The Dim-Post

May 3, 2014

Uninformed theory of the day

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:45 pm

How unfortunate!  I was pontificating the other day about how formidable National’s media management is – but they don’t get everything right. The National Party knew throughout the entire Oravida scandal that the company made a second $30,000 donation to the National Party in December, and they must have at least discussed the option of fronting that information, preferably by dumping it just before a holiday weekend. They decided not to which meant it came out when the Electoral Commission published the register of donors, which happened to be on the same day MFAT released their OIA’d documents on Collins and Oravida, two days after Maurice Williamson resigned in another National-Party donor scandal. Bad luck guys!

The lead news stories on Friday night were almost as bad as it gets. I’m surprised the Nats haven’t taken more of a hit in the polls over Oravida; I can’t quite believe this new confluence of favors for donor stories won’t hurt them. This is the stuff that brings governments down.

Why did Maurice Williamson torch his own career? Obviously arrogance plays a huge role – he still doesn’t seem to get what he’s done wrong, exactly. But I suspect National’s fund-raising culture plays a part here too. I don’t have any insights whatsoever into how the Nats go about soliciting donations, but one hears stories: millions of dollars raised each electoral cycle. National has fifteen (?) MPs  retiring this election: some of them are stepping down after distinguished careers, but most of them are being forced out. Why are they getting kicked to the curb while so many other under-performing MPs get to stay? I suspect a key performance indicator for National’s MPs is their ability to raise money for their party, and that those who don’t, and who fail to distinguish themselves in other ways are history, and that their fellow MPs are uncomfortably aware of this. So when someone like Williamson picks up the phone and hears that a major donor is in trouble his first instinct is to try and secure that revenue stream, which would solidify his own position and might lead to future advancement within the party. Acting ethically isn’t going to get a guy back in Cabinet.

I might be way off here – but when smart, experienced people do bafflingly dumb things its often because they’re operating in a system which incentivises them to make those poor choices.

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43 Comments »

  1. ” but when smart, experienced people do bafflingly dumb things its often because they’re operating in a system which incentivises them to make those poor choices.”

    Smart is not a word I would use to describe Maurice williamson. Gormless, goofy, muppet. Those words seem more fitting.

    Comment by lep — May 3, 2014 @ 2:29 pm

  2. So just a few days ago Danyl was commenting that National is so adept at feeding dirty politics stories to Whale Oil and Labour was too incompetent to do anything similar.
    Is the current stream of Danyl-digs-the-dirt-on-National being feed by the incompetent Labour buffoons? Or the Greens? Or is Danyl a one-man-superhero-band protecting us from right wing plots of corruption and intrigue?
    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no objection, it’s just that some of us punters like to know where their entertainment is sourced :-) ?

    Comment by Ralph — May 3, 2014 @ 2:33 pm

  3. “… I suspect a key performance indicator for National’s MPs is their ability to raise money…”

    Looking at the type of candidate they are overwhelmingly picking as replacements (corporate white males) I would say they party is being thoroughly corporatised and “modernised” along the managerialist and Taylorist lines favoured by the leadership troika of Key, Joyce and English. Since Taylorism requires measurable outputs, I guess it is highly likely they are all given fund raising KPIs.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 3, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

  4. “…I was pontificating the other day about how formidable National’s media management is…”

    One observation on this – Morning Report had Mike Williams and David Farrar on the other morning to discuss the williamson fall out and Susie Ferguson introduced Farrar as the “National party pollster” and gave him a bit of a hard time (“we’ve got you on for your opinion”). I am wondering if the effectiveness of the Slater/Farrar laundering avenue is finally waning? After all, nowadays even the densest cub reporter must now be aware of the relationship between those blogs and the Jason Ede.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 3, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

  5. The best way to skirt donation disclosure rules is to donate no more than $15,000 in a calendar year. I suspect most/all of National’s undeclared donations are attained in this way.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — May 3, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

  6. @gaeme – but even if you split the money over 100 mates each who then pass on $15k, that is small fry for the Nats, 1.5million will probably only get a thank you card signed by the PM’s secretary. Most in number – maybe, but the big value comes from dodgy Banks-style “I don’t know what’s in the envelope honest” stuff.

    Comment by Ralph — May 3, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

  7. Susie Ferguson introduced Farrar as the “National party pollster” – brilliant. About time.

    Comment by Sacha — May 3, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

  8. “he still doesn’t seem to get what he’s done wrong” – strikingly. In Maurice’s mind he resigned because the PM said so, not because he’d behaved wrong.

    Comment by Sacha — May 3, 2014 @ 4:08 pm

  9. “I suspect most/all of National’s undeclared donations are attained in this way.” So what. It would be disingenuous to suggest other parties did not do the same.

    I met Williamson once at a private function, he actually is a bit gormless, this whole affair is not entirely surprising.

