Saturday, October 21, 2006



Brash's stunning hypocrisy

For the past year, Don Brash has been accusing the government of "corruption" for paying for its election pledge cards from its Parliamentary Services budget. This was judged by the Auditor-General to be "electioneering", and thus an unlawful use of taxpayer's money. Yet on Radio Live yesterday, Brash admitted that he had used National's Parliamentary Services budget to pay the salary of his chief election strategist, Bryan Sinclair. For most of 2005, Sinclair was tasked with helping National win the General Election - something which cannot be described as anything other than "electioneering". The hypocrisy here is simply stunning, but it also raises an obvious question: having pranced around on his moral high horse over Labour's unlawful expenditure and demanded that they repay the money spent, will he now pay the money back? Or is this yet another case of "one law for all, for everyone but National"?

57 comments:

Another line worth pursuing is how much PS funding was spent by National on "private polling" in 2005. And how much of it finished up lining the pockets of a certain well known blogger who has been leading the charge on this "corruption and theft" issue?

Posted by Philip Wilkie : 10/21/2006 07:28:00 AM

Fyi linked to this post from one of mine at Sir Humphreys.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 10/21/2006 08:11:00 AM

There's one major problem with this. Bryan was not the chief election strategist. It's a fiction. He has never described himself as such, and never performed that role. The party's campaign manager was 100% party funded.

Posted by David Farrar : 10/21/2006 09:28:00 AM

LOL Farrar you really are a hoot at times. Are you telling us now that Sinclair is just some non-entity who just happened to be in the same camera-shot as Brash for months prior to the 2005 election?

Or that he didn't spend the weekend esconsed with Brash prior the media finally breaking the story about his "close personal relationship" with Dianne Foreman?

Or that on Sinclair's own website he doesn't include in his experience as:

"With a background in law, marketing, and public relations, until recently he was the special advisor to New Zealand's Opposition Leader Dr Don Brash"

Or that Wikipedia doesn't say:

"During the 2005 General Election campaign, Sinclair inadvertently became a news story[3] himself when a series of private emails to Brash revealed Sinclair’s criticisms of aspects of the National's election campaign strategy and also criticisms of some other National Party senior figures. In the news stories that followed the release of the stolen emails, Sinclair was linked with a number of wealthy political donors, high profile business and political figures, former Ministers, members of the Business Roundtable, and members of the right wing liberal ACT Party, many of whom were understood to have backed the libertarian Brash for the Nationals leadership in 2003."

Still if you want to split hairs Farrar can you tell us the difference between "chief election strategist" and "special advisor". Maybe one comes at a much lower hourly rate?

Posted by Philip Wilkie : 10/21/2006 09:44:00 AM

When did Sinclair ever ask for people to vote for National? Or, when did he ever promote National party policy?

Posted by Gooner : 10/21/2006 09:59:00 AM

The prohobition on electioneering in the Speaker's directive (wich is from where the prohibition on electioneering arises) only prohibits electioneering advertising:

Quoting Kevin Brady, Controller and Auditor-General:

"Clause 46(3)(d) of the Speaker’s Directions specifically prohibits electioneering advertising. It is clear that this prohibition does not apply to other activities undertaken by MPs."

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/21/2006 10:06:00 AM

I hate sophistry.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 10:17:00 AM

Very very lame. And the practical difference is.....

We are talking about a man who willingly assumed the 'moral' high ground, whose dithery (and not very sharp) supporters now want to point out pedantic differences after months stating the problem was one of 'principle', lame.

good ridance.

Posted by james cairney : 10/21/2006 10:19:00 AM

Bryan did not come on board just for the campaign. He was employed by the LOTO continously since late 2003 - almost two years before the election.

Of course Bryan has very good political skills and backgrounds - as do half the parliamentary staff. Helen has in her PM's Office many more staff with the same skills.

