An AFR op-ed last Friday cited an anonymous corporate affairs head giving as one reason for ceasing political donations ‘some fear around our reputation’.
And little wonder, given the flimsy grounds on which businesspeople are subject to political donations innuendo.
A page one story in The Weekend Australian did at least – unlike other political donations investigations – start with something that looked a bit suspicious, a favourable deal for Credit Suisse in the now-infamous OzCar scheme.
But from there we head off on a particularly tenuous drawing of links:
The Weekend Australian can reveal that John O’Sullivan, the chairman of investment banking for Credit Suisse, donated more than $20,000 to the Wentworth Forum, the Opposition Leader’s political fighting fund.
But why is this relevant? The Opposition was working to discredit a Labor scheme that benefited Credit Suisse, a funny kind of buying influence for a Credit Suisse executive.
The Weekend Australian’s potential angle is that O’Sullivan might have given OzCar info to Turnbull, but there is no motive and no evidence, as the paper admits:
The Weekend Australian understands that although there were some email exchanges between Mr Grech and Mr O’Sullivan, Mr O’Sullivan was not Mr Grech’s main point of contact within Credit Suisse.
Nor was Mr O’Sullivan the final decision-maker on Credit Suisse’s fees for its work on the OzCar fund, which Wayne Swan announced yesterday would become operational on Tuesday.
And The Weekend Australian understands Mr O’Sullivan was out of the country in the lead-up to the fee revisions.
There is no evidence to suggest Mr Grech was aware of Mr O’Sullivan’s links to Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party before his proposal that the fees be changed.
In other words, the O’Sullivan donation is irrelevant and not worth reporting at all, let alone as a page one innuendo.
With the newsworthiness threshold for reporting donations insinuations set below zero, all the more reason to resist lowering the threshold for donations disclosure to $1,000, and sparing people with an interest in politics these smears.
[Disclosure: I have met O’Sullivan a few times at functions.]