Changing accusations on who leaked Peters Super overpayment

There has been a slew of accusations about who leaked information about the superannuation overpayment of Winston Peters.

Peters initially blamed the IRD. Then he moved to MSD, Bill English, Anne Tolley, Paula Bennett and public servants. By yesterday he was calling for mass resignations.

Stuff: Winston Peters calls for heads to roll over superannuation overpayment leak

Winston Peters wants heads to roll over his superannuation overpayment being leaked, including Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and State Services Minister Paula Bennett.

The NZ First leader told media following a finance debate in Queenstown on Wednesday night that those who have said they knew about his overpayment have “breached the privacy laws”.

When asked if Tolley, Bennett, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes and Prime Minister Bill English’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, should all lose their jobs, Peters said “of course they should”.

“They’re all in breach of the privacy laws of this country and there has to be consequences – they have just been so badly caught out,” he said.

Peters has never resigned over breaches of privacy but he has different rules for himself.

Also yesterday: Shane Jones takes aim at social development boss: ‘Writing’s on the wall’

NZ First candidate Shane Jones has launched a scathing attack on a senior civil servant, who he has accused of being at the centre of politically-motivated leaks in two separate elections.

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle has confirmed he briefed his minister Anne Tolley that the department had settled a matter with NZ First leader Winston Peters’ on the overpayment of his pension.

“The man is no stranger to breaches of privacy. He was in charge of the internal affairs department when in the midst of the 2008 election there was a massive dump of documents.

“It was a file of a matter I dealt with, pertaining to Bill Liu – right in the middle of an election.

“Now the man is in the middle of a major privacy breach in this election,” Jones said.

Risky for Jones to bring up Bill Liu.

It emerged just before the 2008 election, then Labour Immigration Minister Jones granted the controversial Chinese businessman New Zealand citizenship despite an Interpol warning.

And it seems that after being distanced from National Cameron Slater has shifted his dirty politics to trying to help Peters and NZ First.

Like Peters his accusations have evolved, suggesting they are dirty speculations.

He originally thought the big revelation was something else.

Then when the Super  story broke he accused Anne Tolley. He has since piled into Bill English and his staff, also Steven Joyce.

And apparently he has now blamed someone ‘very close to Paula Bennett’.

If the leaker is revealed both he and peters will probably claim to have been right – if they accuse enough people their odds must be good.

It has long been a tactic of both Peters and Slater of making public accusations without any evidence, it seems to be aimed at trying to flush out a culprit.

Dirty politics from both of them. It was dirty to leak the information but whoever leaked is just wrestling in mud with political pigs.

Hager on the impact of ‘Dirty Politics’

It’s three years since Nicky Hager launched his ‘Dirty Politics’ book. He looks back on what it exposed and what the effects of it have been.

The Spinoff:  Sunlight did what sunlight does: Nicky Hager on Dirty Politics, three years on

Dirty Politics landed like a bombshell in the NZ election campaign of 2014. It may not have affected that outcome, but that was never the ambition. It has, however, made a big impact on our politics, argues Nicky Hager

Three long years ago, during the last election campaign, the book Dirty Politics revealed a political dirty tricks campaign being run out of John Key’s Beehive office. It was an ugly operation, jarringly contradicting the friendly, BBQ-guy image cultivated by Key. If you don’t know the details, it is still well worth reading the whole grubby story.

He must have a bit of stock left. Most people have moved on. The only person who keeps banging on about it is Cameron Slater.

Quite a lot of people wondered at the time whether the book might change the outcome of the election. It didn’t and some concluded that the book had had no effect. But my aims were different.

It’s hard to believe that timed a few weeks out from an election there were hopes of an impact – if not from Hager, there were certainly hopes on the left that it would be a game changer. It did nothing to make David Cunliffe electable.

The book has had an effect far beyond what I could reasonably have hoped for.

Here is my assessment of what has changed as a result and what hasn’t.

Exposing and considerably closing down the dirty tricks campaign

Before the book, the dirty politics brigade was having a huge influence over New Zealand politics. Personal attacks were cooked up in the prime minister’s office and elsewhere, drafted into nasty, drip-fed blog posts and sent out into the world through two National Party-aligned blogs: Whale Oil and Kiwiblog. An embarrassing number of journalists reprinted these attacks and came to use the bloggers, Cameron Slater and David Farrar, as regular sources for tip offs and news. The journalists were aware that the bloggers had close links to John Key and his government, and this further enhanced their status and influence.

There was some nasty stuff going on, mainly centred on Whale Oil but with the complicity of the Prime Minister’s office and mainstream media.

The most important effect of the book is that this dirty tricks campaign was exposed and largely stopped. The dirty tricks coordinator in John Key’s office, Jason Ede, was hastily removed from his job and has never been seen again. There is hardly a single journalist left who would take stories off the dirty politics bloggers. Cameron Slater and the Whale Oil blog still exist, but they have shrunk back to the margins of politics.

That particular source of dirty politics has been severely curtailed, but there’s still quite a bit of more subtle dirt mongering. The people and aims of the Todd Barclay issue still have a mucky look, aided and abetted by some media.