This is an idiotic non-story. Don Brash hired two years before the election a staff member with political and communications skill. Oh wow stop the printing presses. Party Leaders do this every day and week.

Posted by David Farrar : 10/21/2006 10:55:00 AM

Sinclair is a total joke in National Party circles. His "advice" was amateur and absurd (as his Wikipedia entry that he must have written himself - someone really needs to edit it)

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 10:59:00 AM

Farrar says: "Bryan has very good political skills and backgrounds". LOL

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 11:00:00 AM

Farrar, you're starting to sound like Don.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 11:12:00 AM

DPF, this whole campaign spending fiasco has been an "idiotic non-story" from the very start. Something your colleagues should really take note of. An aphorism about heat and kitchens comes to mind here.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 11:20:00 AM

"An idiotic non-story".

Otherwise known as ...a Beltway issue ... a media beat-up ... just ignore those left-wing bloggers ...

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 11:43:00 AM

Here is the real story of the weekend, from Fran O'Sullivan in the Herald:

"...the well-connected business people and public servants who hide their identity on New Zealand blogs under pseudonyms such as Antarctic Lemur, Redbaiter and Adolf Fiinkensein..."

So let me see if I have this correct. Che Tibby gets a job in the government and stops blogging out of a sense that to express personal opinions is inappropriate for a civil servant. The left has set a benchmark. The names mentioned by O'Sullivan are all on the most extemist right wing blog in New Zealand, displaying considerable neo-fascist tendencies. Surely, if O'Sullivan knows the real identities of these bloggers and they are well connected businessmen and - more seriously - civil servants, it is her duty as a journalist to expose them? Is it really OK for civil servants, possibly senior ones, to wage anonymous anti-government campaigns from extremist blog sites? Why won't O'Sullivan name names? I say she should put or shut up and be condemned for being a simple right wing dupe.

Posted by Sanctuary : 10/21/2006 11:57:00 AM

Pledge Card. Spending Cap. Taito Philip Field. Cancerous. The Auditor General is smearing Labour. How's Diane this week? Speaking of affairs. 150k. Signature. Urgent retrospective legisliation. And on and on and on..

No remorse. No respect for the NZ Public. Heaps of abuse and conspiracy theories on any opponents.

Posted by kiwi_donkey : 10/21/2006 12:18:00 PM

Graeme: Yes, but several paragraphs soon after the one you cite illustrate that spending like that on Sinclair could have been(and, without the validating legislation, probably would been) caught by the AG's ruling. His report reads: "The legal advice I received only addresses what might contitute electioneering in the context of advertising ... in a broad sense, the inquiry does pose questions about the appropriateness of other expenditure incurred by the Service ... I would expect the Service to establish a process for reviewing all other expenditure on support services for MPs. Such a process may include seeking appropriate legal advice on the scope of the appropriations, and advice from my Office, to enable the Service to establish the nature of activitoes that can be funded within the scope of the appropriations it administers."

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 12:20:00 PM

Let's the get this straight. DPF thinks this is an "idiotic non-story" because "party Leaders do this every day and week". That sounds awfully like Labour's defence to the pledge card charges - "but everyone else was doing it!"

I'm sorry, but if you agree with the AG's ruling, which DPF and National say they do, then they should be very embarrassed by any spending which the AG would have deemed not exclusively for Parliamentary purposes. This certainly falls into that category.

Time for another "pay it back" post, Mr Farrar?

Also, isn't it interesting that the Herald, which has run hard on the pledge card issue for months, didn't ever care to mention this Sinclair story in today's edition. Double standards, anyone?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 12:26:00 PM

DPF: also, about when Sinclair was employed - given the AG put some weight on proximity to the election, perhaps National could simply pay back his salary for the final three months before the election?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 12:27:00 PM

Someone over at Kiwiblog has just posted the results of two just-released polls, showing National and Labour pretty much even: UMR Insight poll with National on 41.7 and Labour on 41.1, and Roy Morgan poll (http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2006/4095/) with National and Labour both on 40.

