The Dim-Post

August 21, 2014

The SIS OIA

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:23 am

Via Stuff:

Labour MP Phil Goff says he has evidence the prime minister was briefed about a decision to release Security Intelligence Service documents to WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.

John Key, who is also the minister responsible for the SIS, has denied his office had anything to do with the release in 2011 of the documents used to embarrass Goff, who was then Labour Party leader.

Goff had denied being briefed by then SIS director Warren Tucker on a security matter, but the documents showed he had been fully briefed.

Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, alleges Slater was tipped off by Key’s staff to ask for the papers.

Key has insisted that this absolutely did not happen, and that the SIS released the information themselves. Why did they do it so quickly? Because Phil Goff had questioned Tucker’s word, and so Tucker obviously had an incentive to get the information out as quickly as possible.

There are a few problems with that version of events. The biggest is that Fairfax had requested the same document a few days earlier and the SIS refused to release it to them. The second big problem is this dialog in the Slater/Bhatnager correspondence dumped by whaledump yesterday:

Cameron Slater, 8/2, 9:03am Should be a big day tomorrow if my PO Box has a nice brown envelope with OHMS on it
Aaron Bhatnagar, 8/2, 9:04am oh, whats that about?
Cameron Slater, 8/2, 9:05am I OIAd the briefing minutes and notes for Goff’s SIS briefing it has been expedited in the public interest
Aaron Bhatnagar, 8/2, 9:05am oh yes
Cameron Slater, 8/2, 9:06am it is devastating for Goff I am told

Surely if the SIS wanted this information to be published they’d have released it to Fairfax, who asked for it first? It is also hard to imagine the SIS Director’s office calling up Cameron Slater and crowing to him about the contents of his request that they’d just ‘expedited’. 

August 20, 2014

Let’s not overestimate these idiots

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:05 am

One of the most prevalent responses to Dirty Politics is that it just shows us ‘politics as normal’. (Here’s Trotter insisting that dirty politics is ‘the only kind there is’.) This is weird on a couple of levels. Firstly, in the week before Hager’s book was released everyone was running around insisting that the crowd of students chanting ‘Fuck John Key’ meant that this was the dirtiest, nastiest election ever. Now that we have a book documenting behavior that is so far beyond that, and linking it to the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister’s office, people are running around scoffing that politics has ‘always’ been like this. 

Well, sure, people in politics have done nasty things before. Back in 2004 under Clark’s Labour government Leanne Dalziel  was caught leaking private information to the media and then lying about it. People were disgusted by what Dalziel did, and she resigned. We didn’t have all these very sophisticated world-weary cynics running around insisting that it was no big deal because politics is always dirty so nothing bad should happen to her. It is like saying ‘Well, duh, we all know crime happens so let’s not have a justice system.’ 

Also, I know a few people in politics on both the left and the right, and while some of them might be cunning and ruthless (Hi Honey) they’re not sociopaths. If you go around insisting that political operatives who ruin people’s lives because that’s what gives them pleasure is ‘politics as normal’ then you’re enabling these unusually horrible people to turn our political system into something very ugly. Don’t do that. 

Lastly, there’s a quote from Hager’s book that lots of people have picked up on by Simon Lusk about how negative campaigning and dirty politics favors the right. From the afterword: 

There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turnout, favours right more than left as the right continues to turn out, and drives away the independents.’ In short, many people stop participating in politics. If politicians cannot be trusted, if politics looks like a petty or ugly game, and if no one seems to be talking about the things that matter, then what’s the point of bothering to participate? Just leave them to it. There are innovations in US Republican Party thinking on this point; election tactics do not have to be just about winning votes; they can be equally effective if groups of people in society just stop voting altogether.

