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Shady groups have donated over half a million to political parties, investigation finds

SECRETIVE groups that have failed to register with the Electoral Commission have funnelled at least half a million pounds into political parties, an investigation by Good Law Project revealed today. 

They consist of unincorporated associations, which do not have to publish accounts, disclose membership lists, use business bank accounts, or register a formal name.

Associations with membership fees do not have to declare gifts, which can also be anonymous.

Currently, such groups must register with the Electoral Commission if they donate more than £37,270 to political parties in a single year.

But the Good Law Project says that 10 such groups breached the threshold last year alone, donating £510,000 unregistered. 

Its investigation found that 45 per cent of the funds were pumped into the Tory Party, with the United and Cecil Club, Conservative Friends of Ukraine, and the UK Office of Victor Pinchuk Foundation donating funds.

The United and Cecil club focuses its donations on targeting marginal seats.

According to the Good Law Project, it gave £150,000 to the Conservatives in 2023 without registering.

It has donated another £67,000 to 18 MPs so far this year, which they only registered after the Good Law Project began its investigation. 

Labour Milton Keynes also failed to declare it had passed the annual donation threshold, the campaigners say, as well as six Liberal Democrat council groups in Sheffield, Dorset, Hertfordshire, Portsmouth, Richmond upon Thames, and South Cambs.

The Good Law Project argues that since there is often no way to trace who gives the unincorporated associations money, the sources could be those who are not normally allowed to make donations.

The Electoral Commission told the Good Law Project that it “had not reviewed any of the unincorporated associations on the list.”

It said it “has the power to seek forfeiture of impermissible donations and can impose fines as well as other penalties to secure compliance,” but was unable to confirm if it had taken any enforcement action.

A review is expected to be released in late July after the general election.

Unincorporated associations have donated more than £665,000 to political parties so far this year.

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