    Collins is perceived as helping an exporter do their thing, a patriot. There is not much stomach though for a politician who clearly tries to influence the police.

    Danyl, it must be getting a bit sweaty under that tinfoil hat, take it off for a while and relax.

    Comment by Grant — May 3, 2014 @ 5:41 pm

  10. …a patriot.

    Steady on Grant – no need to resort to the last refuge of the scoundrel yet. She’s just been using her position to help her husband’s company, not shipping arms to Iran so she can fund a terrorist organisation…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — May 3, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

  11. The public does not care about Oravida because they think that all politicians should take any opportunity to promote the country’s exports. An “NZ Inc.” approach.

    Comment by Philo — May 3, 2014 @ 6:11 pm

  12. Is the current stream of Danyl-digs-the-dirt-on-National being feed by the incompetent Labour buffoons? Or the Greens? Or is Danyl a one-man-superhero-band protecting us from right wing plots of corruption and intrigue?
    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no objection, it’s just that some of us punters like to know where their entertainment is sourced :-) ?

    It is pretty much all my own work. My wife is political director for the Greens, so you might reasonably think I’m deep in their council, and playing a role in their comms strategy, like Farrar and Slater with National, but it turns out you’d be wrong. The number of times some new poll gets released and I run to tell her about it, only to get told, ‘Oh yeah, we were asked for comment on that a few days ago. Didn’t I tell you?’ She does sometimes suggest things I could write on the blog, but it’s more like ‘You should write that the Greens stand for a smart clean green economy’, ie nothing I’d actually consider publishing. And it means that the blog has a pro-Green slant, not because I support them, especially, but because I don’t write negative posts about them because I don’t want to provoke a fight with my wife.

    Comment by danylmc — May 3, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

  13. #5: That sounds similar to the donation funnel by Business Roundtable capo Trevor Farmer that was exposéd in 1996.

    Comment by DeepRed (@DeepRed6502) — May 3, 2014 @ 7:24 pm

  14. “The public does not care about Oravida because they think that all politicians should take any opportunity to promote the country’s exports.”

    Who is this public of whom you speak with such authority, Phildo? This has been the right wing talking point on this issue true, but they would say that now wouldn’t they? Think of what they have to lose.

    Comment by Judge Holden — May 3, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

  15. “She does sometimes suggest things I could write on the blog, but it’s more like ‘You should write that the Greens stand for a smart clean green economy’, ie nothing I’d actually consider publishing.”

    I could totally see you publishing that.

    “And it means that the blog has a pro-Green slant, not because I support them, especially, but because I don’t write negative posts about them because I don’t want to provoke a fight with my wife.”

    Are you sure you don’t support the Greens especially? Didn’t you vote for them in 2011?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 3, 2014 @ 8:43 pm

  16. I don’t want to provoke a fight with my wife.

    I’ved tried that that but I tend to think if she wants a fight there’s not a lot to be done to avoid it.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 3, 2014 @ 10:27 pm

  17. @kalvarnsen – I believe Danyl was open about voting for for Key in ’08, so clearly he especially supports them.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 3, 2014 @ 10:54 pm

  18. @Gregor W: I’m not quite sure what you’re saying, but I think voting behaviour in the most recent election is a better indicator of current political opinion than voting behaviour in prior elections.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 4, 2014 @ 1:30 am

  19. ‘I don’t want to provoke a fight with my wife … ‘

    I gotta give you full marks for trying to make that sound like something you have any control over.

    Comment by Lee C — May 4, 2014 @ 6:42 am

  20. @kalvarnsen

    I’m not quite sure what you’re saying, but I think voting behaviour in the most recent election is a better indicator of current political opinion than voting behaviour in prior elections.

    I’m pretty sure what Gregor W is saying is that the word “especially” matters a lot here. If Danyl has a record of shifting political preferences in the past, it makes it less likely that his current blogging activity is strongly biased in favour of whatever party happens to be in his good books at the time (as he has a prior history of abandoning parties when they fail to live up to his impossibly high expectations).

    Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future returns, so maybe Danyl has devolved into just another Slater/Farrar/Standardista partisan hack fighting it out in the spin-war trenches. But, frankly, the “I don’t want to fight with Maggie, so I pull my punches” explanation sounds more humanly plausible to me.

    Comment by Flashing Light — May 4, 2014 @ 8:19 am

  21. @Flashing: I really doubt that the Greens have done anything to make Danyl abandon them. And to be honest, I find this blog is not just not anti-Green, but strongly (although reasonably subtly) pro-Green. I mean, remember his take on the whole thing about Labour refusing to commit to a coalition with the Greens? That wasn’t just not saying anything bad about the Greens, that was actively pushing closer cooperation with the Greens as a vote winner for Labour, which is quite a pro-Green stance to take.