Maybe that was the conventional wisdom in political science when Lusk wrote that, which I believe was in 2006 or 2007. But it’s not true. The Obama campaign ran a ‘two tier’ campaign against Mitt Romney in 2012. Their media advertising was almost 100% negative, and their direct targeting and ground campaign were positive. They won by suppressing right-wing voter turnout and maximising turnout among their own supporters. So let’s not assume that Lusk, Slater et al have any idea what they’re talking about when it comes to political strategy, or that the revelations about them can only have negative consequences for the left. 

August 19, 2014

Social media election

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:48 am

The person behind the WhaleDump leaks gave the Herald an exclusive with all the emails about Slater and his prostitute friend. That’s significant for several reasons. (1) The Herald reaches the same conclusions Hager did, so this is an exercise in building confidence and integrity in Hager and his book, (2) it tarnishes Key with some of Slater’s most vile dirt and (3) this seems like a really, really well planned and well executed communications strategy, doesn’t it? 

Cameron Slater and Jason Ede considered themselves masters of political ‘black-ops’. (There was a Dom-Post editorial recently taking Nicky Hager to task for using such a loaded term, but someone who worked for National during their first term told me a while ago, with some amusement, that Ede did, actually refer to himself as a ‘black-ops’ guy, and that this mostly consisted of reading Hansards of Phil Goff’s speeches from the 1980s and 90s and finding ways in which Goff had changed his mind in the last thirty years, then running around the Beehive yelling ‘I’ve nailed the bastard! He’s finished!’) Anyway, Slater and Ede and look like amateurs compared to the black op currently being conducted against them and their party. 

We’ve seen third parties intervene in New Zealand elections before. In 2005 the Exclusive Brethren ran an anonymous negative campaign against Labour and the Greens. They put out a bunch of pamphlets. But that was in collaboration with National, even if they didn’t admit it. I don’t think these people are collaborating with any political party. And if they manage to change the minds of, say, 20,000 voters who switch from National to Labour, then a group of anonymous activists will have managed to change the government. 

That’s a big deal. I’m sure they would say they’re just helping voters make an informed decision by putting information before them. And I think voters should know about National and their contacts with Slater. That was a really stupid, horrible decision and people have a right to know about it. But having a group of anonymous activists breaking the law to target political parties they don’t like and then waging a full-scale war against them in the media during an election campaign is new territory. I don’t think this has happened in any other democratic country before. It’s one of the reasons National are so dumbfounded and clumsy in their responses. They can’t go to Crosby/Textor (or whoever) and say ‘What do we do here? What have your clients in other countries done?’ Because this hasn’t happened to anyone. 

August 18, 2014

State of play

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:43 pm

Various points:

