Who was be­hind £425k do­na­tion for Leave ads?

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Brexit: The 'Soft Coup' - By Nick Craven and Pa­tri­cia Kane

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.

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