A Commons aide to Tory chairman Grant Shapps appears to have channelled thousands of pounds in campaign donations via his researcher’s flat — using a legal vehicle associated with a controversial loophole in electoral law.
Lancashire MP Jake Berry is one of just eight Tories in ‘target holds’ that have received a majority of their declarable donations from unincorporated associations, which can be used to hide the identities of rich donors.
Rossendale and Darwen Portcullis Club, which has given £12,000 to Berry’s local campaign in two donations either side of New Year 2014, is registered to a flat in an inconspicuous estate in South East London (below).
Title deeds reveal that the property is owned by a woman who just happens to be Berry’s only registered parliamentary passholder — and who hung up on Scrapbook this afternoon when we asked about the arrangement.
The most notorious unincorporated association is perhaps the United and Cecil Club, which shovels cash to dozens of Tories and is registered to a riding school in Berkshire owned by a former Big Tobacco executive.
Unlike United and Cecil, however, Rossendale and Darwen Portcullis Club looks to be controlled not by rich third-parties but by Jake Berry’s own office — which raises the question: why contrive such an arrangement? Why not simply run the money through the local Conservative Association?
Perhaps the following has something to do with it:
With a threshold of £25,000 before reporting requirements kick in, the secretive club could channel another £20,000 to Berry’s campaign in 2014 without having to explain where a penny of it has come from. Transparent, huh?
UPDATE: With Jake’s office having hung up on us earlier, CCHQ have now been in touch …
“All donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with Electoral Commission rules.
“Any suggestion of impropriety by the party is malicious and defamatory and will be treated as such.
What about the MP then?