    I’m not saying this blog is the Green equivalent to Kiwiblog, but it is probably the most notable pro-Green blog that isn’t explicitly connected to the Green Party.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 4, 2014 @ 8:40 am

  22. @kalvarnsen,

    I really doubt that the Greens have done anything to make Danyl abandon them.

    Quite probably right. The issue isn’t so much “is Danyl likely to vote for the Greens in 2014″, but rather what do we make of that fact?

    And to be honest, I find this blog is not just not anti-Green, but strongly (although reasonably subtly) pro-Green.

    Well, if it is true that Danyl still thinks the Greens are the best party on offer at present (which seems probable), then why wouldn’t his analysis of the issues (on the whole, in the main) tend to reflect that point of view? Unless you are going to do a full Colin James and not vote at all least it be seen to taint your precious non-partisan reputation, then every single “political” blog you read is going to be “pro” someone or other.

    The question then is, how strong is that bias? Does it preclude Danyl from ever saying anything negative about the party he presently happens to support (as, for instance, he was able to write this about National back in 2008:http://dimpost.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/vote-national-or-your-family-gets-it/). And here we have a confounding variable, in that the wrath of Maggie may well preclude him putting forward such thoughts even if he does hold them.

    So, yeah – Danyl may well be inclined to view things the Greens do (or that affect the Greens) in a generally positive light. And he faces an extra disincentive in regards criticising the Greens for those things he thinks they are doing badly. Those are his biases. Now, what are yours? Because why do you think it so important to, on a reasonably frequent basis, raise the issue of Danyl’s pro-Green bias in the comment threads?

    Comment by Flashing Light — May 4, 2014 @ 9:13 am

  23. At least Danyl is honest about his latent bias. That is his right cos this is his blog, just as it my right to sometimes you can lose my temper about it and get all surly and truculent (as I have been known on extremely rare occasions to do). But you can’t say he is a dishonest trader. And that is good – no one minds honest opinion with a disclaimer. Dishonest concerned trolls and propagandists like David Farrar is what I can’t stomach.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 4, 2014 @ 11:18 am

  24. the most notable pro-Green blog that isn’t explicitly connected to the Green Party

    Noted by who? This kind of curtain-twitching anonymous obsessiveness, towards someone who openly blogs under their own name, makes you come across as someone nursing a grudge that you were born too late for Stasiland.

    Comment by Joe W — May 4, 2014 @ 11:45 am

  25. >as he has a prior history of abandoning parties when they fail to live up to his impossibly high expectations

    He’s a swing voter. It’s not a particularly extreme position. I could understand why he was losing patience by Labour by ’08, but couldn’t understand why he thought National would be better, considering that he’s pretty much left wing. I guess everyone’s allowed to make mistakes. I voted for ACT in the early 90s, and National in the mid. I think I was misguided then.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 4, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

  26. @Ben: Funnily enough Danyl is one of three guys I know of (two of whom I know personally) who broke a lifetime habit of voting left-of-centre to vote for National in 2008. All three were Wellington-based, married, middle class and worked in the IT industry. Coincidence? Could be, but it’s interesting.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 4, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

  27. “Dishonest concerned trolls and propagandists like David Farrar is what I can’t stomach”.

    Oh, Bullshit Sanctuary, appending David Farrar’s name in there you just shows you have no tolerance for liberals. and that your tolerance spectrum is the width of a ant’s rear end.

    Comment by Tinakori — May 4, 2014 @ 3:46 pm

  28. > Coincidence? Could be, but it’s interesting.

    I don’t think it’s coincidence. Quite a few guys I knew who were formerly left wing switched then. They might switch back. Swing voters are a thing. The same guys who were decrying the numerous cockups of Labour at that point are now starting to do it with National. They’re much less about ideology than they are about 2 other things: What’s in it for them, and how bad are the government looking? And some people just like periodic change. Also, as people get older, they do tend to get more conservative.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 4, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

  29. Never one to be attacked for long, Judith Collins goes on the attack, picking a fight with the deputy chair of the parliamentary press gallery. John Key plays it down by saying what an excellent relationship his government has with journalists… http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11249346

    Comment by MeToo — May 4, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

  30. Careful Tinakori, we can see the strings leading back to Jason Ede.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 4, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

  31. Why would Williamson torch his own career? Because he has a history of making poor decisions and rash statements?

    Comment by MeToo — May 4, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

  32. “…Never one to be attacked for long, Judith Collins goes on the attack…”

    She is a nasty, nasty piece of work all right. I pray every night she becomes leader of the National Party – she’ll energise a Tea Party base and get every angry ZB shock jock worshipping at her feet. She’ll be paranoid and viciously on the attack against enemies everywhere, all the time.

    And National will be locked out of power for a generation as a result.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 4, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

  33. “And National will be locked out of power for a generation as a result” They all turn mugabe at some point just some earlier than others.