Revealing the attack machine to its other countless victims

Numerous people have been attacked over the years by the Whale Oil or Kiwiblog sites: politicians, journalists, academics, a public servant handing out political leaflets in his lunch hour, almost anyone doing something effective on the left side of politics. Some attacks were to help the National Party; some were commercial operations attacking private people on behalf of undeclared paying clients. The important thing that has changed is that now these people know what was going on.

Quite a few people new quite a bit about what was going on. While there were grubby details in ‘Dirty Politics’ there wasn’t a lot overall that surprised me. A lot of it was blatantly obvious.

Hager confronted it and forced change – in particular he forced Key’s office to tidy up their act and he forced the media to be more responsible too .

By understanding the game, people have been able to fight back. On page 95 of the book Dirty Politics, for instance, there is mention of an attack job done for money by Cameron Slater and his PR industry collaborator Carrick Graham against a school principal who was in a matrimonial dispute.

The person who paid Slater and Graham for the attacks was a lawyer and she has since been taken to a legal tribunal for improper behaviour. Just this month the tribunal decision was published, revealing the whole operation. It makes interesting reading.

The dirt at Whale Oil was much wider than the Prime Ministers office. The above case, recently revealed through a court decision, was not political at all, it was a presumably privately funded domestic smear job.

Revealing corporate smears for cash operations

The book revealed that one of Slater and Graham’s most lucrative freelance attack campaigns targeted public health professionals – on behalf, apparently, of unlovely corporate clients such as the tobacco industry. The public health professionals were trying to save people’s lives from tobacco, alcohol and obesity harms. The attacks seem to have been an effort to protect profits from these meddlers.

Even after these activities were exposed in the book, Graham and Slater appeared to continue the attacks. Eventually some of the health professionals took action. In June last year they launched defamation action against Slater and Graham

I presume this action is still progressing.

Diminishing the influence of the dirty tricks operatives

On this point, the results are more mixed. Slater and the Whale Oil blog, the heart of the dirty politics system, are certainly diminished. It now seems hard to believe that not long ago they were so influential. But some others have continued to be a problem.

Slater’s political attack collaborator, Simon Lusk, was seen in last year’s local government elections when he assisted with attack tactics for some mayoral candidates. His campaigns faced a backlash in some towns when people realised that a dirty politics practitioner was involved in the election campaign.

There seems to be still a market for dirty political campaigners.

Slater’s fellow attack blogger, David Farrar, is still used as a commentator by some news media, including being introduced just as a “blogger”.

I think Farrar was rocked personally far more than Slater and has been more subdued on Kiwiblog, but still uses his blog for political activism.

Williams even won a defamation case against former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, after Craig accused Williams of being involved in dirty politics against him. Record defamation damages were awarded to Williams.

But then in April this year the presiding judge, Justice Katz, took the unusual step of setting aside the verdict, saying it would be a miscarriage of justice. She said Craig’s actions “must be viewed in the broader context that his own character and reputation were under sustained attack from Mr Williams”. The judge’s carefully argued judgement is a pleasure to read (there are extracts here).

That legal action is also presumably still progressing.

…as the list above shows, plenty has changed already. The trouble with using dirty tactics is the risk of being found out and the tactics blowing up in your face. Bit by bit, the triumphant manipulators of the 2011 and 2014 elections have been getting their comeuppance; and other people have hopefully been deciding that there are better ways to do politics than following them down that dismal road.

While ‘Dirty Politics’ has had a significant impact it takes more than one book to tidy up decades if not centuries of political skulduggery.

Message to The Standard

I had a wee dabble at The Standard yesterday, and was on the receiving end (again) of it’s resident dirty attacks. Some of it is so pathetic it is hilarious – at one stage I was called a liar for posting a published poll result but not linking to what eventually turned out to be a completely irrelevant poll – that is with ‘adam’ here.

Other dirty activists had attacked as usual – in particular the regulars ‘One Anonymous Bloke’ and Robert Guyton who happen to be Green supporters (and have been doing it for years), and also the ever bitter ‘marty mars’ who doesn’t seem to have a party extreme enough to support these days.

So I responded, and as ‘weka’ (another Green supporter) is likely to waste her time doing something in response I’ll also repeat it here.


I think it’s worth repeating this (in Open Mike 06/08/2017) here, a response to marty mars: (on another thread where it happened):

“contributes to a toxic environment for the left here with his incessant fault finding and attack posts against the left”

Very funny – or do you actually believe that?

I only occasionally post here. You and a few others frequently post here, creating a toxic environment of the left, attacking many people you judge to not be suitably left, or something.

You (collectively) deter far more people from voting left than i ever will, because they are not the right sort of left for you, not left enough, or just that you make an ill-informed judgement.

I first came to The Standard thinking it would be a good place to join in the rebuilding of Labour after Clark lost in 2008 and then departed Parliament. I was mistaken. This has been a toxic, small minded, dirty unwelcoming place.

There are good people here, and interesting comments at times, but it has been dominated by persistent petty regulars who burn off anyone deemed some sort of enemy.

It has changed, probably because more moderate centre-ish people have been driven away or can’t be bothered with the toxicity.

What is obvious now that, while there may be a few Labour try-hards, the dirty politics here is now dominated by non-Labour supporters like marty mars, OAB, Robert Guyton, who all regularly and persistently attack anyone deemed some sort of enemy.

