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Uncovering what the powerful want to keep hidden is a momentous job, yet this work is under immediate threat.

Dark Money In Politics: Expanding The Scope


Uncovering what the powerful want to keep hidden is a momentous job, yet this work is under immediate threat.

Dark Money In Politics: Expanding The Scope

Parties, Associated Entities, Political & Electoral Campaigners (2013-2020)

All Entities

All Political Parties By Year

Major Parties By Party

Associated Entities

Political Campaigners

Data from Political Campaigners has only been collected since 2018-19.

Electoral Campaigners

This data is not broken down by year because returns are not collected by financial year but political events (eg By-election).

For the past month I have been working with payments made to political parties, their associated entities, third parties, campaigners and candidates between the 2013-2020 financial years inclusive. I have calculated the propotion able to be traced back to its source by each entity type and the proportion they receive for which there is no information provided - either because they fall beneath the overly generous disclosure threshold or through lack of compliance.

When taken as whole, only 36% of political funding can be traced to its source. Of all the entity types, Associated Entities have the highest proportion of undisclosed receipts though this could be a reflection of the typical size of payment they receive- an artifact of the high disclosure threshold that applies.

The stark difference in the proportion of funds received by these organisations able to be traced to its source and how much remains shrouded in mystery shows that Australia has a major problem when it comes to transparency and accountability in political funding. .

Previous analysis of dark money in Australian politics (both by myself and others) has been limited to payments reported by poltical parties in their Annual Returns. I am not aware of any other attempts to quantify and analyse dark money across Annual AEC Returns from Associated Entities, Third Parties, Campaigners and Candidates.

One area I have found of particular interest is the presence of registered charities interacting financially with political entities. It strikes me as a curious phenomenon that there are charities of significant wealth that are also spending large amounts of money on influencing elections. After all, charities have particular responsiblities if they are to maintain their registration which look skeptically upon political communications that favour specific parties or significant political donations.

I have identified well over 100 charities (including one with voluntarily revoked registration) that have paid money to either a political party, associated entity, political candidate, campaigner or third party or who are themselves registered political campaigners, third parties, registered lobbyists or their client.

The added data shows that in the 2017-18 financial year, the Insitute of Public Affairs made a $25,000 donation to the Menzies Research Centre which is an Associated Entity of the Liberal Party.

The Minderoo Foundation, a registered charity funded by mining magnate Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola spent enough on influencing the outcome of elections to require it to be registered as both a Political Campaigner and a Third Party. Fortescue Metals, the company owned by Andrew Forrest has paid out over $460,000 since 2013 to a variety of political organisations.

One of the main challenges in working with political donations and related data is the lack of ABN in the data made available by the AEC for download. This means there is no effective way to match donors with other data charities or lobbyists registers. Matches have to be done manually and when there is a lot of data with a lot of variations or poorly worded information it requires manual searches to find out what kind of organisation it is or even what the full name is (if it only appears as an acronym).

Doing something for the first time also carries the weighty challenge that there is not a reference against which I can check the analysis. There is a lot more research to be done now that the data is in and in reasonably fit shape. The analysis does not end with the first acceptably clean data. Further research needs to be done into the issues the lack of accountability causes such as the influence of corporate donations on policy, especially the impact of the mining industry on climate change policy.

I have also integrated the Federal Lobbyists Register for the first time as I noticed payments to political entities from registered lobbyists. I am still in the process of filling out the lobbyist client data because the federal register does not make this downloadable. Such manual work takes time but will allow me to show when political donors are also clients of registered lobbyists and what those lobbyists have paid to political entities.

This quick summary of work to date does not touch on the many improvements and additions that I believe make finding politically active organisations and people far more comprehensive than has been available in the past. Please check it out.

To carry on with this research to tease out, research and get expert input on these topics means this work is not finished and I need to put a call out for donors to help me simply survive from month to month. As things stand and despite delivering this very complex work, I have fewer donors now than I have for the past two years. I will need to get on a stronger financial footing or face uncomfortable decisions that will need to be made immediately.

I have continued with this work for a decade now and despite the lack of financial support however if I can not make the bare minimum required to get from month to month, this work will be under immediate threat. I suspect that might make some powerful people happy but all I can do is put it to my readers to decide its future fate.



This research will end without your support. Please see the donation options at the top of the page.


Keeping the bastards honest means filling in the missing pieces.

The Missing Piece


Keeping the bastards honest means filling in the missing pieces.

The Missing Piece

This special report provides a window into the murky world of political donations. Updated Feb 2021 with 2019-20 data.

Mind The Gap: An Interactive Report Into Accountability In Political Donations


This special report provides a window into the murky world of political donations. Updated Feb 2021 with 2019-20 data.

Mind The Gap: An Interactive Report Into Accountability In Political Donations