  • People have been talking about what they think the most important revelation from Dirty Politics is. The SIS stuff? The blackmail? Judith Collins’ leaks? Etc? I don’t know, but I think that focusing on the individual bombshells eclipses what the overall book is about: a small cabal of vile, vicious ruthless people trying to take over one of our major political parties.
  • I don’t think many National Party members are going to read Dirty Politics, which is a shame, because I think they’d be shocked about what this handful of people are doing to their party. The chapter on the Rodney selection process – in which Mark Mitchell came back to New Zealand from overseas, decided he’d like to be an MP in a National safe-seat, and paid Slater and Lusk to run smear campaigns against his opponents who were all local members of the National Party, subsequent to which Mitchell won the seat – is something National Party members should take an interest in.
  • Now, there are always factions in political parties. There are always plots and gossip and leaks. And the argument some of National’s apologists are putting up is that if any operative from any political party got their emails hacked and selectively published it would look just as bad: filled with death threats and blackmail plots and lies and smears and bile. I don’t think that’s true. And we happen to have a really great real-life example of a leaked politician’s emails in one of Hager’s previous books, The Hollow Men. Hager published excerpts from hundreds of emails between National leader Don Brash and his staffers and advisers. There was a lot of cynicism in The Hollow Men emails, and a lot of material about the duplicity of the National Party (Brash’s beliefs and agenda if he because Prime Minister were very different from the way he was presented to the rest of the country) but there was nothing that came close to the contents of Dirty Politics, and I’m pretty sure that if there was anything like that in the emails from Brash and his advisers Hager would have published it.
  • Things aren’t going that well for John Key in terms of fronting the issue. There’s a lot of criticism of the way he’s handling this. Key’s problem is that this is probably the worst thing that could possibly have happened to him during the election campaign. Building a strategic alliance with Cameron Slater and incorporating him into National’s communications strategy was a terrible, terrible mistake. There’s no way to spin that. There’s no reasonable explanation Key can possibly give. ‘You can’t unshit the bed,’ as they say in US politics. Right now Key’s trying to tough it out because him and his team have decided that is the least terrible option. They might be right.
  • But the game changed again today with the emergence of the @whaledump account on twitter. This is, evidently, Nicky Hager’s source for Slater’s hacked emails, and they’ve published screen shots substantiating this.
  • Who hacked Slater? My first reaction – at the book launch for Dirty Politics  was that it was Kim Dotcom. Slater’s alleged the same thing. Dotcom and Hager have both denied it.
  • I’m inclined to believe Hager’s denial. Not because I think he’s a saint, but he’s a very smart man who has put his integrity on the line for very, very high stakes, and I think that if Dotcom did hack Slater he’s just as likely to have a falling out with a staffer or business associate who would then run to the media and tell everybody all about it, or just blurt it out on twitter at 4am. I don’t think Hager would risk that.
  • But the @whaledump account seems very Kim Dotcomesque, doesn’t it? Or at least very tech-geek, with the cute graphic and Futurama memes. It feels similar to the Team Key parody account which is widely suspected of being an Internet Party creation. And they’re posting their stuff on mega, which is owned by Kim Dotcom!
  • I suspect some heavy-duty trolling there. I searched for whaledump’s encryption key on the PGP server. They registered it on Tuesday the 5th of August, a week before Hager’s book was published, and listed their user id as: Whaledump <winston.peters@parliament.govt.nz>. It’s designed to keep us guessing.
  • Whoever it is it seems like a very different entity to Nicky Hager. Maybe that’s what we’re meant to think! But it means that National doesn’t know what’s coming. The very first dump of information contained emails that weren’t mentioned in Dirty Politics. Hager said that he would not release any personal details about MP’s private lives, but no one has any idea what the person or people running @whaledump will do.
  • Which means that Key’s office will have to vet Judith Collins’ correspondence with Slater because any of it might be released on twitter at any moment. Maybe I’m misjudging Collins here but I don’t think her career can survive that vetting. I think there’s a high chance that she’ll get a call tonight from one of her fellow MPs who she considers a friend and that they’ll ask her to stand down tomorrow ‘for the good of the party’.

 

 

 

 

August 17, 2014

Crime wave!

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:17 pm

National’s latest PR stunt is to claim they’re the victims of an ongoing criminal conspiracy. David Farrar was on the news tonight insisting he’d been hacked, despite admitting on twitter that this almost certainly has not happened. Judith Collins’ husband’s office was robbed! Six weeks ago! Mark Mitchell’s constituency office and Parliamentary office was robbed! Last year! You see! You see how it all fits together!

So. Why target Collins’ husband and Mark Mitchell? Seems like an odd combination. Almost as if they’re just two random victims of random crimes, that both happened a while ago and have nothing to do with anything. Also, Mitchell’s Parliamentary Office was robbed? That’s also odd. The security at Parliament is as robust as you’d expect. I don’t know where Mitchell’s office is but I’m guessing its on a floor with a whole bunch of other National MPs and staffers, which can only be accessed via swipe card once you’ve gotten past the security at every entrance. And the whole place is under camera surveillance and all the swipe card activity is logged. That seems like a risky heist for Nicky Hager, or Kim Dotcom’s private investigators, or whoever is supposed to have gone after Mitchell.