It’s pathetic, and it’s counter productive. Even if there is some intent to drive off potential Labour voters that is cutting off your nose to spite your face, and certainly won’t encourage people to vote Green or Mana.

This is a toxic environment without me, I just pop in occasionally to see if anything has changed. Obviously not.

I’ve voted both Green and Labour, but I and I think many others who pass by here certainly wouldn’t encouraged to do so again by the bitter and twisted attack dweebs who dominate threads here.

Ardern and Davis have given the first sign in a decade that Labour may be able to climb back into prominence again. But it looks like they will struggle to get any help here with so much toxic self destruction further to the left going on.

If Labour supporters (and anyone genuinely wanting a change of government) want to do something positive to rebuild the party they should stand up more to the crap perpetuated by a few spoilers here.

Williams v Craig – the ‘Dirty Politics’ connection

On 12 April 2017 Judge Katz J delivered a judgment in the defamation case brought by Jordan Williams against ex leader of the Conservative Party Colin Craig.

Judge Katz put aside the jury award of a record amount of damages of $1.27 million, ruling that it was excessive and would have amounted to a miscarriage of justice.

Unless Williams decides to walk away from the case it looks like it will have to go to another trial.

The full decision is here (PDF, 528KB)

Law Professor Andrew Geddis has a good summary of key legal points here: How to lose when you win. This explains Judge Katz’s reasoning well.

However Geddis avoids naming a person and a blog closely involved in the case – Cameron Slater and Whale Oil. Judge Katz describes how Williams used both to attack Craig, which prompted Craig’s retaliation that the jury ruled ill willed enough and/or took improper advantage of the occasion.

So I’ll have a look at the blogging aspects aspects of the case and connections made to Dirty Politics that are mentioned in the judgment.

Some background:

[16] Ms MacGregor appears to have had little or no knowledge of what Mr Williams was doing. However, she had, by this time, become suspicious that Mr Williams may have taken copies of the letters Mr Craig had sent her, which she had stored in his office safe. On the morning that Mr Williams was scheduled to meet with Messrs Day and Dobbs she sent him an email requesting that he return the letters to her. She further stated in her email:

Do not copy them. I do not want them to be used against Colin. I want this whole thing to go away and for there to be no more trouble.

Mr Williams disregarded Ms MacGregor’s request.

[17] Mr Day met with Mr Craig on 19 June 2015 (the morning after he and Mr Dobbs had met with Mr Williams) and told him what an “informant” had told them. Mr Craig, by this time, was fairly sure who the informant was. Mr Craig agreed to stand down to enable the Board to undertake a full investigation of the issue.

Slater and Whale Oil get involved.

[18] That same morning Mr Williams, using the nom de plume “Concerned Conservative”, sent a draft blog post to blogger Cameron Slater for publication on the Whale Oil website. The draft blog post made allegations against Mr Craig of sexual harassment, a pay-out to a former staff member, and inappropriate touching. Mr Williams attached (without Ms MacGregor’s knowledge or consent) a photo of a poem Mr Craig had sent to Ms MacGregor, entitled “Two of Me”, and a photograph of Mr Craig’s signature at the bottom of a letter to Ms MacGregor.

[19] The Whale Oil website published the blog post immediately prior to (or possibly simultaneously with) a press conference called by Mr Craig to announce he was stepping aside. Over the course of the next three days, Whale Oil published a number of further articles containing allegations about Mr Craig and speculating about the leadership of the Conservative Party. Mr Williams was involved in instigating or drafting most of that material. These actions contributed to (but were not the sole cause of) what was described at trial as a subsequent “media firestorm.”

Those familiar with Whale Oil may recognise this modus operandi – providing Whale Oil with material that is either posted anonymously or under the authorship of ‘Cameron Slater’ as part of a sustained campaign against someone.

Similar tactics were described in Nicky Hager’s 2014 book Dirty Politics, including involvement of Williams with Slater, and the use of Whale Oil.

[20] On 29 July 2015 Mr Craig called a press conference, during which he read out the Remarks to the media. The Remarks included a number of statements about a group referred to as the “Dirty Politics Brigade”, identified as including Mr Williams, Mr Slater and Mr Stringer. Some of the key passages from the Remarks (with the words Mr Williams specifically complained of in italics) are as follows:

Today is a good day because this is the day we start to fight back against the Dirty Politics Brigade who have been running a defamatory strategy against me.

The first of the 2 major announcements today is the publication of a booklet that outlines the dirty politics agenda and what they have been up to in recent weeks. There is a copy here for each of you to take away after the statements today.

Although I was broadly aware of the dirty politics agenda, I have after all read Nicky Hager’s book, I had not expected to have such close and personal attention from them.

In our booklet we reveal that there has been a campaign of defamatory lies to undermine my public standing, a campaign that in the Dirty Politics Brigade’s own words they describe as a “strategy that is being worked out”. I shall briefly cover some of their lies so you have a taste of what the booklet contains.

The first false claim is that I have sexually harassed one or more persons. Let me be very clear, I have never sexually harassed anybody and claims I have done so are false.

The second false claim being bandied about by the Dirty Politics Brigade is that I have made a pay-out (or pay-outs) to silence supposed “victims”. Again this is nonsense. Take for example the allegations around my former press secretary. Let me be very clear, the only payment I have made to Miss MacGregor since her resignation is an amount of $16,000 which was part payment of her final invoice. It was a part payment because I disputed her account which I had every right to do. Claims of any other amounts being paid and especially the suggestions of large sums of hush money being paid are utterly wrong and seriously defamatory.