It's interesting that the huge pledge card victory that the Right was crowing about hasn't been reflected in the polls - rather, if anything, the polls over the past fortnight have seen Labour close the gap on National...

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 12:34:00 PM

I really doubt the Sir Humphreys writers are 'senior civil servants'. Many of them seem to be Auckland based and work in IT.

Posted by danyl : 10/21/2006 01:42:00 PM

Sanctuary: Is it really OK for civil servants, possibly senior ones, to wage anonymous anti-government campaigns from extremist blog sites?

No, it's not. That's expressly contrary to the Public Service Code of Conduct and our tradition of a neutral public service which acts with professionalism and integrity. Public servants must be able to retain the confidence of Ministers in their ability to impartially enact the policies of the government of the day (they must also be able to do this for future Ministers). Running a psuedonymous blog for the purpose of attacking (or supporting) the policies of that government is clearly incompatible with this duty if you are anything other than a floor-sweeper.

That said, O'Sullivan hasn't presented any evidence that those blogging in the sewer are in fact public servants, let alone senior ones, and given public service culture, I would be quite surprised if the implication of her statement was true.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/21/2006 02:02:00 PM

The really good thing to come out of Farrar's blog, Fran and Don is that I now recognize there is a nasty little coterie of fearful minds in NZ who are slick of tongue and warped of soul. All shadows wonderfully projected onto others.

Lookout now that the latest claims come in for water and mountains. And lookout Farrar, you're Faust-like apporach to the Don will only lead you astray. I see a better person in you than following that narrow, vicarious and dangerous path.

As for Fran, I really find it difficult to understand where she is coming from and for whom. I mean using the term Helengrad in her piece, what the?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 02:17:00 PM

Speaking of anti-Labour people in IT, I see that number 13 on the so-called “people’s petition” is listed as "Philip Charles - Ohariu Belmont". There is no P Charles in the Wellington phone book, but there is a Philip Charles in Abbotsford, Dunedin, who runs an IT business called Copyleft. This person posted a lot of anti-Labour material in the tino-rangitiratanga Yahoo discussion group last year, some of it as abusive as the stuff you often find on Sir Humphreys. Interestingly, Philip (or "Piripi" as he signs himself in that group) is a pakeha minister in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, semi-retired, but still permitted to officiate, according to the 2006 Dunedin Diocese Yearbook. It looks as if the email lists used to campaign against Labour last year have been reactivated for the purpose of this petition. It was never just the EBs.

http://www.copyleft.co.nz/order.htmlft, GNU/Linux order
39a Paterson St.Abbotsford
DUNEDIN 9006
Would you make cheques out to E.P.G.Charles, please.

http://www.dn.anglican.org.nz/resources/administrative/yearbook/year-book-2006.doc

CLERGY WITH PERMISSION TO OFFICIATE
RESIDING WITHIN THE DIOCESE
The Rev’d E.P.G. Charles, Dunedin

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 02:23:00 PM

I agree O'Sullivan hasn't presented any evidence, but she didn't present the comment as a guess or speculation either.

Even if it isn't true, given the half truths and simplistic sloganeering we've all had to put with from the right blogsphere it is instructive to give them a taste of their own medicine and see how they react when being made to deny they are pig fuckers...

http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2006/10/not_a_blogger.html#comments

Posted by Sanctuary : 10/21/2006 02:39:00 PM

If the AG rules that hiring staff with political skills is illegal, then there is a case to pay it back. Not based on hysterical rants here.

Funding the centrepiece of your election campaign from taxpayer funds is unusual, and certainly not routine. It was a flagrant breach of the rules (and more importantly meant they over-spent).

Posted by David Farrar : 10/21/2006 03:34:00 PM

Hysterical rants?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 03:48:00 PM

Thanks Danyl for setting the record straight. I'll straighten it even further over at SH.

