The Dim-Post

July 7, 2012

Fishy

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:24 pm

Stuff details the story broken by The Nation, in which Clayton Cosgrove accepted donations from a company that stood to benefit from a private members bill drafted by Cosgrove:

Cosgrove said he accepted campaign donations from the company but denied taking payments for proposing legislation so that Independent Fisheries would stand to gain financially.

He was asked if he thought there was a conflict of interests by accepting money from a company who stood to benefit from the bill.

”There would have been a conflict of interest from any person and I have people donate money to me in support of all political persuasions,” he said.

”There would be a conflict of interest if it came with preconditions…there would be a very bad look and a lack of judgement if those donations were hidden and not declared.”

He said there was no conflict of interest because the donation came with no preconditions.

In total Cosgrove received $17,500 in donations from Independent Fisheries, all of which were declared, he said.

Here’s the problem: While Clayton Cosgrove knows his own soul and is confident he did nothing wrong, there’s no way for the public to discern between an honest MP who drafts a bill in good faith and just happens to receive a very large donation from a company which benefits from it, and a corrupt MP who takes a payment from a company for drafting a bill. Which is why MPs usually go out of their way to avoid this kind of confusion, and declare conflicts of interests when intersections of money, friendship and legislation pop up.

Labour (rightly) demanded that Nick Smith stop down over the ACC affair, and that John Banks step down over the Sky City donations: I don’t see how they can keep Cosgrove on the front bench.

24 Comments »

  1. Of course it is a conflict of interest. What country are we living in here? When Ministers insist that it’s not a conflict of interest unless there are preconditions to the campaign donations?

    This situation is a conflict of interest. With preconditions it’s called a bribe, Clayton.

    And I think this is the sort of issues that keep on cropping up that any responsible Government would face head on and deal with harshly and without delay. This surpasses those in politics. It even surpasses, at times, police officers; council executives; and Judges and Lawyers. Dishonesty, cutting corners, avoiding our rightful responsibilities as a routine and normal part of life, is something that has seeped very deeply into the soul and the spirit of the average New Zealander. Why else would we have record high youth unemployment, regular taking of bribes by those in positions in authority, and dodgy ethics in the workplace? These workplaces cover everything, from Hospitals to medical clinics, all other areas in the public sector without a doubt, farms, fisheries is of course a big one, construction, the list is just exhaustive unfortunately.

    Comment by Dan Lang — July 7, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

  2. The entire system of allowing donations from corporate interests is vulnerable to this sort of thing. I don’t think the best way to fix it is to start picking on whoever the media feels like beating up on, since this will usually be the most transparent MPs (since it requires less legwork to find their conflicts of interest).

    Comment by pete — July 7, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

  3. by your logic, National would have to step down for passing legislation to help, for example, the land transport forum’s members. you’re basically saying that no-one who stands to gain from a mp or party’s policy mustn’t donate to them

    and your comparisons don’t add up.

    Banks failed to declare a donation – that’s the problem, not that he received donations from skycity and now supports a policy to help it.

    Smith used ministerial power to aid a friend.

    Cosgrove received a donation from a person who would have been one of many to benefit from a members’ bill (which nevergot drawn and hasn’t been in the ballot in a year, btw) – that situation is analogous to Banks getting his donation from skycity and declaring it then supporting the pokies deal – ie, no problem in terms of ethics, law, or constitutional convention.

    what you’re missing for this to be a corruption is any suggestion that cosgrove made a ‘members bill for donations’ deal

    Comment by Deano — July 7, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

  4. *anyone, not no-one

    Comment by Deano — July 7, 2012 @ 8:13 pm

  5. “I have people donate money to me in support of all political persuasions,”

    heh. In order to be politically persuaded to introduce favourable legislation, I require people to donate to me…

    I agree with you. It may be all above board and whatwhat, but there’s no real way to show that there were no strings attached to that donation or to the promise of future donations.