Update: A reader writes:

Cunliffe’s office was robbed a while back. Not to mention bullets fired into Harawira’s office. Hager has been real busy

The Rodney Hide allegations

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:51 am

Rodney Hide has a column in the New Zealand Herald today dismissing the allegation that he was blackmailed into standing down as leader of the ACT Party. He writes:

Hager never rang to ask: “Hey, I have just come across the damnedest stuff and just have to ask, were you ever blackmailed?”

To which I would reply: “No, definitely not. I would never give in to blackmail. I would go straight to the police. It’s a crime. I have no doubt the police and the courts would take a dim view of any attempt to blackmail a political leader and Government minister. It never happened.”

Let’s timeline his resignation alongside the allegations made in Dirty Politics.

Hide poured scorn on Brash’s claim of being offered the co-leader’s job. He said he had offered to pay Brash’s membership if his friend joined the Act Party.

“He wanted to be leader. I said the way you become the leader or co-leader is to join the party and work your way up.”

He said Brash was too old for the job. “We’re looking forward to the next generation of leaders and Don has had his shot with National. It’s hard to see him contesting the 2014 campaign.”

  • Sunday, 24th April 2011: Simon Lusk (allegedly) contacts Cameron Slater advising him that ‘we can fuck up Rodney. Jordan is talking to a girl that Rodney has been sending dodgy texts to.’ Lusk suggests to Slater that they tell Hide they will release the texts if Hide does not resign by Friday.

Mr Hide has said Dr Brash’s bid is a takeover attempt by a member of a different party.

Confident of keeping his leadership, he said if Dr Brash wanted to become leader, he would have to follow the process and first become a member of the party.

Rodney needs to be careful with any dodgy plays because the tipline is running so hot that it is practically on fire. This includes some information about his destruction of Heather Roy’s career that would not play out kindly for Rodney. He should remember carefully how he used me in that play.

In a continuation of the “Roy play”, Rodney is also contemplating a personal attack on Don based on his ethics. This would be a great play for Don because it would mean personal life was absolutely fair game, and I just absolutely love politicians dirty laundry being aired in public, just ask Stuart Nash and the new Mangrove Iain Lees-Galloway. Not a classical scholar, Rodney probably is unaware of William Congreve, but here are a couple of excellent quotes:

“O fie, miss, you must not kiss and tell.”

And the better known

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,”

Followed by:

Meanwhile my predictions of Rodney’s bunker pals running “Don Brash is an old man” lines has come to pass with Rodney Hide staffer Chris Diack commenting freely on Kiwiblog. Word via the tipline is that they wil keep up that line for a couple of days and then change to smears involving Don Brash’s personal life. It surprises me that Rodney Hide of all people wants to go down that path but if he plays those cards then he will reap what he sows.

But current leader Rodney Hide says he is not resigning and that he is proud of what he has done for the party.

He said he had heard rumours about his resignation but said they were not true.

When asked about Don Brash taking over the party’s leadership he said: “I believe Don Brash hasn’t even joined the Act Party yet.”

Dr Brash’s bid seemed to take a blow yesterday when deputy leader John Boscawen said through a spokesman that he backed Mr Hide as leader and would vote for him in a leadership challenge.

  • Thursday 28th April: Hide resigns

    Rodney Hide has stepped down as leader of the ACT Party, paving the way for challenger Don Brash after days of mounting pressure and speculation.

    Dr Brash will lead the party from outside Parliament, so its current MPs will keep their spots, including Mr Hide’s ministerial posts.

    Mr Hide announced his resignation at a press conference in the Auckland suburb Newmarket this afternoon, in the heart of the Epsom electorate he has represented since 2005.

In his Herald column today Hide writes:

I tracked down Jordan Williams. He had no texts. He says the claims are “utterly, utterly false … outrageous. … disgusting”. I believe him. I emailed Don Brash. No, Simon Lusk never worked for him. I believe him.

According to Dirty Politics, page 70:

Lusk wrote to Slater via Facebook: Don [Brash] has told [New Zealand Herald reporter] Derek Cheng I was not paid by him and I was not paid by ACT as far as he knew and wasn’t going to comment any further on who was involved in his coup.’  Slater wrote back, ‘Lol, bwahahaha.’