Again in a similar vein is the false allegation that I have sent sexually explicit text messages or “SEXTs” as they are known. Once more this is not true. I have never sent a sexually explicit text message in my life.

We identify in the booklet 3 key people in the campaign against me. Each of these will be held to account for the lies they have told. Formal claims are being prepared and I expect these persons will have formal letters from my legal team within the next 48 hours. Due to the serious, deliberate and repetitive nature of the defamatory statements I will, for the first time, be seeking damages in a defamation claim.

The first defamation action is against Mr Jordan Williams. I will be seeking damages from him of $300,000.

The second defamation action is against Mr John Stringer. I will be seeking damages from him of $600,000

The third defamation action is against Mr Cameron Slater. I will be seeking damages from him of $650,000.

Today the line is drawn. Either the dirty politics brigade is telling the truth or I am. The New Zealand public need certainty about the truth of these claims. This is about who is honest. Is Colin Craig telling the truth or is it the Dirty Politics Brigade. Let the courts judge this matter so we know whom to trust.

[21] The Leaflet was made available at the press conference and subsequently distributed nationwide to letterboxes. Key passages included the following (the words of specific complaint are again emphasised):

We are a nation that believes in a fair go. We want our referees to be fair and every game to be played in a sportsmanlike way. We do not like corrupt people, and honesty is one of our core values. We must therefore reject the “Dirty Politics Brigade” who are seeking to hijack the political debate in New Zealand.

This booklet details the latest action by the Dirty Politics Brigade, this time in an attack on Conservative Party leader, Mr Colin Craig. […]

Williams is a well-known member of the Dirty Politics Brigade having already been identified in the “Dirty Politics” book as “acting as an apprentice to … Slater”. He is a lawyer and currently works full time as a political lobbyist.

It was Williams who gathered the initial information and accusations against Craig. His source was Craig’s former press secretary Rachel MacGregor with whom Williams had a romantic relationship.

Using the information he had gathered, Williams built a compelling story of MacGregor’s alleged harassment which he supported by an “attack dossier” of information. His presentation of events was in part her story (as he says she told it to him), some personal notes by MacGregor regarding the matter, and selected details of alleged correspondence from Craig to MacGregor.

The allegations presented by Williams included claims that (a) Craig had sent MacGregor “SEXT” messages, (b) MacGregor had resigned due to harassment but was lured back by big money, and (c) Craig stopped paying MacGregor for 6 months and put sexual pressure on her with requests she stay the night.

These are false allegations and easily proved so. Sexually explicit texts, resignations, and invoicing/payment records are by nature documented events.

Once Williams had put together the “attack dossier” he provided the details to Cameron Slater [Whaleoil] which ensured that there would be a media agenda at work against Craig.

Williams however did not stop there. He also had confidential meetings/discussions with people including some of Craig’s key supporters and Board members. In these “confidential” discussions Williams would attack Craig’s character undermining support for him. Williams was always careful that Craig did not know of the meetings, that no copies of the supposed “evidence” were taken, and that his [Williams’] involvement was kept secret.

Later the judge details examples of where Williams was not successful in his claims, with a number of things proven to be true (and therefore not defamatory).

[53] In my view the fact that the jury awarded the full amount of damages sought by Mr Williams strongly supports the inference that the jury must have concluded that Mr Williams was entirely successful in his claim, or almost entirely successful. He was not. Several of the defamatory imputations he pleaded were proved to be true at trial. For example, the allegation that Mr Craig had sent sext messages to Ms MacGregor was a key plank of Mr Williams’ attack on Mr Craig’s reputation. Mr Williams pleaded that Mr Craig defamed him by saying that he (Mr Williams) had lied when he told people that Mr Craig had sent sext messages to Ms MacGregor. The undisputed evidence at trial, however, was that Mr Williams did tell a number of people that Mr Craig had sent Ms MacGregor “sext” messages and that this was not true. This information had a significant impact on those who heard it and was a key factor in the pressure on Mr Craig to step down as leader of the Conservative Party.

[54] It was open to the jury to conclude that, initially at least, Mr Williams may have been mistaken as to the existence of sext messages from Mr Craig to Ms MacGregor. The over whelming weight of the evidence at trial was inconsistent with any continued mistaken belief, however, as pressure mounted on Mr Williams to produce evidence of the sext messages, which he was unable to do. Further, Mr Williams told at least one witness that he had seen copies of sext messages, when he had not.

[55] Mr Williams also pleaded that Mr Craig had defamed him by saying that he (Mr Williams) had lied by falsely alleging that Mr Craig had made a pay-out (or pay-outs) of large sums of money to silence Mr Craig’s victim(s) of sexual harassment. The evidence established that Mr Williams did tell people that Mr Craig had paid large sums of money to settle Ms MacGregor’s sexual harassment claim. Mr Williams acknowledged, however, that he knew that any settlement sum was likely to be small, not the large figure he had mentioned.

[56] There was also undisputed evidence at trial that provided at least some support for a number of the other defamatory imputations pleaded, such as imputations that Mr Williams had been dishonest, deceitful, and could not be trusted.