Posted by Gooner : 10/21/2006 03:52:00 PM

Don't get your cape caught in the door on the way out.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 04:09:00 PM

our tradition of a neutral public service which acts with professionalism and integrity. Public servants must be able to retain the confidence of Ministers in their ability to impartially enact the policies of the government of the day

Which is why Kevin Brady will likely resign soon. As auditor of the PS accounts he was applying rules derived not just from the Public Finance Act, which is likely mute on the matter in hand, but from Speaker's Directives which DO address the question of "electioneering". It was the Speaker who directed the PS in this matter. Therefore if there was ever been any question in Brady's mind about how he should interpret the rules as they applied to the numbers before him, all he had to do was ask the Speaker to clarify Parliament's intent when the rules were drafted. Which he conspicuously failed to do.

It was never up to the AG to unilaterally suck some interpretations out of his thumb, or attempt to mis-apply rulings from the SG when that officer was looking at entirely separate matters arising under the Electoral Act.

Posted by Philip Wilkie : 10/21/2006 05:19:00 PM

How much taxpayer money did David Farrar’s Curia company receive from the Leaders Budget for his (ultimately flawed) polling he did for National in the last election?

Simple question.



(and how’d he get the polling so wrong is the bonus question…

Posted by hot on heals : 10/21/2006 05:52:00 PM

And just how much Mr Farrar receives from the BRT to run his little blog?

Does the phrase "alternative mode of politics" ring any bells for anyone?

Posted by Philip Wilkie : 10/21/2006 06:09:00 PM

Phillip: Firstly, the Auditor-General is not a public servant, but an Officer of Parliament. The PSCC therefore does not apply. Secondly, I think he has operated with professionalism and integrity. That said, IMHO - and clearly in the NSHO opinion of Parliament - his interpretation of the rules was wrong. I do not however expect him to resign because of it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/21/2006 06:15:00 PM

DPF: If the AG rules that hiring staff with political skills is illegal, then there is a case to pay it back.

You don't think there's just a teensy-weensy matter of honour here, havign taken such a strong stand on electioneering in the past?

(And as I recall, the demands for Labour to pay it back well preceeded any ruling, interim or final, from the Auditor-General. Consistency? Sorry, I forgot - that applies only to your political opponents, doesn't it?)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/21/2006 06:19:00 PM

Anon: while I think the point about the way the anti-assent petition is spreading is interesting, I'd prefer it if you didn't post names and addresses please. It looks too much like an invitation to harassment.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/21/2006 06:29:00 PM

Two wrongs don't make a right.

Labour knew they were crossing the line using Parliamentary Service funds for advertising purposes within three months of the election.

That's wrong.

What's worse is the way they rammed the legislation through parliament to get them off the hook.

If you want to make a case against Brash for spending money legally on staff, then I wont stand in your way. We'll see what the law says.

We may have had that opportunity with Labour, but the Police did a shoddy job and Labour have deliberately tried to crush the Darnton-Clark case with this rush job legislation. That stinks even more.

Maybe we also need an enquiry into Union support of Labour. Some unions costed their material costs, but did not put a dollar value on all of the staff time spent electioneering.

And TomS/Sanctuary, you really are a piece of work. I don't have much respect for some-one who lies just as a method of attacking a group of people you know nothing about. It's your karma you are screwing with, not mine. I'd be surprised if you've actually read and understood many of my posts on Sir Humphrey's in any event.

Posted by ZenTiger : 10/21/2006 07:03:00 PM

I/P – Philip Charles' name and a false location are on the petition, which is public. I just corrected the location, using information from his own website. It’s hardly a secret where Philip Charles lives or what his extreme views are: he's been quite vociferous about them on the internet. Since he’s a minister of religion, he's a public figure and his views are a legitimate subject of scrutiny.

