ACT Party President Chris Simmons – who opposed the Brash coup that lead to John Banks being ACT’s sole MP – ‘accidentally’ dropped Banks right in it on Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint. He said “[Banks] made the suggestion to Dotcom” to split his donation into two $25,000 pieces and implied the purpose was to have a number of identically-sized donations he could claim were anonymous.
Now, I presume you don’t miss the import of that. Banks has denied any such arrangement with Dotcom. And if he did tell Dotcom to split the cheques into two $25,000 amounts then he can hardly claim ignorance of the identity of the donor when two cheques from Dotcom’s company were deposited with his campaign on the same day.
Simmons then went on to say that Banks had given him bizarrely illogical justification for telling Dotcom to split his donation into two $25,000 lots because Banks was “going to put in $25,000 of his own money and he figured other people should be putting in the same kind of numbers”. Mary Wilson immediately pointed out that was illogical and there are donations that were larger than $25,000. The only purpose I can come up with for trying to get donors to make identically sized donations was so Banks could claim ‘yes, I know I got money from these people, but which $25,000 is which?’
As with Key, Simmons said he hadn’t asked Banks vital questions like ‘did you call Dotcom to thank him?’, why did he want it to look like other donors were matching him?’ and hadn’t asked Banks in “a direct manner” if he knew where he had received money from Dotcom.
Here’s the full quotes from Simmons in the crucial segment
Wilson: Have you asked him if he knew the donations were from Dotcom?
Simmons: Not in that direct manner. I’ve asked him about the process that they used.
Wilson: Why didn’t you ask him directly?
Simmons: Well, he told me that they were an anonymous donation.
Wilson: But he knew they were going to be $50,000; split into two lots.
Simmons: No. That was one of the suggestions he made to Dotcom.
Wilson: Do you know why he made that suggestion?
Simmons:He has given me an indication as to why he made that suggestion. And that was that he initially was going ot put in $25,000 of his own money and he figured that other people should be putting in the same kind of numbers”
Wilson: I’m not quite sure why that makes sense, ’cause there are other donations that are bigger than $25,000.
That raises another interesting question. Did Banks declare his own $25,000 donation? See, there are a total of 5 anonymous $25,000 donations on his return [Can anyone find a copy of his return? I think the Herald or Stuff published it but can’t track it down]
Hilariously, a few minutes later (and presumably after a quick, blunt phone call from Wayne Eagleson) Simmons rang Radio New Zealand to try to withdraw his admission that Banks did tell Dotcom to split his donation into two. He claimed he had never discussed the Dotcom donation with Banks. Right. Read the quotes above again and tell me he was just mistaken.
RNZ naturally reported Simmons’ attempt to withdraw his comments in its news bulletins.
Did Simmons just kill Banks’ career on purpose – with the goal of a by-election bringing in Catherine Isaac who, at this point, is ACT’s one last hope?
Or is he just completely incompetent to the point where he let all the cats out of the bag?
Given this is the ACT Party we’re talking about, I think either is a reasonable explanation.