Examples of undisputed evidence at trial that supported such imputations included

  • Mr Williams’ admitted breach of his undertaking to Ms MacGregor to keep her information and documents as confidential as if he were her lawyer,
  • his disclosing of her confidential documents to Messrs Day and Dobbs within hours of Ms MacGregor requesting their return,
  • his lying to Ms MacGregor about going to Hamilton to meet with Messrs Day and Dobbs,
  • his claims that he had seen copies of “sexts” from Mr Craig to Ms MacGregor when he had not,
  • his creation of the nom de plume “Concerned Conservative” to provide confidential information and a draft blog post to Cameron Slater for publication on the Whale Oil website,
  • and his subsequent denials to Ms MacGregor when he was confronted regarding this.

[Paragraph separated into points – Ed]

That list isn’t very complimentary about Williams’ behaviour and trustworthiness.

It shows how Whale Oil was used in a similar way as described in Dirty Politics. More may be revealed about this in the Craig v Slater defamation case due to be heard in a judge-alone trial set down for next month.

One interesting point – “…as pressure mounted on Mr Williams to produce evidence of the sext messages, which he was unable to do. Further, Mr Williams told at least one witness that he had seen copies of sext messages, when he had not. ”

I think there has been a number of claims made on Whale Oil in relation to this and in relation to Dirty Politics of evidence that I believe has never been produced.

And it reminds me of another sustained campaign at Whale Oil to oust a politician – just after the 2013 local body election when Len Brown was re-elected mayor of Auckland. At one stage claims were made that there was evidence of ‘lewd text messages’ sent by Len Brown.

That actually resulted in a post at 2:30 pm, 15 October 2013 – EXCLUSIVE: Len Brown’s lewd text messages – that showed some texts claimed to have been sent by Brown. I think there may be doubt about that they were written by Brown (note that I have no reason to believe that involved Williams at all, someone else with some history of fabricating evidence trying to hide their identity could have done that).

In December 2013 Whale Oil post Sex Sells that was listed that as third on a list of their top 50 posts for the year. This post included this image:

cartoo1

Since then Slater (or posts under his name, there’s no guarantee who wrote them) has kept bragging about being dirty and has promised to carry this on in 2017.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-9-52-14-pm

Still (as of now) on Whale Oil on Twitter:

whaleoiltwitter2

Coincidentally or not this post appeared at Whale Oil yesterday:

Whaleoil Code of Ethics? You’re kidding, right?

by Pete

Our critics would have you believe that it is a free-for-all in blog land, and that we destroy lives at will and without any sense of restraint.

When I started helping out with Whaleoil some years ago, I had to decide where I was going to draw the line.  And where I ended up drawing it is exactly the same as the way Cam operates.

I suspect that line but be drawn a bit more carefully over the next couple of months. The ongoing promotion of ‘Dirty Politics’ as what they are might not help in several possible court cases that I can think of.

Our interest does lie with news and current affairs.  If you are the subject of our attention, it may feel intense and extremely personal.  But if it was personal, we wouldn’t stop when you stop.

An example would be Colin Craig.  His public and private dealings were intensely followed due to his unorthodox political style.  This was then exacerbated as stories developed around him such as his press secretary quitting 2 days before the election.  And his subsequent media appearances, publications and court appearances have kept him “on the field”.

Yet Colin is no longer offering himself to the public as a public servant to be elected.  So our attention has pretty  much gone away.   Apart from the court cases, which are of personal interest to us, we don’t really talk about Colin anymore.

That’s not how it has sounded at WO, but they have to be careful what they say now because of pending court cases.

What we are doing now, is having a hard look at the new leader of the Conservative Party, his strategies, communications and background.   To the new leader, this may appear quite personal.  But it is clear Whaleoil was never personally interested in Colin Craig.  Because our attention shifts along as Colin has, for now, left politics.

I know for a fact that Whaleoil has changed lives.  Bringing things to the public’s attention has destroyed careers.  Marriages.  Businesses.  Relationships.

How do we sleep at night?

We sleep because we know that we didn’t make the mistakes.  We simply bring them to the public’s attention.  And we sleep because as soon as the person withdraws from the public eye, we move on too.

That’s an odd way of making excuses for destroying people’s careers.

And given what Judge Katz has written “we know that we didn’t make the mistakes” looks like it should be treated with scepticism, if not scorn.

As Judge Katz said the defamation trial found evidence that Williams disguised his identity on Whale Oil and supplied material for Slater to post in a sustained attack against Craig and the Conservative Party.

When I see a familiar looking political activism post on Whale Oil some of the first things I wonder are a) who actually wrote it or supplied the material to be written up, b) is this part of a wider campaign against someone and b) is there money involved?

Whale Oil still fills an online niche for people who like their style and content, but if they keep promoting a dirty style of political activism they will struggle to be seen as serious or credible media.

And most people with any ambition in politics will not want to be associated with the Dirty Politics gang at Whale Oil.

 

Another book from Hager?

Will Nicky Hager launch another book this year?

He only recently revealed he would be launching what turned out to be the book he co-wrote with Jon Stephenson, Hit & Run. Stephenson presumably did most of the investigating, and it was not a long book (I think not much over a hundred pages).