I expect Ohariu-Belmont was chosen because it’s Peter Dunne’s electorate and members of the religious right like Charles are angry at him for going with Labour.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 07:24:00 PM

Anon: Or it could be a different Philip Charles (not unlikely if you're relying on phone books rather than the electoral roll). But more importantly, posting the address of someone's home is vile, and smacks of an attempt at intimidation or at encouraging it. If you want to do that sort of thing, go and do it in the sewer, not here please.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/21/2006 07:38:00 PM

"I just corrected the location..."

Based on what evidence? Your personal conviction that this not-particularly-unusual name on a petition actually belongs to someone you don't like? You do realise that's completely deranged, I hope?

Posted by Psycho Milt : 10/21/2006 08:40:00 PM

Using my superduper powers of "emailing", I contacted Mr Copyleft using the contact details on his website.

His response:

It is not me. Neither have I have I ever "posted a lot of anti-Labour
material in the tino-rangitiratanga Yahoo discussion group last year", in fact I did not know that group existed. I do not sign myself "Piripi".

However, the Dunedin information about me is correct. [that he lives in Dunedin]


Well done, Anonymous. Slapper comment of the month.

Posted by Antarctic Lemur : 10/21/2006 08:41:00 PM

I/S (sorry I wrongly called you I/P last time - an important difference!)

I understand where you're coming from and I will respect your rule, which I agree with. However, I think you are drawing an incorrect and unfair inference about my intention, which was to illustrate that one of the petitioners had posted wrong information about their whereabouts. Yes, I should have left out the actual address from my post but it was on the website that I linked to. The likelihood of the petitioner being someone other than the person I mentioned, with the same name, who knew about and was so keen to sign the petition that they were the 13th on the list, is, in my view, zilch.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/21/2006 08:45:00 PM

Anonymous is in the poo. (S)he has falsified the petition by changing the other Philip Charles' address to the wrong address. (S)he has misrepresented me in a legal sense by identifying me with the signer of the petition when there is no connection between me and the person who did the signing. It is fortunate that I think this is a giggle and not running off to a solicitor. An apology is called for.

Posted by E.P.G (Philip) Charles : 10/21/2006 10:36:00 PM

"really doubt the Sir Humphreys writers are 'senior civil servants'. "

Good god no. Nor "well-connected business-people." Unless we're going to define "well-connected" in a very loose way, or unless one of them's "well-connected" by way of marriage or birth rather than ability and aptitude.

I say this in ignorance of what they really do for a living. But they certainly have shown no evidence of understanding finance the way senior business people need to, and their take on politics lacks the nuance I normally see in senior civil servants.


Icehawk
(and I am actually a professional rugby player, fitting that in around my career as a world-leading scientist, my work as a rock star, and my vocation as a head of a major international charity).

Posted by Icehawk : 10/21/2006 10:48:00 PM

E.P.G. Charles: I got it wrong and I apologise.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/22/2006 12:16:00 PM

Oerhaps one whould enquire as to how much of the salaries of such creaturs as cadmus, tomS and assorted other shrill shills for Labour infest the internet are paid for from Parliamentary Services funds.

Icehawk, pray tell what nuances in particular lead to such insightful conclusions?

Posted by Adolf Fiinkensein : 10/22/2006 07:11:00 PM

Apology accepted

Posted by E.P.G (Philip) Charles : 10/22/2006 08:26:00 PM

Does Labour's validation legislation, forced-through under urgency, permit any action to be taken against Brash? No? bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha.

M'lud

Posted by Anonymous : 10/22/2006 11:17:00 PM

My pet stalker now asks how much the BRT pays me to run my blog. Great to see the sewer tactics in full force.

For the record I receive no money from anyone for my blog, except through Google Ads.

Posted by David Farrar : 10/23/2006 03:02:00 PM

M'Lud: of course not. And OTOH, national has called for Labour to repay its overspending despite the absence of any legal obligation to do so. Shouldn't they practice what they preach?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 10/23/2006 03:32:00 PM

I/S asked "Shouldn't they practice what they preach?"