If I was Slater, Lusk or Williams, I think this is the stuff I’d be losing sleep over. I am not a lawyer, but I looked through the crimes act and asked a real lawyer about this, and if the police can establish that these messages really were sent by Lusk and Slater they are admissible as evidence whether or not they were obtained illegally, and might be used, along with Slater’s blog posts, to charge them with conspiracy to commit blackmail, irrespective of whether Hide feels that he was actually blackmailed. Maximum sentence seven years.

 

 

August 15, 2014

Dirty politics and consequences

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:52 pm

John Key did a media stand-up yesterday about Dirty Politics in which he mentioned the words ‘left-wing conspiracy theorist’ about twenty times, and insisted that everything in the book is a lie, and that the real dirty politics comes from the left.

From a communications point-of-view that’s a sensible approach. His audience is not the journalists at the stand-up, but rather the television viewers who haven’t read the book and who will see excerpts of the statement and be reassured by the PMs words.

But some of the reporters listening to the PM have read the book. And when Key insists that the real dirty politics comes from the left, I think, or hope, that they’ll reflect that no one on the left is publishing the addresses of journalists online in the hope that someone assaults or murders them in revenge for writing about tax-havens, which is what Cathy Odgers, Cameron Slater David Farrar and Matthew Hooton discuss on page 91. Also, no one on the left is going around brothels trying to find out whether journalists have visited them, so they can be blackmailed, which is what Cameron Slater, the Justice Minister’s close friend, and long-term collaborator with the Prime Minister’s office is up to. No one on the left runs smear campaigns against attempted rape victims, or publishes graphic affidavits describing their political enemies having sex. There’s no one comparable to Slater on the left of politics, or blogging. He is a phenomenon unique to the National Party.  Key can insist that this is all just a lie, just a conspiracy story, but people who read the book know that this is simply documentation from Slater’s emails and that the Prime Minister is lying to their faces. 

So I don’t think Key’s line will work, or that this story is going away. I haven’t talked to any gallery journalists since it was released but I suspect that – if nothing else – the confirmation of the long-nurtured bitter suspicion that Key’s office has been screwing them on OIA requests by forwarding them to Slater for early publication will ensure that this story runs and runs throughout the rest of the campaign.

Will it hurt National? I don’t know. I really thought the Oravida scandal at the beginning of the year would damage them, and it didn’t. Maybe nothing will. But if this is different I think it’s because it cuts against Key’s brand: the good guy who floats above it all, so much so that the media go to him, weirdly, as an impartial commentator on political events. If this pulls away the mask and reveals him as just another venal politician with an office filled with staffers digging dirt, then that will hurt the National Party.

Whatever the wider implications, the book has had a profound effect on me, personally. Something that doesn’t come across in the news coverage about Dirty Politics, and Cameron Slater, Jason Ede, Jordan Williams, Simon Lusk et al is just how fucking awful these people are. They spend their lives trying to poison and contaminate our politics. They enjoy seeing people suffer. They get excited by the idea of breaking up the marriages of their political enemies and ruining their lives. And John Key stands up and bleats about how everything they do is fine, and the people on the left are the nasty ones. Fuck him. 

I’ve been on the left for a while. I voted Labour then Green, and I’ll be voting Green again this year. But I’ve always tried to be detached and as non-partisan as possible. I didn’t always succeed, but the intention was there. I’ve never joined a political party, and I’ve been a constant critic of Labour. I spend half my time online arguing with other left-wing commentators.

But these people in National and its proxies are the fucking enemy. They literally hate most of the people in the country: Cameron Slater was delighted when the earthquake hit Christchurch, killed 185 people and destroyed thousands of houses, because those people were ‘scum’ who voted Labour. That’s the guy who is close friends with the Justice Minister and a core component of National’s media strategy.

