Who was behind £425k donation for Leave ads?
THERESA MAY’S partners in government, the Democratic Unionist Party, were last night at the centre of cover-up claims over the source of a mysterious donation to its Brexit campaign.
Before the referendum, shadowy body the Constitutional Research Council (CRC) controversially channelled £425,000 to the DUP.
Though the DUP volunteered the CRC’s name, questions remained over where the organisation sourced such a large sum – seven times more than the party had spent at any previous election.
The DUP, whose crucial votes have propped up Mrs May’s government, have also opposed plans to make forthcoming transparency reforms regarding political donations in the province retrospective.
The CRC and DUP have both refused to disclose the source of the money and yesterday it was claimed the CRC had been fined £6,000 by the Electoral Commission for stonewalling inquiries. Sources at the CRC deny acting illegally. The new claims, published by respected website open-Democracy, suggested the fine was a record amount against an unincorporated association – a structure commonly used by voluntary sports clubs.
Scottish Tory Richard Cook, the CRC chairman, was asked on Channel 4 News earlier this year if the Commission knew where the money came from. He replied: ‘Yes.’
Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP Brexit campaign manager, says the party did ‘due diligence’ on the matter. The bulk of the cash – £282,000 – bought adverts pushing Brexit in the Metro newspaper, which is not available in Northern Ireland.
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said: ‘For the public to have confidence in our electoral system and democracy, the sources of political donations must be declared by law and this kind of behaviour runs a coach and horses through that principle.’
The DUP said: ‘We support donor transparency and look forward to supporting proposals… that recognise the time is now right in Northern Ireland to publish donor details.
‘Given that we have already taken the step of publishing the detail of the Brexit donor, no question arises about donor anonymity in this instance.’
Mr Cook declined to comment.