    It’s tough keeping the filthy money from getting all over the politicians, but they gots ta keep lookin and smelling clean if they want to be in the front row of the picture…

    Comment by nommopilot — July 7, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

  6. “what you’re missing for this to be a corruption is any suggestion that cosgrove made a ‘members bill for donations’ deal”

    no suggestion is required, just public perception. and you’re right: money is everywhere in politics and I’m sure that the Land Transport Forum’s money is helping them keep their big fat chunk of taxpayer money without having to find “efficiencies” or ways to “do more with less” (unlike those inefficient swine in the ministries of welfare who never get their rich mates to donate anything to Nationhole). To me that’s not ethical it’s just legitimised corruption.

    money is power and apparently in New Zealand we like our rich people on top…

    Comment by nommopilot — July 7, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

  7. Its fishy, but the timeline isn’t really right. According to his candidate return [PDF]. Cosgrove received donations from Independent Fisheries on 3/11/2009 and 2/6/2011. According to my records of past ballots, his bill was first entered into the ballot four months before the first donation was made, on 2/7/2009. While this doesn’t rule out a “member’s bill for donations” deal, it doesn’t exactly support it.

    Still, it is a clear example of why MPs should be very careful about who they accept money from.

    Comment by Idiot/Savant (@norightturnnz) — July 7, 2012 @ 8:57 pm

  8. What are you smoking Danyl? There is no comparison with anything.

    You really are are turning into a critic without a cause.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — July 7, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

  9. While I tend to think that Cosgrove is mostly an odious tit, you’re pushing it a bit here. This is quite a long way from Nick Smith and Banks.

    Comment by Dr Foster — July 7, 2012 @ 10:52 pm

  10. Ummm, Deano, Cosgrave’s bill does not have to be drawn or passed for corruption to take place. Just like a bank robbery does not have to be attempted or successful for a crime to have occurred (planning a bank job is a crime).

    No-one should give donations to MP’s or parties who are providing a law change that will give direct financial benefit to the donor – its a textbook definition of corruption. It is okay to donate if you do not receive any benefit greater than any other member of the public in your situation (ie it’s okay for a rich guy to give Nats a wad of cash because they like the Nat’s policy of cutting the top tax rate).

    I see no reason why corporates, trusts, and lobby groups should be allowed to donate in politics – criminalise donations from anyone not on the electoral roll🙂 After all, if you can’t stand for election or vote in it, why are you trying to influence it with your cash?

    Comment by bob — July 8, 2012 @ 12:22 am

  11. Like Unions!🙂

    Comment by Tim — July 8, 2012 @ 7:57 am

  12. Bob. you’ve just said that unions shouldn’t help fund labour – they stand to financially benefit from labour’s awards policy. in case you missed it, the unions set up labour to advance their interests in parliament. that’s why we have politiical parties ans mps, to represent the interests of people in the community – those people who choose to financially back mps are always going to be those who think their policies are good.

    if you want to get rid of donations from corporate persons, that’s fine but that’s not the rules now and you can’t single cosgrove out for that.

    Comment by Deano — July 8, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  13. “Why else would we have record high youth unemployment..?”
    Abolition of youth rates..?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — July 8, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  14. Independent Fisheries chief executive Mike Dormer was spokesman for a group of “influential” business leaders who mounted a challenge to Council CEO Tony Marryatt’s reappointment around a year ago, before suddenly going quiet:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/5164911/Old-foe-joins-anti-Marryatt-campaigners

    Nevertheless on his past performance Dormer’s a rather strange bedfellow for the kinder & gentler Cosgrove of recent years, though perhaps not so much for his earlier incarnation as a Mike Moore protege. Here’s Dormer back in the day defending Independent Fisheries’ practice of paying their joint venture Ukrainian crews $4.50 per day:
    “What the Ukrainians get is their employer’s affair. We don’t like being told what to do either. It’s nothing to do with morals or guilt. If it was Rwandans they might be getting $1 a day. We have to do what is cost effective for us.” (Press, 3/10/94)

    Comment by Joe W — July 8, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

  15. @ Tim & Deano – yes! I agree the unions should not be allowed to fund Labour, nor any party. But nor should the EMA or Chambers of Commerce, or the Land Transport Forum or Council for Infrastructure Development be allowed to fund National, say (not claiming they do, just a hypothetical example).