These people shouldn’t be at the heart of our government. They’re a cancer. I’m not naive, I know that politics involves leaks; that there are dirty tricks in every government. But I like to think that if a left-wing government gets this bad, I’ll do something about it.

Because I’m going to do something about this. I’m not sure what, exactly. Join the Green Party, donate money to them and volunteer, to start with. Stop bickering with others on the left and focus on the real threat. Hopefully a lot more. Because these people are evil and they Do Not Get to Win.

DPF Hacked!

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 11:18 am

Via Stuff

David Farrar, whose company does polling for National and who operates the National-sympathetic Kiwiblog, was also a subject of Dirty Politics.

He posted on Kiwiblog this morning that after a careful reading of the book, he realised Hager had information “that could not have come from the hacking of Cameron Slater, but could only have come from my computer, my apartment or my office”.

The two most likely scenarios were that his computer system had also been hacked, or someone had physically removed documents from his office or apartment, Farrar said.

Or, y’know, Hager could have talked to one of Farrar’s employees, who read the scripts hundreds of times, and if you look in the footnotes to Hager’s book it turns out that information about Curia is attributed to an ‘employee’. 

August 14, 2014

Two points about Cameron Slater. First: Who reads this shit?

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 1:41 pm

Cameron Slater is the undisputed king of the New Zealand blogosphere (disputed). Here’s a chart of the publically available NZ blog traffic stats for August 2014, provided by Open Parachute:

august14blogs

WhaleOil towers over the rest of the extremely high quality blogs in the top seven. And he has some prominent fans. The Prime Minister and Justice Minister, obviously. National Party apparatchiks Sean Plunket and Bill Ralston are huge admirers, as is the Herald’s media columnist John Drinnen. There’s a lot of love out there for the Whale.

Which is weird, because have you looked at WhaleOil recently? Jump back a few weeks to the pre-election campaign and it is a very, very weird aggregation of pet videos and other viral videos and ‘mental health breaks’, pictures of old maps, pictures of guns, proverbs, tobacco company PR (as detailed in the book), posts laughing about dead or injured children, political commentary, open threads, and cut and pasted excerpts from media stories and other bloggers. As Hager points out in his book, Slater accepts payment to smear people on his blog, which means he runs attack campaigns against random unknown individuals and tiny companies which have no interest to anyone. Who are the hundreds of thousands of people apparently reading this stuff? 

Well. One of those other bloggers Slater links to semi-regularly is me. My big traffic days are when I post a poll update and everyone links to it, or if say something mean about Labour, and both WhaleOil and Kiwiblog link to me to endorse it and someone at the Standard links to me to refute it. When someone clicks on a link at WhaleOil or Kiwiblog and ends up at the DimPost the origin shows up in my statistics. Here’s what the incoming links for the last three months look like.


dimpostquarter

DPF and Slater have both linked to me roughly the same amount of times during that period. I guess you could argue that readers of Kiwiblog and the other right-wing blogs in that graph are more likely to click on links than WhaleOil readers, for some unknown reason, or that my site is also linked to in their side-bars, maybe? But go back and look at the traffic stats for WhaleOil in the first graph. His traffic is, supposedly, immense, towering over everyone else – but the amount of actual people clicking through from his site is tiny. 

My hypothesis is that the WhaleOil stats are gamed, somehow, and that the number of real people reading WhaleOil every day is probably in the low hundreds, mostly National and ACT activists and media elites and outraged left-wingers. Which is funny, because he’s paid very handsomely by the tobacco lobby and other industry groups to publish their PR on the basis that it’s going out to hundreds of thousands of people. 

August 13, 2014

Dirty Politics Summary

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 11:40 pm

Hager’s basic hypothesis is that John Key’s National government uses a ‘two tier’ communications strategy; positive communications, which are focused around John Key, who is presented as ‘relaxed’ and decent, and negative/attack communications, which are conducted covertly by senior staffers in Key’s office and fed to the media mostly – but not exclusively – through Cameron Slater’s WhaleOil blog.

