Dot­com, Banks: The odd cou­ple

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

For bet­ter or worse, in­ter­net ty­coon Kim Dot­com has man­aged to make this en­tire coun­try look like the set of a made- for- tele­vi­sion movie in re­cent months.

In Jan­uary there was the dawn raid with a po­lice chop­per over­head, while armed of­fi­cers kicked in doors at Mr Mega- up­load’s mega-man­sion.

Next came the rev­e­la­tions that our im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties had fore­seen the po­ten­tial for em­bar­rass­ment from Dot­com’s pres­ence in New Zealand and had de­vised a spe­cial me­dia strat­egy to cope with it.

Then came sug­ges­tions that the case against Dot­com (un­der New Zealand law at least) might not be as ro­bust as first thought.

To cap things off last week, it tran­spired that lo­cal con­trac­tors and his do­mes­tic staff might not have been the only ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Dot­com’s al­legedly ill- got­ten gains.

If one can be­lieve Dot­com’s ver­sion of events, Act Party leader and Ep­som MP John Banks re­ceived $ 50,000 in do­na­tions from Dot­com for Banks’ un­suc­cess­ful Auck­land may­oral cam­paign in 2010. In Dot­com’s re­ported ver­sion of events, Banks al­legedly ad­vised the do­na­tion be split in half, so that it could be recorded anony­mously. Even if Dot­com’s ac­count is true (which re­mains to be seen), this would not ren­der such ac­tions il­le­gal.

Un­der the Lo­cal Elec­toral Act 2001, the rules about do­na­tions to lo­cal body elec­tion cam­paigns are less strict than those for na­tional elec­tions – and the cut-off point for when do­na­tions have to be recorded is $1000. So at $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000 such do­na­tions could all legally be recorded as com­ing from ‘‘Anony­mous’’.

It is, how­ever, true that a $ 50,000 anony­mous gift would have stuck out promi­nently.

Even Sky City, for ex­am­ple, do­nated only $15,000 to each of the may­oral cam­paigns of Banks and his main ri­val, Len Brown. The­o­ret­i­cally speak­ing, a cau­tious po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive could well seek to split and spread the size of large and no­tice­able do­na­tions.

In lo­cal body elec­tions, the is­sue of il­le­gal­ity turns on whether the can­di­date knew, and can be proven to have known, who the anony­mous donor was, by the time the cam­paign ex­pen­di­ture re­turns needed to be filed, 55 days af­ter elec­tion day.

Un­less an email or a thank you card (or other doc­u­mented ev­i­dence) emerges show­ing that Banks knew that a large do­na­tion listed as ‘‘Anony­mous’’ ac­tu­ally came from Dot­com, there would be no le­gal reper­cus­sions.

Public per­cep­tion, of course, is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. The in­ci­dent will have done noth­ing to im­prove the public stand­ing of politi­cians.

Like­wise, those Sky City do­na­tions to both the main can­di­dates in the may­oralty cam­paign will be do­ing noth­ing to boost the public’s con­fi­dence that the con­tro­ver­sial Sky City ‘‘pok­ies for con­ven­tion cen­tre’’ deal in Auck­land will be as­sessed ob­jec­tively.

Len Brown, who has long been vo­cal about the so­cial im­pact of prob­lem gam­bling, still has some ex­plain­ing to do about his ac­cep­tance of a $15,000 do­na­tion from the casino op­er­a­tor for his may­oral bid.

Not so long ago, the claim that some­one ar­rested in an FBI/NEW Zealand po­lice swoop had given $50,000 in do­na­tions to help a prom­i­nent politi­cian would have been seen as a ca­reer-end­ing rev­e­la­tion for the politi­cian con­cerned. Iron­i­cally, the fact that the per­cep­tion of politi­cians is al­ready at rock bot­tom may serve to spare Banks from much in the way of fur­ther po­lit­i­cal em­bar­rass­ment.

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