Paying 'club' gets access to National MPs

  • 06/05/2014

3 News can reveal details about a fundraising network used by the National Party to get donations in exchange for access to MPs and ministers.

The Green Party is calling it a secret racket, but because the donations are declared there are no rules broken.

The first rule of Cabinet Club is you do not talk about Cabinet Club. Four National MPs 3 News spoke with said they were not sure what it was.

The National Party holds 42 electorate seats which fundraise through functions.

Supporters pay a fee or donation to the party to attend three or four "informal luncheon/breakfast get-togethers". They get access to ministers who attend, though the party claims "not in a ministerial capacity".

MPs choose how their Cabinet Clubs are run. It's what National MP Nick Smith calls "pizza politics".

"People pay to belong to it and we have a luncheon or interaction with ministers who are visiting," says Cabinet minister Anne Tolley.

According to the ministerial bible, the Cabinet Manual, "accepting additional payment for doing anything regarded as a ministerial function is not permissible".

"No, they don't raise money when I'm around," says National MP Steven Joyce. "I just go to all sorts of groups to talk."

"It's about interacting with people of all persuasions," says Dr Smith.

"They can ring up anytime, they can make an appointment anytime," says Cabinet minister Bill English. "There's no suggestion of cash for access."

"I think we know enough about the rules to know you don't play that game," says Cabinet minister Chris Finlayson.

The National Party won't say how much it makes from Cabinet Club. Donations between $1500 and $15,000 are declared but anonymous.

National received 185 anonymous donations in that threshold last year, raising $866,000.

But raising money this way isn't against the rules. It does however show the well-oiled network through which the National Party collects its cash, raising more questions about paying for face time with ministers and what's in it for those Cabinet Club members who pay.

3 News

source: newshub archive