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Simon Bridges is distancing himself from Simon Bridges

Written By: - Date published: 8:01 am, March 13th, 2019 - 44 comments
Categories: electoral commission, Media, national, same old national, Simon Bridges, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

What a day yesterday was.  

The announcement that the Serious Fraud Office is investigating National’s donation scandal dropped like a bomb in Parliament.  After all it is not every day that the SFO announces that it is investigating a major political party.  In fact this has never happened before.

I have been following this story for a while and earlier on said this about the background and the possible legal issues:

… [I]t was not as if their leader had been implicated in doing anything illegal.

Parties partition up donations all the time and split $100k donations into seven $14k donations and one $2 donation for the Feng Shui, not so that the identity of the donor has to be disclosed.  After all it is not as if they were embarrassed that their giving an award to this person would not look good, or that the fact that an associate of this person wanting to be a National Party MP might be frowned on.

And the confident expressions that all was fine by independent commentators who used to be National Party General Secretaries was notable. After all they should know.

And the Electoral Law does not have provisions relating to donations funded by contributions. National’s Party Secretary was not obliged to give the donation back. He did not have reasonable grounds to believe that the donor has failed to comply with his obligation to advise that the donation had come from contributions.  He was under no obligation to disclose the fact the donation came from contributions.  And it is not an offence to file a false return.

And what about Simon Bridges in his own return mistakenly calling Aaron Bhatnagar “Cathedral Club”?  This was an innocent mistake that happens all the time.

Of course the Police seeking advice from the Electoral Commission will result in no action being taken.

Simon Bridges talking to Cameron Slater showed how desperate National was at the time.  And in a remarkable coincidence that may prove there is a divine entity the Human Rights Commission yesterday awarded record damages to Matt Blomfield to be paid by Cameron Slater.  More on this from lprent later.

So how did Bridges respond yesterday?  By saying it was a matter for the National Party and not him to worry about.  That somehow he was distanced from what had happened and essentially it was not his fault. Cue the start of a campaign to throw a hapless National Party official under the wheels of the bus.  From Jane Patterson at Radio New Zealand:

Mr Bridges’ first reaction was to try to distance himself completely, saying it was not a matter for him personally but one for party officials to deal with; the implication was those officials were ultimately responsible for filing electoral returns so any responsibility lay with them.

The SFO only says in the statement it had received the referral “in relation to the disclosure of political donations under the Electoral Act” which points squarely to National, and the people involved with it.

But there was nothing from the police or the SFO that explicitly excluded Mr Bridges.

Both authorities issued statements saying the investigation had been referred to the SFO but with few other details.

The SFO is known for investigating complex cases of financial crime, usually with big sums of money involved – it describes itself as “the lead law enforcement agency for investigating and prosecuting serious or complex financial crime, including bribery and corruption”.

But it also has the capacity to take into account “any relevant public interest considerations”. The police also noted the SFO holds “the appropriate mandate to look further into matters raised by the investigation to date” – make of that what you will.

For a super duper former prosecutor who could tell that Mallard was the leaker through his magic prosecutorial skills Bridges’s grasp of law is concerning.  There is a concept of being a party to an offence if you aid, abet, incite, counsel, or procure another person to commit an offence.

And holy diversion but Simon is now calling for the banning of donations from overseas sources.  From Jason Walls at the Herald:

National Party leader Simon Bridges has joined the Greens and a chorus of other MPs in saying he would support a ban on foreign donations to political parties.

This morning, he threw his weight behind any government proposals which would curb foreign influences in New Zealand and made specific mention of overseas donations.

“The reality of the situation, as I understand it legally, is for the most part overseas donations and the like are unlawful but there are a few small areas, such as under $1500 and so on, [which] is worth getting submissions on and clearing up.”

Current electoral law prohibits overseas donations of more than $1500 to political parties.

But these can be avoided by donating through New Zealand-registered corporate entities – such as companies, incorporated societies and trusts – which are allowed to donate regardless of whether they are owned or controlled by New Zealanders.

As an example the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry (NZ) Limited gave National a donation of $150,000 and for electoral purposes this was not from an overseas person.  I hope that National will let us have more details of the source of these funds so that we can debate this proposal fully.

Getting back to the main story it must have felt like Groundhog day to Simon. And no matter what is happening when the leader of a major party distances himself from his own party you know things are getting pretty strange.

44 comments on “Simon Bridges is distancing himself from Simon Bridges ”

  1. Ad 1

    😉

    OMG MIckey

    You are having such well earned fun there.

