Rangitikei MP Simon Power and National Party candidate for Palmerston North Malcolm Plimmer have admitted that Exclusive Brethren Church members have approached them to offer campaign support.
But both say they haven’t received money from the church.
The admission comes as controversy erupts over nationwide leaflet drops attacking Labour and Green policies. The leaflets have been sourced to the Exclusive Brethren.
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
Labour and the Greens call it a smear campaign. The leaflets have been traced to five members of the Exclusive Brethren church, despite church policy for members not to vote.
Mr Power says he was offered support by Exclusive Brethren members, but no money was proposed.
“They offered assistance, which I politely declined.”
He wouldn’t comment about any other details of support that were offered, saying they had not been discussed, as he had quickly turned the offer down.
He says the first he knew of the Exclusive Brethren’s involvement in the pamphlets was when he saw it on TV last night.
Mr Plimmer, however, admits to private meetings with Exclusive Brethren church members to discuss election issues.
“There was no suggestion of any money, but we were definitely on the same wavelength … the civil union was one in particular.”
He said he has continued to be approached by one member on the road in the past few weeks.
“He has stopped a couple of times. They keep in touch with us, all. They are very nice chaps.”
Mr Plimmer is often seen on Palmerston North streets campaigning by the side of the road.
Author Ngaire Thomas, a former Exclusive Brethren, says there has always been a strong link between the National Party and the Exclusive Brethren church.
She told the Manawatu Standard that Mr Plimmer turned up at the Quaker meeting house where she was cleaning and asked her if Quakers voted.
He told her he was having a meeting with a member of the Exclusive Brethren church.
“I think he was just fascinated that a group of people that didn’t vote would want to talk about politics.
“I remember as a child, we were told we had to pray for the National Government, even though we couldn’t vote.
“I would hope if they (the National party) knew about the pamphlet, they would have said, don’t be so silly, go away.”
National Party leader Don Brash said the party has nothing to do with the pamphlets.
Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said last night she was shocked to hear the secretive church had put its membership and financial weight behind the National Party and its leader.
“This is very strange, as I understood this, the church has a strict rule that it did not get involved in politics and that its members were not even allowed to vote.”
The Exclusive Brethren had the right to campaign for National, she said.
“But not to tell outright lies and half truths about Green policy in a bid to get their man to the top.”
Several leaflets have been circulating since the weekend urging people to vote for a change of government.
One describes Labour’s health policies as an “uncaring legacy” while another takes a swipe at the Green Party, Labour’s potential coalition partner, in a pamphlet titled The Green Delusion.
The Greens have lodged a complaint with the Chief Electoral Officer over that leaflet.
Another letter for “concerned Christians” suggests there will be gay adoptions, hate speech laws and transgender rights if Labour is re-elected.
Stephen Myles Win and his wife, Mary, of Auckland, Milton and Michelle How of Rangiora and J Hawkins of Christchurch authorised the leaflets and all five were listed in the Exclusive Brethren’s confidential address book, Ms Fitzsimons said.
The Greens had discovered the church used the same “underhand tactics” to support the re-election of United States President George Bush.
US newspaper reports in January said the Thanksgiving 2004 Committee, whose members were Exclusive Brethren, spent more than $US500,000 ($NZ713,500) on newspaper advertisements, she said.
Exclusive Brethren church leader Greg Mason has indicated he will comment today.
Excommunicated church member John Wallis said the foray into politics was due to the church’s new leader, Australian Bruce Hales, who took over when his father, John, died.
He said Bruce Hales had told church members, before Mr Bush and John Howard were re-elected, that if they were not returned to power, The Rapture, or the end of the world, would be near.
He described church members as typically right-wing.
“I’m tipping that they’ll actually vote this time in New Zealand, which is something they’ve never done,” he said.
“I can see it happening.”