Before the launch it was said that the book wasn’t targeting or would affect the election campaign like Hager’s last book, Dirty Politics.

There’s time for another book launch before September. Does Hager have another book up his sleeve?

I’m just wondering, I haven’t heard anything about another Hager book this year. He manages to keep his launch plans fairly secret.

Slater promises more dirty politics

Cameron Slater is promising more dirty politics next year.

My response to Andrew Little is as subtle as a brick in the face.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-9-52-14-pm

Bragging about it shows an amazing lack of awareness and a failure to learn from the past.

Russia, FBI and hacked elections

Two articles of inter from last week on the US election – one saying that the consensus view of the CIA was that “Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected”, and the other a detailed analysis of ’10 crucial decisions’ that affected the presidential election.

Washington Post: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

During the campaign Trump said a number of times that a rigged election was a serious concern, but he doesn’t seem to think this is a big deal – see Trump: Claim of Russia Meddling “Ridiculous,” Dems Making Excuses.

(With Kim Dotcom claiming that WikiLeaks may target next year’s New Zealand election this should be of some concern here).

Looking back through the presidential campaign Glenn Thrush at Politico: 10 Crucial Decisions That Reshaped AmericaNothing about the most dramatic campaign in memory was a foregone conclusion. The inside story of the pivotal choices that got us to President Trump.

It should be remembered that the election was eventually decided by I think about 50,000 votes in three states, so it was very close.

When deciding whether to contest the presidency Trump rated his chances at 10%.

This is a detailed analysis that’s worth reading if you are interested in what lead up to the result that shocked the world. The ten ‘crucial decisions’:

1. Hillary Clinton copies the Obama playbook. December 12, 2013.

But, in the end, Brooklyn simply failed to predict the tidal wave that swamped Clinton—a pro-Trump uprising in rural and exurban white America that wasn’t reflected in the polls—and his candidate failed to generate enough enthusiasm to compensate with big turnouts in Detroit, Milwaukee and the Philadelphia suburbs.

Either way, there was something missing that technocrats couldn’t fix: The candidate herself was deeply unappealing to the most fired-up, unpredictable and angry segment of the electorate—middle-income whites in the Middle West—and she couldn’t inspire Obama-like passion among her own supporters to compensate for the surge.

2016 wasn’t 2012 because Obama wasn’t the nominee.

2. Jeb Bush decides to run for president. December 16, 2014.

There wouldn’t have been a President Donald Trump without Jeb Bush. A rebel needs a crown to crush, and the wolfish insurgent found his perfect prey in this third Bush to attempt to claim the White House, a princeling of a family that by 2015 had come to represent everything angry GOP voters hated about their own party.

3. Donald Trump taps Corey Lewandowski as his campaign manager. January 7, 2015.

It was probably the single most important decision Trump made early in his campaign for the presidency and, true to form, the candidate made it without much consultation or due diligence, and without quite knowing what he was getting into.

“What do you think of my chances?” Trump asked Lewandowski as soon as he sat down in Trump’s office, according to a person familiar with the interaction.

“Five percent,” Lewandowski replied.

Trump countered with his own assessment: 10 percent.

“Let me propose a deal,” Trump then joked. “Let’s settle on 7½.”

4. Bernie Sanders doesn’t attack Clinton on her “damn” emails. October 13, 2015.

The second problem was more durable, utterly avoidable, entirely self-inflicted and ultimately damning: Clinton’s enemies were starting to weaponize the murky tale of her private email server, an issue that would do her permanent political damage, sap public trust and, eventually, hand Trump a winning issue. “It’s a cancer,” a longtime Clinton insider told meas her campaign was ramping up. “She’s her own worst enemy,” another said.

Lucky for Clinton that Sanders wasn’t her worst enemy. Sanders, an (uncommonly) principled politician who was as intent on running the campaign he wanted as in winning, attacked Clinton on the issues he felt were the most important. Under pressure, he would eventually bash Clinton on her refusal to release the text of her Wall Street speeches, her cozy relationship with fat cat donors, her late-in-the-day conversion to an opponent of trade deals. But that was only in later debates, and only after Clinton and her team had savaged Sanders on his gun control record.

Most of all, he flummoxed his own advisers by steadfastly refusing to attack Clinton on the issue that would hurt her most: the emails.

5. CNN shows Trump’s empty podium for 30 minutes. March 3, 2016.

This was symbolic of how obsessed media became with Trump coverage – in this case remarkable focussing on his absence rather than his presence.

But if Trump’s time was, literally, money for the networks, the cable-Trump marriage was also unprecedented in a way that threw the political coverage dangerously out of balance.

The absurdity of the situation was laid bare on March 3, 2016, when CNN, Fox and MSNBC prepared to air what was billed as Trump’s much-anticipated rebuttal to Mitt Romney’s claim that the GOP front-runner was a “phony” and a “fraud.” Trump was supposed to start talking at 1:30 p.m., but he was strategically, playfully late.

The live shot of a flag-backed podium in Maine sat empty for five, 10, 15, eventually 30 minutes of Donald-free empty space that illustrated the vacuity of the celebrity-driven frenzy that defined Trump’s early campaign. CNN officials dismissed the incident, arguing that the image was just that—a static picture—that provided a backdrop for a stream of talking-head banter, much of it critical of Trump.

