Peters' admission 'embarrassing'

Winston Peters' admission that expatriate billionaire Owen Glenn donated $100,000 towards his legal costs is "embarrassing" for the New Zealand First leader, but it is unlikely he broke any rules, Prime Minister Helen Clark says .

ACT leader Rodney Hide has said he will complain today to Speaker Margaret Wilson over the donation, which he said Mr Peters benefited from and should have been declared under Parliament's rules.

But Mr Peters said yesterday he had legal advice there was no need for him to declare the donation or others to his legal action fund under electoral law or parliamentary and ministerial rules.

Miss Clark today backed that position and said she accepted his statement that he only found out about the donation from his lawyer on Friday night.

However she said that was an embarrassing situation after Mr Peters had denied for days he had received anything from Mr Glenn, who is also one of Labour's largest donors.

"Obviously it's embarrassing for Mr Peters because he had been very adamant that that money had not gone to him or his party," she said on TVNZ's Breakfast programme.

"In his position I'd be embarrassed if that was what I was told after making clear denials.

"However there is a distinction between whether someone gives to a party, whether someone gives to a person and whether someone gives to their expenses."

But the donation did not appear to have broken any rules, she said.

"In the event of course it appears to have gone into his legal fighting fund and that of course isn't specifically mentioned as a pecuniary interest in the rules that members of Parliament have to follow," she said.

"A legal defence fund is one thing. Someone giving you money for your own purposes or electoral purposes is another and Mr Peters would not be the first member of Parliament to have people contributing to legal costs."

She cited National MP Nick Smith as another who had received contributions.

Mr Hide told Radio New Zealand Mr Peters should have declared the donation because he had benefited personally from it because if it had not been paid Mr Peters would have had to pick up the tab.

Mr Peters yesterday told NZPA there was a "huge difference" between a legal action fund and other political funds.

Mr Peters argued that neither he nor New Zealand First benefited from the legal actions or the funds put it into it. Also, it was not a campaign issue, but rather a straight legal cost.

The legal fund was set up in 1991 when Mr Peters became involved in a series of legal actions. The most notable of these were relating to the winebox scams.

Mr Peters said he did not gain financially from those cases and the shortfall had cost him "plenty".

Mr Glenn's money has been directly linked to Mr Peters' attempt to overturn National MP Bob Clarkson's election night victory in Tauranga in 2005.

Asked if this action was taken to benefit both Mr Peters and his party, he said it was not the point of the case, which aimed to test the law.

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