    Vote the scum out each election cycle. Its the only way to be sure.

    Comment by Simon — May 4, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

  34. Just saw the main 6pm news reports. Safe to safe that didn’t go so well for Slater/Collins.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 4, 2014 @ 6:13 pm

  35. MeToo #31: “Why would Williamson torch his own career? Because he has a history of making poor decisions and rash statements?”

    Unchecked hubris can do that.

    Sanc #32: Bonus points if she can whip up people to carry out bare-knuckled violence against anyone who adheres to the ‘wrong sort’ of ideology.

    Comment by DeepRed (@DeepRed6502) — May 4, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

  36. Ben W & kalvarnsen: A long-time family friend of mine who has a military/scientific background party voted Green in 1999, and is seriously looking at NZ First this September. On the one hand he feels Cunliffe doesn’t have his act together, on the other hand he also has no time for the Wall St sensibilities of Key Joyce Collins Banks & Co. He lives in what will be part of the Upper Harbour electorate, and says he only lives up north because the was no work for him in Wellington, where he’s originally from. He’s no fan of lax immigration rules because of the effect on house prices and its role in the speculative bubble.

    Comment by DeepRed (@DeepRed6502) — May 4, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

  37. I don’t have any insights whatsoever into how the Nats go about soliciting donations, but one hears stories: millions of dollars raised each electoral cycle.

    Well, yes … National reported raising a bit over $1 million in 2013 from donors who gave more than $1500 – all but $160,000 of which came in chunks under $15,000. Money in politics matters, but let’s not get too sensationalist over things.

    So when someone like Williamson picks up the phone and hears that a major donor is in trouble his first instinct is to try and secure that revenue stream, which would solidify his own position and might lead to future advancement within the party. Acting ethically isn’t going to get a guy back in Cabinet.

    Maybe. But for my money (all $22,000 of it), Williamson saw this bloke as a bit of a “project” … not (just) in the sense of “here’s some cash for the party!”, but rather “here’s the sort of future-focused individual who will help NZ Inc prosper!”. So he got all enthusiastic and lost perspective (in the way that Williamson seems prone to doing – remember his pants wetting excitement over 3D printers and the need for NZ Customs to move swiftly to deal to this future threat?) … with the end result that he ended up looking like this guy’s local errand boy. I mean, he was doing DIY on his holiday house for him? That’s just embarrassing.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — May 4, 2014 @ 7:31 pm

  38. “Careful Tinakori, we can see the strings leading back to Jason Ede.”

    WE are everywhere, Sanc. You will never be safe!

    Comment by Tinakori — May 4, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

  39. @Ben W: Well, all three of the guys I’m aware of (including Danyl) switched back to supporting left wing parties. So I think 2008 was a bit of a blip, although possibly a revealing one. (Although exactly what it revealed I’m still not sure).

    @deepred: That is even more interesting – although I can see some commonalities between Green and NZ First policies, it doesn’t sound like those are what motivated your friend. Who did he vote for in 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2011 though?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 4, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

  40. “I can’t quite believe this new confluence of favors for donor stories won’t hurt them. This is the stuff that brings governments down.”

    I think this is true if voters are looking for an excuse not to vote for the presiding government, but otherwise voters will forgive and forget a lot, or write it off for themselves that it’s irrelevant. If you look at the last Labour-led government, on one hand opposition supporters were madly screaming about things like Helen Clark’s police motorcade and there was definitely some tricky reasoning around PM herself trying to justify her lack of knowledge & responsibility when others in the motorcade were charged criminally, but lots of voters still “liked” Helen Clark and Labour and its support parties and their policies, especially when the most likely alternative being dished up at the time to front the main opposition was Don Brash.

    And I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see Maurice Williamson back as a Minister in future, despite how he’s messed things up lately. If National’s still governing after the election, most of the electorate will have forgotten by then about why he was pushed in the first place, and experience as a Minister is valuable. Nick Smith probably shouldn’t have come back as a MInister so quickly, or at all, but at the same time he’s probably by far the best person from a small pool that National could have slotted into the Conservation portfolio.

    Comment by izogi — May 5, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

  41. Continuing the corpratist theme, I’d imagine Collins is currently under some kind of close performance management program at the moment, something a proud authoritarian like her self would really struggle with, this could be part of the lashing out.

    Comment by Michael — May 5, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

  42. kalvarnsen: Not sure, he never disclosed who he went for between 2002-2008, and no hints of it either.

    Comment by DeepRed (@DeepRed6502) — May 5, 2014 @ 9:14 pm

  43. Does Maurice Williamson call the police about every constituent who gets into trouble with the law? Or just wealthy ones? Or just wealthy one who donate to his party? I’m almost certain M didn’t think through his explanation….

    Comment by Steve W — May 8, 2014 @ 12:19 am


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