His evidence for all of this consists of a huge quantity of Slater’s Facebook messages many of which are to and from Jason Ede, the longest-serving press officer in the Prime Minister’s office. The primary allegations regarding Ede are:

  • He was involved in accessing the Labour Party’s computers in the lead-up to the 2011 election
  • He tips Slater off when an OIA is about to be released to an opposition party or media outlet, telling Slater to request the OIA, which he is then provided with before the original requestor. Slater then publishes the information on his blog with a pro-National spin
  • He is implicated in advising Slater to request classified SIS documents, which were then declassified and quickly released to Slater to embarrass Labour leader Phil Goff
  • Ede advised Slater on the wording of OIA requests to conduct a smear campaign against MFAT staff protesting Murray McCully’s restructuring of their department.

The book also documents the close friendship between Slater and Justice Minister Judith Collins, alleging:

  • Collins is the source of much of the material for Slater’s ‘tipline’, attacking Labour MPs and her enemies within the National Party.
  • When she was Minister of Corrections Collins appears to have had a prisoner transferred at Slater’s request, because a friend of Slater’s didn’t want her daughter visiting her imprisoned ex-partner and Slater arranged to have the man transferred to a more remote prison. The prisoner later attempted suicide. [Update: Hager has said - and the book does, actually say, that Slater accomplished this through a prison officer, not Collins.]
  • Collins discusses the illegal leaking of police evidence with Slater and publication of the evidence on Slater’s blog (at the time she was Minister of Police)

One of Slater’s primary collaborators is the political strategist Simon Lusk. Allegations:

  • Lusk and Slater charge aspiring National politicians to help them win candidate selection in National safe-seats by running attack campaigns against their opponents. The book documents an extensive smear campaign in the Rodney electorate in 2011, in which Lusk and Slater successfully elected their client Mark Mitchell, who is now the MP for Rodney.
  • Lusk and Slater, and Jordan Williams routinely game the iPredict site, spending small amounts of money to move the prices around and then blogging about the movements.
  • Lusk was hired by Brash to help replace Rodney Hide as leader of the ACT Party. Lusk – evidently without Brash’s knowledge – found out from Jordan Williams that Rodney Hide had been sending ‘dodgy texts’ to a young woman. Slater published hints about this on his blog and Lusk proposed that they approach Hide quietly and ‘tell Hide that someone had the texts and will release them if he doesn’t resign by Friday’. Hide resigned.

Much of the material published by Slater under his name is actually written by Carrick Graham, a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. Allegations:

  • Graham also comments extensively on WhaleOil, using pseudonyms, often under his own posts. His pseudo-anonymous comments are incredibly racist and misogynistic.
  • Graham pays Slater about $6500 a month for publishing pro tobacco, pro alcohol PR, written by Graham but published under Slater’s byline.
  • Many of the posts are vicious attacks against academics that publish scientific research that upsets Graham’s clients.

Other noteworthy allegations:

  • Slater has a friend who is a former-prostitute, who asks around brothels to find out if his political enemies have been to them. Len Brown, John Boscowan, Labour MPs, the Herald’s editors and Duncan Garner are all named as people Slater has attempted to ‘dig dirt’ on in this manner to ‘apply pressure’.
  • Jordan Williams edits the Wikipedia pages of Labour MPs and writes smears about their sex lives
  • Content on David Farrar’s Kiwiblog is written by National’s communications staffers

That’s not even close to an exhaustive list. Just the things that jumped out at me.

I think the primary focus here should be on Jason Ede. Cameron Slater, Jordan Williams and David Farrar are National Party activists, but Ede is paid a (large) salary by the taxpayer to help John Key run the country but his actual job seems to consist of activity that is highly unethical and – occasionally – almost certainly illegal.

Key has already dismissed Hager’s book (‘left-wing conspiracy theory’) so it looks like he might try to bluff this out. I really, really, really doubt that will work.

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