A former Newcastle United owner was among a group of deputy Lord Lieutenants who contributed cash in a bid to get a member of their group elected a police commissioner.
Sir John Hall was among several donors contributing more than £24,000 in a failed effort to see Kingsley Smith, then the Lord Lieutenant’s secretary, elected as an independent police commissioner in Durham.
John Elliott and Peter Candler, both also deputy Lord Lieutenants, donated £6,000 and £219 respectively.
Mr Candler is manager of Rivergreen Developments, a property development company based in the same building as the office of the Lord Lieutenancy in the City of Durham.
Alasdair MacConachie, a car dealership owner in Darlington and Vice Lord Lieutenant of County Durham donated more than £3,000 via his company.
The figures, released after an initial request to the electoral commissioner by Durham MP Kevan Jones, show Conservative donor Sir John paid £3,000.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mr Kingsley, a former Durham County Council chief executive, or the donors involved.
Labour MP Mr Jones has said deputy Lord Lieutenants should act in a non-political manner.
In total the Smith election bid spent £31,077, higher than the £18,599 spent by Labour’s Ron Hogg, who was elected to the post. Mr Smith’s spending was second-highest in the North East, coming just behind Labour’s Vera Baird.
Mr Jones said he started to look into the figures after Mr Smith refused to tell him were funds for the campaign had come from.
Mr Smith, a deputy Lord Lieutenant himself, said the figures had been available to anyone who wanted to see them for a year, and that there was no secret that “friends wanted to fund my bid.”
He said: “There were several deputy Lord Lieutenants who wanted to help fund my bid because they believed in what I was doing. But not all the backers were DLs and I funded the large part of this myself.
“It would be wrong for Kevan Jones or anyone else to say we should not be political, there are many DLs here who are Labour party members who do political work themselves, and there is nothing wrong with that.
“Deputy Lord Lieutenants come from all walks of life, I am one myself and they are people who have contributed something to the area.
“But that some of them wanted to fund my police commissioner bid is in no way connected with the office, they are friends who backed me, and their work as DLs is totally irrelevant to this.”
The Lord Lieutenant’s role sees an official appointed the Queen’s personal representative in the county.
Mr Smith came second in the 2012 elections, taking nearly 27% of the vote. He is currently chairman of the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust which runs the Freeman and RVI.
In his election manifesto he told voters: “I have lived and worked in the police force area for more than 40 years and have a very successful track record of leadership with vision, motivation and delivery as the former chief executive of Durham County Council.”
He added that his own experience of having his parents burgled had hardened his views on crime.
His decision to stand prompted a series of parliamentary questions from Mr Jones on the nature and powers of Lord Lieutenants.