    And Deano, I know union history enough to know Labour was originally the parliamentary wing of worker’s struggle for better rights, but present-day Labour most certainly are not!😦

    And I don’t think any union has substantively benefited from any Labour policy. Nor was I singling Cosgrave out for taking corporate donations – simply pointing out that he has a blatant conflict if he then (pre- or post-donation) puts up a members Bill that advances the interests of that donor…

    Comment by bob — July 8, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

  16. I don’t think any union has substantively benefited from any Labour policy.

    The Employment Relations contestable fund seems like a direct benefit. And of course, there are indirect benefits too: laws around union access to unionised and non-unionised workplaces.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — July 9, 2012 @ 9:14 am

  17. According to my records of past ballots, his bill was first entered into the ballot four months before the first donation was made, on 2/7/2009. While this doesn’t rule out a “member’s bill for donations” deal, it doesn’t exactly support it.

    True I/S.
    However, if you work on the principle that you don’t pay for something until a service is rendered, the it does look a bit tawdry.

    Comment by Gregor W — July 9, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  18. Isn’t there something awkward here though in that it was Clayton’s role to represent the people of Waimakariri, and advance their interests, and presumably many of the people who donate to Clayton will donate to him because they feel he did a good job of representing the Waimak, and advancing its interests?

    I mean, there’s a convention in NZ that local & private bills be introduced by the local MP. It is pretty easy to imagine a case where someone donates money to the local MP having had, or about to, benefit from a local or private bill without there being any corruption whatsoever, just everybody agreeing that for the good of the town X is a great idea, and that wasn’t it great that Y stood up for us?

    Which is inevitably, on the sort of scale involved in NZ, going to lead to bad looks.

    Comment by Keir — July 9, 2012 @ 11:14 am

  19. I agree with the conclusion in the post. If a donation had to happen it should have been to the Labour Party…..not Cosgrove. I understand that large corporate donations are a problem in any context as so many laws in a wide variety of areas may appear to “conflict”. Perhaps these donations should not be allowed at all…and we move to state funding of political parties.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — July 9, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  20. If you don’t think your union should fund Labour, then campaign against that within it’s internal democratic structures.

    Try doing that with the monopoly corporates that fund National..

    Comment by Rich d'Rich (@rich_d_rich) — July 9, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

  21. You can campaign against donations, or whatever, if you are part of the democratic ownership structure that governs those corporates aka shareholders on top of this it is not unknown for consumers to campaign and win on aspects of corporate citizenship they don’t like.

    Comment by merv — July 9, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

  22. merv. I’ve told my Kiwisaver provider how I want them to vote (on my behalf) at this years various AGMs. I’ll let you know when they reply.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — July 9, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

  23. @ Steve – I don’t think we need direct state funding of political parties at all! Mostly what parties need is broadcasting time, which is horrifically expensive. So let the state fund generous broadcast time to parties based on their verified membership and past votes gained in elections. Then let the parties grub for coin from us peasants for the rest of their running costs – keeps ’em at least slightly accountable to us😉

    @ rich – members sadly have about as much democratic control over their union as do small shareholders over a corporate behemoth. Which is why most unions remain affiliated to the CTU and Labour, despite Labour maintaining free market capitalism in their last 9 year stint in power, preferring to shed manufacturing jobs overseas to sweatshops. The ‘why’ is perhaps understood best in context of this post about Cosgrave taking corporate donations…

    Comment by bob — July 10, 2012 @ 1:42 am

  24. If you don’t think your union should fund Labour, then campaign against that within it’s internal democratic structures

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Comment by Phil — July 10, 2012 @ 9:51 am


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