For Trump, the point was clear: He was so much more important than any of his rivals that even his absence was more newsworthy than their presence, and the networks did nothing to dispel that view, airing his speeches in their entirety when no other candidate or even President Obama was afforded that privilege.

6. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio play patty-cake with Trump at the debates. August 6, 2015.

The only two candidates who ever really had a real chance to stop him—golden boy hawk Marco Rubio of Florida and Tea Party icon Ted Cruz of Texas—made the calculation that ignoring Trump, and letting him run amok in the early debates, was their best chance at self-preservation.

The decision by the two young senators—they are both just 45 years old today—may well go down as one of the most consequential wimp-outs in recent politics.

But it seemed to make perfect sense in the summer of 2015, when Rubio’s Capitol Hill-based circle and Cruz’s Houston-based operation simultaneously decided on a hands-off-Donald approach.

7. Trump insults the parents of a dead war hero. July 28, 2016.

The final night of the convention was supposed to be Clinton’s big night, and many of the reporters who crammed into the press section in the early evening of July 28 were busily pre-writing their big Hillary speech stories when Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala, walked onto the stage.

“Donald Trump: You’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution?” said Khizr Khan, whose son, a Muslim-American Army captain, had died protecting his fellow soldiers from a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2004.

Khan spoke, in a quavering monotone, about the injustice of Trump’s proposed Muslim immigration ban. By the time he pulled out a tiny dog-eared copy of the Constitution from his suit jacket pocket, the audience was on its feet, and reporters on press row were plucking out their ear buds to hear what he was saying. “I will gladly lend you my copy,” Khan told Trump, as his wife silently stood next to him, fighting back tears.

It was a critical moment in the election, or so it seemed at the time—“an appeal from a regular person for Trump to show some human decency,” in the words of former Jeb Bush adviser Tim Miller, “which he never does.”

Privately, Trump fumed about the Khan speech—he hated to absorb any insult without responding—even as the people around him, including Manafort, encouraged him to let it go. But there was, as always, no controlling Trump.

This is a concern about Trump as president, especially internationally. Some think that Trump a ‘telling it like it is’ tough guy stance will allow the US to dominate countries like China, others dread what it could precipitate.

The public hated it. A Fox News poll taken in the first week of August signaled to GOP leaders (wrongly, as it turned out) that Trump was cooked and could never recover: He dropped from running neck-and-neck with Clinton to 10 points down over the course of two weeks. “I thought that was it,” said one former Trump aide.

“If he loses,” Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told me at the time, “his attack on Khans was the turning point.”

But here’s the thing: At that very moment, Mook’s own internal data was showing that Trump’s negative message overall—his “diagnosis of the problem” as Brooklyn called it—was resonating.

Clinton’s team laughed off Trump’s nomination speech. Yet her pollster John Anzalone and his team were stunned to find out that dial groups of swing state voters monitored during the speech “spiked” the darker the GOP nominee got.

8. Clinton decides to take a summer break. August 1, 2016.

Trump wasn’t dead. And the polls clearly showed that whatever he said or did, he still commanded between 36 and 43 percent of the national vote. The partisan divide was simply that stark, the animosity toward Clinton that real.

But it was a genuine boot-on-neck moment for Clinton’s Brooklyn operation.

Too bad it was the height of summer, and the Clintons had made plans they refused to change with their rich friends. So, the race almost, seemingly in the bag, Clinton came off the road, for a work-and-play semi-hiatus to regroup for the big fall push that saw her take four consecutive weekends off the trail, post-convention.

So at this moment of Trump’s maximum vulnerability, Clinton was work-vacationing with the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney and Jimmy Buffett in the manses of Long Island, Beverly Hills, Martha’s Vineyard and Silicon Valley.

But Trump, surprisingly resilient and coachable when he needed to be, was to make masterful use of Clinton’s absence.

9. Trump goes scorched earth after Access Hollywood tape. October 7, 2016.

One month before Election Day, Donald Trump was hit by a bombshell that would have spelled instant electoral death for anybody without his chutzpah (or even a human-apportioned sense of shame).

On a Friday morning four weeks before the voting, the Washington Postobtained a hot-mic tape from a 2005 appearance on Access Hollywood in which Trump described in gross detail an incident in which he had sexually assaulted a woman who resisted his romantic entreaties.

The fallout was swift, damaging and seemingly campaign-killing.

The candidate’s daughter Ivanka, two people close to the family said, was mortified, and urged him to apologize immediately.

Trump’s natural instinct—stoked by Bannon’s attack-when-attacked attitude—was to give as little ground as possible.

One longtime adviser to Trump described the strategy this way: He couldn’t do anything about the tape—it was out there for everybody to hear—but he could stick with “his core brand” by reinforcing his refusal to play by the usual rules of politics.

Trump came out of it seen as he wanted to be: a defiant candidate who flouted rules of “political correctness” and whose in-your-face candor consistently registered in polls as the perceived attribute voters liked most about him. And anyways, it was a classic Trump move: When you’re caught doing something indefensible don’t even try to defend it—attack.

Trump, a guy who couldn’t seem to shut up, urged his surrogates to “go dark,” according to a former aide.

