Now that the injunction has been lifted, journalists are frantically speed-reading their hastily acquired copies of The Hollow Men to uncover the juicy bits. Scoop's "Sludge Report" has already noticed the smoking gun email, sent by the Brethren's campaign manager to both Brash and Key in May 2005 (several months before Brash said he had discussions with the Brethren) and requesting a further meeting to discuss their pamphlet campaign:
Good afternoon Don and John,
Doug Watt and myself enjoyed your presentation this morning at the Millennium Hotel. However as backers of the recent "Wake Up NZ" campaign ($350,000) and as responsible for a very extensive election campaign ($1,000,000) with the sole goal of "Getting Party Votes for National" a meeting following on from our one last week with Steven Joyce is important.
It goes on to talk about the aims of the campaign and concludes with a statement that the author is "essentially working on our/your election campaign full time" (scan [JPEG]).
The Herald expands on the subject here. It seems that national discussed the use of outside groups on defence and education at a campaign strategy meeting as early as February 2005 - and that the pamphlets were discussed with and shown to MPs in June. So much for pleading ignorance.
There's an obvious issue here that this is a far higher degree of collusion than admitted to, and one which means that the Brethren's expenditure should have been both authorised by and attributed to the National Party. Instead, National used a third-party essentially to circumvent its Electoral Act spending limit - something for which they should have been prosecuted for had this information come to light earlier. As with Labour's overspending, it is now too late to prosecute, but we can take steps to stop this from happening again. Allowing parties to circumvent spending limits in this way essentially allows the rich to buy elections - something we should not allow to happen in this country.