How $150,000bought an election.
By LUIS FELIU
A CAMPAIGN chest filled by Tweed-Gold Coast development and business interests bankrolled nine groups of candidates at the March Council election to the tune of over $150,000. About the same amount from the fund was also used for a massive TV, radio and newspaper advertising campaign for the nine groups - six of which had their candidates elected and who now form the majority bloc on Council. Led by mayor Warren Polglase, the bloc including deputy mayor Lynne Beck and Crs Bernie Bell, Bob Brinsmead, Gavin Lawrie and John Murray are often referred to as the pro-development faction. The campaign kitty was organised by Tweed Directions, an entity set up specifically to bankroll the candidates favouring business and developer interests and headed by Gold Coast public-relations consultant Graham Staerk. Mr Staerk's firm handles the account of several large companies including Consolidated Prop- erties which is developing the upmarket Casuarina Beach estate. NSW Electoral Funding Authority (EFA) returns issued recently have revealed that nine of the 17 groups of candidates who cross-preferenced each other had received over $150,000 for their campaigns from Tweed Directions. The returns reveal that Cr Polglase's group, which included Cr Bell, received a total of $22,000 in political contributions from Tweed Directions from a total of $23,246 spent on their campaign. The fund also gave $22,050 to Cr Beck's group, $21,200 to Cr Murray's group, $16,000 to Cr Brinsmead's group, $13,400 to (excouncillor) Wendy Marshall's group, $17,650 to (ex-councillor) Phil Youngblutt's group, $24,400 to the Wes Allen group and $10,000 to the Richard Humby group. Cr Lawrie's group, whose return is yet to be processed by the EFA, was also given a similar donation by Tweed Directions. Mr Staerk said it was no secret that Tweed Directions had helped fund the campaigns of the nine pro-growth groups with donations.