1.30 million.

The best bang-for-buck came from the headline-hogging Winston Peters, whose party raised a modest $270,000 but secured 8.66% of the vote.

Looking north, we see that Hillary Clinton's campaign raised around $US1.19 billion for her US presidential election bid, or roughly double that of the Trump campaign.

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