  2. vto 2

    The John Key and Nat person mantra is…

    “You’re only a criminal if you get caught”

    .. if you don’t get caught then you’re entitled to it and should be held up as a hero

    .. the Nat person mantra is nothing to admire or live life by

  3. vto 3

    “Inner Mongolia Horse Rider (NZ) Limited”… there are ways for the courts to look through such scheming and consider whether such scheming goes against the legislative intention…

    … after all, it is exactly this which the IRD was successful in with Eric Watson’s scheming of the AIL provisions just yesterday… the judge based the decision on the legislative intention… https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/111212143/watson-structured-affairs-to-dodge-tax-high-court-finds

    … what is the legislative intention with regard to overseas political donations ?? … is very clear it is … and the Inner Mongolia Horse is almost certainly such a scheming …. why isn’t it being investigated??

    This goes to the heart of the quality (or lack of) of our democratic system.

    Are the Nats gaming it? And thereby us?

    what a weak and crappy system we appear to have if plunder is so easy

    • Gabby 3.1

      I’d have thought the legislative intention was to create a foreign donor sized loophole through which foreign donors could sling money.

    • gsays 3.2

      As its all a bit complicated for these folk, tertiary educated some of ’em,
      ban all donations.

      Mic drop.

  4. Sacha 4

    Do you get the impression that JLR has handed the Police more evidence than we have seen? They would not refer it to the SFO based on what has been made public.

  5. patricia bremner 5

    This is an interesting situation. But as usual a few other items to distract the public.
    A millionaire tax dodger, and a procedural bungle by Shane. Watch Shane get pilloried to distract from Bridges and National.

  6. ianmac 6

    Kids do what Simon does.
    “Not my fault. The dog ate it.”
    ” It wasn’t me. They did it.”
    “It wasn’t me. I was somewhere else.”
    “It wasn’t me. Anyway it is so unimportant. And look at that over there.”

    • mac1 6.1

      Exactly, ianmac. Then they continue to maintain this position in spite of the evidence. The last refuge of a liar is to continue the lie. If they admit the lie, then face the condemnation of others, By continuing the lie, they hope to keep credibility at the risk of being known as a serial liar. They also hope to keep their believers onside. Or that people will move on, and forget.

      One of the serious and destructive elements to the ‘lie at all costs’ approach is that the general voter loses confidence in politicians in total, and in the democratic system.

      Remember the meme of earlier elections, “Why vote? It only encourages them.”

      Who benefitted from less participation in our democracy? A book I’ve just finished applies to right-wing attempts to lower democratic participation by various means.”Democracy in Chains” subtitled “The deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America” by Nancy MacLean published 2017.

      Disempower the majority. Use money to buy influence and publish propaganda. Money like this in question with political donations. Money the true provenance of which is disguised and hidden.

    • I feel love 6.2

      The opposite of a leader really isn’t he? Run and hide, who would want to follow him?

    • Incognito 6.3

      “The Bridge was open”. An all-time favourite among school kids.

  7. ianmac 7

    The National Party Secretary is regarded as straight up conscientious guy. It is unlikely that he would action faulty returns. Therefore, if so, someone else must be involved in dodgy laundry. I wonder if the lowly obedient Treasurer in Botany will turn out to be the very very naughty person who must carry the can for the innocent National Party and its innocent Leader?

    • Sacha 7.1

      Their party pres will be making sure not to be held to account.

    • Gareth 7.2

      He’s signed off on returns that fail basic maths 2 years in a row.

      Have a look at section G of the National Party annual return and divide the total amount of donations with the total number of donations in one of the categories like “More than $5,000 and less than $15,000”.

      You’ll find the average is less than the minimum for the band.

  8. WeTheBleeple 8

    Attack Ads is what he wanted it for remember – ‘You know, attack ads, that sort of thing’… All sausage, and loads of sizzle now aye.

    Bridges is dead to rights guilty that phone call totally exposes corruption, racism, political favors, bribery potential, and total and utter disregard for his team. The paper trail will be a walk in the park for SFO.

    Connecting the dots via his own statement of what the money was for, Bridges compromised the country in order to produce the

    ‘All sizzle no sausage’.

    We must admit it was a Tour de Force of advertising.

    When the general public join the dots between the phone call and that particular ad – he’s gonna look exactly as he is – completely ridiculous, and inexcusable.

    After this Bridges won’t be allowed in charge of a raffle.

    • ianmac 8.1

      If in the unlikely event that Bridges was found guilty of some money thing, how would that affect his possible return to practise Law?

      • I’m mulling a post on exactly that, ianmac.

        What I’ve learned so far is that if the SFO makes an adverse finding against him directly (ie says he knew or should have known the splitting of the donations wasn’t kosher) then, at worst, he may be charged charged with significant crimes. As an MP, that might mean he’s no longer eligible to sit in Parliament, and as a lawyer, his standing at the bar could be revoked, meaning he could only act as an ‘advocate’ or do non court related stuff like house conveyancing for the next few years.

