Gareth Morgan is kicking off an unorthodox million-dollar stunt in the hopes of increasing exposure for his party and sticking it to the "establishment".
The Opportunities Party (TOP) leader says he'll give nearly $1 million of his own money to charities if people watch a video on his party's website and vote for a charity they'd like to get the money.
For each vote, Dr Morgan says he will donate $3 to the selected charity.
"Everybody wins. I get profile for The Opportunities Party, the charity gets money, which is by far the most important aspect of it, and it puts it up the establishment in terms of taxpayers' money," Dr Morgan told Newshub.
He says it's hard for new parties to get noticed.
In the lead-up to general elections, the Electoral Commission allocates funds to eligible political parties for political broadcasts. All political ads on radio or television have to paid for using the allocated funding, and must be broadcast after August 23.
In theory that stops parties with wealthy donors disproportionately purchasing airtime in the lead-up to the election, and gives airtime to parties who might otherwise struggle to raise funds.
The funding is divided up between the parties according to size, so the larger parties get a bigger cut. The Opportunities Party will get around $41,000, compared to National's $1.2 million.
By offering to give money to charity in return for people consuming TOP's advertising online, it's possible Dr Morgan has found a bit of a loophole in electoral regulations.
His unusual offer has been condemned by Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, who told Fairfax it is a "gratuitous and cynical way to buy votes".
When that criticism was put to Dr Morgan, he said it's got nothing to do with buying votes.
"We are just trying as a new party to get noticed, and it's really hard, because all the media favours the establishment parties."
Dr Morgan challenged Ms Turei to offer the same deal.
"Why don't you give the half-million that you're getting - or whatever - to charities, like I am? There's nothing stopping these parties doing it. I'm trying to get their heads out of the taxpayers' trough.
"The reality of going into politics is you have to spend money. It's awful. I sort of hate it in a way, because that's not what democracy should be," Dr Morgan said.
"What upsets me is if I didn't have money, I couldn't even enter this game."
The Electoral Commission told Newshub TOP is free to donate money to charity, "so long as any promotion of that complies with the rules for election advertising".
"The commission will pay invoices for production and placement costs for television, radio and internet advertising," a spokesperson said.
Dr Morgan, however, is confident it's compliant - even if he's not so sure it's legal.
"Legal - I dunno about legal, but it's compliant with the Electoral Act, which is the most important thing, because I'm not benefitting from it - the charities are," he told Newshub.
The four charities are Women's Refuge, Lifeline, Conservation Volunteers and Kidscan.
Who gets what in 2017
- The New Zealand National Party $1,285,825
- New Zealand Labour Party $1,036,956
- The Greens, The Green Party of Aotearoa/New Zealand $497,739
- New Zealand First Party $394,043
- Māori Party $124,435
- ACT New Zealand $93,326
- United Future New Zealand $93,326
- Conservative Party of New Zealand $51,848
- Internet Party $51,848
- MANA Movement $51,848
- Ban1080 $41,478
- Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party $41,478
- New Zealand Democratic Party for Social Credit $41,478
- The Opportunities Party (TOP) $41,478
- Universal Party* $37,330
- GOdsownNZ* $37,330
- 1Law4All* $37,330
- Coalition for Common Good* $37,330
- New Zealand Outdoors Party* $37,330
- Alliance Party* $37,330
- The Expatriate Party of New Zealand* $37,330
- New Zealand Independent Parliament* $37,330
* Currently unregistered