Yes they should.

And um, they have, National has paid back all the monies found by the Auditor-General to be illegally spent, and calls on Labour to do the same. They do not call upon Labour to do any more than they themselves have already done.

If Labour is calling on National to repay expenditure on staff (particularly when the proscription on electioneering in the Speaker's directive related solely to electioneering advertising), then once Labour has repaid its "illegal" expenditure on staff only then it should call on National to do the same.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/23/2006 03:59:00 PM

Except that the Labour Party is calling things the other way - this spending aims to help get votes, along with almost all other members PS spending, so is it all illegal? No....

Posted by Anonymous : 10/23/2006 11:20:00 PM

Graeme, National were calling for the money before the A-G's report, because the problem was framed not as a legal matter, but as a matter of principle. The principle being that to spend PS money on electioneering was wrong.

National attacked Labour for electioneering spending, not for electioneering advertising spending. Further, the difference between the two is not entirely clean cut, would 'electioneering advertising spending' include hiring advertising 'staff' to design a pledge card? Or bill-boards for that matter? (even if the answer to this is no, the issue of principle still remains).

If he was employed with the sole purpose of winning National the election, then in plain language that is electioneering spending, and National are (at least) guilty of exactly the breach of 'principle' that they condemned the Labour party for.

In my opinion National realise this, hence the playing down of his role, there is no reason to bother otherwise (do you really think he was here to put the chairs out?). He was not merely staff, he had a very particular function.

To twist this into a debate on semantics after weeks of grandstanding (not from you) about 'morality' and 'corruption' will simply not do.

This guy's role is critical for the court of public opinion. Given the rhetoric from National over the past month, they look like hypocites. If this guy is shown to be a staffer, here simply to 'put the chairs out', then National can re-assume the moral highground. However a subtle technical difference will not suffice for that in light of the recent hysteria.

cheers,
james

Posted by james cairney : 10/24/2006 12:10:00 AM

anonymous at comment 51, I'm not sure if you're replying to me, or someone else, however, the Labour Party might be claiming that, however the Auditor-General hasn't said that, and the only legal opinion we have on the matter (Jack Hodder's) says staff spending is fine. Maybe Brian Sinclair's salary was illegal, once Labour have paid back Heather Simpsons' then they can argue that National should repay his.

Labour could have complained to the Auditor-General about staff, or sought a decision from a court, but decided not to do that and legislate under urgency instead (preventing anyone else from taking those routes in the process).

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/24/2006 12:13:00 AM

The principle surrounding the spending of Parliamentary funding on electioneering arises from the Speaker's directive that Parliamentary funding not be used for electioneering *advertising*. If there was no prohibition National wouldn't have been making that complaint.

National's main attack was first - the corrupt practice under the electoral act, and second, spending public money on something that counts as an election expense for the purposes of the electoral act - which Heather Simpson's, and Brian Sinclair's salaries do not.

National did not commit a corrupt practice, and repaid all public money they spent on election expenses. This being so, it is their job as HM Loyal Opposition to complain about the former and try to get the Government to do the latter. If Labour want to avoid being hypocrites, they will only call on National to pay back on staffing, when they themselves have done the same.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/24/2006 12:25:00 AM

Graeme, are you claiming that there is no difference between permanent staff and consultants retained for the election alone?

Posted by james cairney : 10/24/2006 09:28:00 AM

in relation to what? The definition of electioneering advertising? The definition of election activity? Election expense?

Rather than being a campaign guy, I understand Sinclair was employed basically as soon as Brash took over (which was much closer to the previous election than the most recent)

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/24/2006 10:02:00 AM

All, individually.

The first makes a difference legally, the other two in principle (in light of comments made).

And was he an 'employee' as you refer?

Posted by james cairney : 10/24/2006 11:12:00 AM