        Not the sort of situation a former Police prosecutor should ever find himself in, I would have thought. I’ll keep digging and no doubt legal minded folk like Graeme Edgeler and Bryce Edwards will be doing the same.

        • patricia bremner 8.1.1.1

          Very interesting te reo putake, makes some of his cries for others to be sacked look like diversionary tactics. After all, he can hardly claim ignorance of the law, as he would know that wouldn’t wash. Looking forward to that post. Cheers.

        • Anne 8.1.1.2

          Since you are researching this matter te reo putake:

          this practice of slicing up donations so they came under the maximum allowable limit was going on inside the ACT Party in the 1990s. What I don’t know is whether they were local or offshore donations – or maybe both. It doesn’t really matter because it is a rort no matter who the donors are.

          Chances are National was also doing it in the 1990s.

          It was what prompted the attempt by the Clark government to change the law around electoral donations and which caused National and ACT to go into an almighty spin. You may remember it.

          • KJT 8.1.1.2.1

            Yes. I remember the “Democracy under attack” headlines from the right wing. Terrified they could no longer buy the Government they wanted.

        • xanthe 8.1.1.3

          At the heart of this issue is the fact that while party secretary is ultimatly responsible for this, their mandate in the party is not upheld and they end up signing off decisions they did not make. Inevitably where decision and responsibility are separated corruption follows. The real story is that this situation exists in political parties both left and right in new zealand. Many political parties in New Zealand need urgent constitutionial reform in this area.

      • rod 8.1.2

        He can play the drums pretty good by all accounts. Anyone looking for a drummer ?

        • mac1 8.1.2.1

          I heard him play one tune with a school jazz band, as a one off. He stayed in time but a bit ‘rocky’ for a jazz standard. A lot of drum and not much cymbals, but tight enough. The only dribbling (old drummer’s joke) he did was during his talk.

        • WeTheBleeple 8.1.2.2

          Every band in the world is looking for a drummer that is not their drummer. Or so I’ve been led to believe.

          “I want 1 big mac, 2 large fries, and 3 strawberry shakes”

          “What”

          “I want 1 big mac, 2 large fries, and 3 strawberry shakes”

          “I beg your pardon sir”

          “I want 1 big mac, 2 large fries, and 3 strawberry shake”

          “Ah, I see, you are a drummer aren’t you sir”

          “Yes, but how do you know that?”

          “This is a tyre shop.”

  9. SPC 9

    There is foreign funding and then there are residents who are part of ethnic communities that include groups that organise party donations.

    Voters are citizens or permanent residents. But only citizens can sit in parliament.

    There are also those here on various visas, right of residence (student and work) but no right to enrol and vote. They will occasionally come into the orbit of ethnic group branches of parties.

    Why not no donations from anyone not eligible to vote by being registered on the electoral roll?

    • Sacha 9.1

      Because the intent is to be *seen* to be doing something rather than actually reducing their sources of income.

    • patricia bremner 9.2

      It is the foreign donations and the possible “cut and spread” to hide the donor.

  10. ken 10

    The losers on the bus go,
    “Not my fault!”
    “Not my fault!”
    “Not my fault!”
    The losers on the bus go,
    “Not my fault!”
    All day long.

  11. Chris T 11

    I think the celebrations are slightly premature.

    We have know idea why the police gave it to the SFO.

    Just off the top of my head, it could be dodgy looking stuff from.

    Bridges
    Ross
    The donor/s
    Some other 3rd party handling it.
    The President of National

  12. Michael 12

    Schadenfreude: malicious amusement derived from other people’s misfortunes.

  13. Incognito 13

    The announcement that the Serious Fraud Office is investigating National’s donation scandal dropped like a bomb in Parliament. After all it is not every day that the SFO announces that it is investigating a major political party.

    Not according to Andrew Geddis, the SFO hasn’t yet decided that they are or will investigate the matter.

    https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/simon-bridges-national-and-the-serious-fraud-office-what-does-it-all-mean [very good read, as usual]

  14. Nick 14

    NZ needs to distance itself from Simon bridges, perhaps gift him as a trade delegation gift to China, where they accept him graciously and put him in a cupboard along with Ugg boots and the pounamu pendant gifts from previous years.

  15. KJT 15

    Then. There is the issue of politicians gaining lucrative positions, after politics, with companies they have mollycoddled while in power. But, NZ is not corrupt!
    Ex politicians often get jobs beyound there competence level, because.
    High pay and pensions for politicians was supposed to make them less likely to be influenced, by this sort of conflict of interest.

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