Team Gash donations under the spotlight over campaign office

THE Election Funding Authority has undertaken to consider points raised in a complaint about Team, Gash political donations as it conducts its routine audit into election funding for the period ended June 2013.

The complainant has alleged a prima facie case against the group related to the Team Gash campaign office in Junction Court based on information contained in the electoral return of lead candidate now Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash.

“The return discloses $500 paid to ‘Macey Insurance’ for the ‘use of rooms’ at 144 Junction Street Nowra from 7 July 2012-14 September 2012.” This made the rent on the shopfront $50 per week.

A recent advertisement for the shop offers it at $24,989 per annum, or $480 per week. 

The complaint contends that the rent charged for the shopfront exceeds the $1000 limit on in-kind donations under Section 96D of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act.

“Clearly, there has been a significant and indirect campaign

contribution for ‘inadequate consideration’ for the provision of office accommodation, which is unlawful under the Act,” the complaint stated.

Team Gash campaign manager Eve Craddock confirmed there was a disclosure of $500 expenditure for the shopfront paid to Macey Insurance but said this was a clerical error and has since been amended.

“It should have read JW and MH Macey, who own the building. It has nothing to do with Macey Insurance.

“I was in such a hurry to get the returns in on time – it was a typo of my own making,” she said.

Mrs Craddock said she had been asked by the Election Funding Authority to confirm the error and was in the process of writing a letter to that effect. 

Cr Gash said she welcomed any investigation into her campaign donations.

“Go ahead, I have nothing to hide. We received no donations.”

As for the complaint and the recent call by Shoalhaven Greens councillor Amanda Findley to have the Team Gash donations and expenditure investigated, Mrs Gash said, “I don’t know what they’re trying to prove”.

In making her call for the probe last Friday, Cr Findley said past political decisions had been influenced by donations.

“There are strict rules to reduce donations that need to be followed about who can make and how much a donation is to a political campaign,” she said. 

“Political donations are not just money, but goods for raffles and in-kind contributions. 

“It is unlawful to accept a donation ‘in kind’ (whether free or discounted) valued at more than $1000 for office accommodation, vehicles, computers, other equipment or advertising. 

“If you or I want to rent the Macey space at commercial rates it is $24,989 pa or $2082 per month. Even if giving the benefit of doubt that only half of the space was used it is still commercially valued at $1041 per month, a big difference from $500 for a declared two-month period.

“On face value it appears that the rule for accepting in-kind donations for office accommodation has also been violated. The Electoral Funding Authority needs to investigate the Team Gash returns and let the community know the results of its investigations,” Cr Findley said.

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