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.