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THE Hunter's three largest developers have between them donated almost $1 million to political parties since 2004.
Donor declarations from July 2004 to December 2008 show seven separate Buildev companies gave $462,697 to the NSW Labor and Liberal parties.
Australian Electoral Commission figures for Hunter Land show the company has given $389,700 over the same period.
AEC returns for Jeff McCloy-owned companies show $68,500 in donations.
Hunter Land owner Hilton Grugeon said yesterday it was important for business to play the political game.
"I've never ever donated one cent in exchange for anything," Mr Grugeon said.
"I take the view that wherever there's good people you should be supporting them.
"If business doesn't step up to the mark to get people sympathetic to business in parliament, if we end up with a bunch of crazies, then we've only got ourselves to blame."
Recently published funding disclosures for last year's local government elections show Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate's ticket, including his Lord Mayoral campaign and the four ward tickets he backed, received a combined total of $36,734 in "small donations" of less than $1000 each and made another $29,344.35 from a fund-raising event.
Team Tate spent $44,484 on the election campaign, more than double the nearest competitor for Lord Mayor, Aaron Buman, who spent $19,729.35.
Of all lower Hunter candidates, Maitland Mayor Peter Blackmore spent the most of his own money, declaring total self-funding of $31,700.
"If you want to do things right, you have to pay for it," Cr Blackmore said.
Candidates preselected by major parties were not bound by electoral law to divulge party-funded spending.
As a result, every Liberal candidate in the region returned a declaration showing no funding or campaign spending.
Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said the scale of donations and spending on elections "distorts the democratic process" and called for an overhaul of the electoral system.
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