Monday, November 14, 2011

This stinks

While everyone was paying attention to the election, he Herald on Sunday has quietly revealed what seems to be a case of full-blown political corruption in Pita Sharples' electorate office:

A key aide to a Government minister asked for money in an email that also discussed putting "political pressure" on an issue.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples' electorate manager Martin Cooper wrote to a local property owner that he wanted money, then spoke of contacting a Government minister.


Cooper replied saying: "Can you please pay another $1000 towards the car". He then detailed his plans to send emails supporting the owner's case to Hide, former Auckland mayor John Banks and the manager of a department at the former Auckland City Council.

"Political pressure will hopefully place the council into submission where they will be ordered to shut it down," Cooper wrote. "Given it is election year for the Super City, now they surely don't want this to become a council or even a political issue."

The owner said he initially refused, then agreed to pay. Cooper provided him with a bank account number.

There's a long and complicated backstory here about Cooper facilitating the sale of a building to his former gang, Black Power, but there's not enough to conclude that that was corrupt (as opposed to merely moonlighting while employed as a public servant). But the details above, asking for money in exchange for political support (and, as noted elsewhere in the article, arranging for Sharples to write a letter on Maori Party letterhead)? That seems to be a clear case of soliciting a bribe as an official. And it needs to be prosecuted. This sort of thing is simply not supposed to happen in New Zealand.

Astoundingly, Sharples is standing by this behaviour from his staffer. He needs to pay the political price for that. An MP who allows his electorate staff to behave corruptly and extort bribes for doing their jobs is no different from Taito Philip Field.