Trump’s numbers collapsed again, but Bannon never doubted that his pal could pull it out and urged Trump to indulge his most brazen showman’s impulses by turning damning on-tape proof that he was a sexual harasser into a populist crusade against the “rigged system.

10. Jim Comey sends a letter to Congress. October 28, 2016.

Clinton wanted to run her campaign her own way. To the frustration of her staff, that often entailed less retail campaigning: She insisted more often than not on flying back to her house in Chappaqua on most days, and held her debate prep sessions at a nearby conference center instead of doing them on-the-fly in battleground states, so she could combine cramming and campaigning.

That hesitation about “the campaigning part” was why, despite their confidence Clinton would pull out a win, many in her camp came to see the campaign as a high-stakes game of musical chairs: The candidate who had the worst final news cycle would probably lose.

It was Clinton.

On a sleepy Friday afternoon 10 days before the election, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter informing Congress that he had obtained a big new batch of emails pertaining to Clinton’s email server. It was a revelation widely (and inaccurately) cast as his decision to “reopen” the case, after having announced in early July that Clinton had been cleared of wrongdoing but had been reckless in setting up her private email server.

Top officials for both campaigns said the revelation—which turned out to be an inconsequential cache of previously parsed emails kept on the laptop of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband, Anthony Weiner—was a game-changer in a race in which Clinton had little margin for error.

A campaign that was notable for Trump doing everything not by the book which kept shocking many, and for Clinton’s flawed candidacy and flawed campaign, two of the biggest deciding factors turned out to be Russian and FBI involvement.

It’s nothing new that Russia and the US interfere in elections of other countries but the extent Russia has allegedly done this in the US to this degree is unprecedented.

The way hacked emails have been used should be a concern around the world.

It’s not new – hacked emails and other communications featured in Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’ book launched early in New Zealand’s 2014 general election, as it turned out unsuccessfully. But I suspect that how that was done will have been noted and learned from.

WikiLeaks tried a different approach in the US election, drip feeding emails over a period of time. This certainly had an impact.

Ultimately FBI head James Comey’s interference probably swung the election in Trump’s favour at a crucial time, but that situation was set up and enabled by the hacking and the drip feeding.

Democracy is at real risk of being trashed by hacking.

Dirty anti-dirty politics

‘Dirty Politics’ failed to swing the electorate against the Government last election, but it seems far from over.

‘Dirty Politics’ was raised as a major defence in the Williams versus Craig defamation trial, with Craig citing it as justification for his extraordinary responses to successful attempts to trash both his political career and the Conservative Party.

And despite bidding farewell in 2014, Whaledump reappeared briefly on Twitter recently.

Then this comment came up (posted elsewhere) yesterday:

How many wake up calls does the New Zealand public need?

Dirty politics.

Extensive slavery and fish dumping – environmental destruction – and screeds of evidence that the goverment has known about it for years and covered it up. And now customs covering up more abuses of the poorest, most exploited people in the world!

The Lying away the outrageous increase in child poverty and homelessness.

New Zealand’s key role, as yet unreported, in Panama. Of course, what many people don’t know is that that company has strong connection to Mi6 and the CIA: for it was the NZ goverment who initiated that financial arrangement, during the Iran crisis, given how much dirty operational money needed to be obscured… that’s right, folks… just as all the Iranian intel passed through the New Zealand embassy in Manila during that time, it was New Zealanders, and Mi6 employees stationed in NZ who facilitated the cashflow! Wonder why NZ has some strange surveillance concern with Iran? It’s historical.

Conspiracy theory no doubt…. As likely as members of the Hearst dynasty tied up with the Weather Underground moving to Christchurch and changed their surname to Tree.

What’s the point of the media, and you so-called leftists in the face of what you really face…. You can’t even see the tip of the iceberg! Sorry, just a little disappointed. Please, travel some more. Go live in a pagoda for a month in an empoverished province of a Western fucked nation.

Those who can, do what they can. We will live and die unknown and you will never know any better. Well, better to try than to do nothing at all. But you know who this is, don’t you SIS and friends. Thanks for the visit last year by the way. I didn’t say anything and showed her a good time. Trust she enjoyed herself.

In the next few months more revelations will come out – if there are people ready to listen. But to what end? To what effect? So depressing. Banging the old head against the wall…

It took you (opposition, media) two bloody years to twig to the extent of migrant labour abuses despite individuals from fairfax and other media organizations having the truth rubbed in your noses, repeatedly, by friends of ours. But there’s been some good work, especially by one particular journo now working for radio NZ. You know who I mean. Shoutout, sister! Still, you – the media – haven’t reported on the fact that anti-slavery activists have been harassed into the dirt by the intelligence services.

Yes, correct: go talk to all those who have housed, fed, and advocated for abused migrant workers. The filmmakers who tried to bring the issue to attention also. Followed, harassed, and intimidated by our own security services as well as by private contractors. No doubt they were affecting New Zealand’s economic well being…

Talk to the director of Slaves of the Ocean about it. Talk to the activists who protected the fishermen who fled the Oyang. It’s an incredible story of human rights defenders – patriots of the highest order – being harrasssed and crushed by the state and by private contractors working closely together. They were even spying the hell out of the Anglican Church, for God’s sake. Facist, anti – human rights surveillance. Yes, in New Zealand.

Oh, to change the subject just slightly (cough – prettty obvious guys), be quite skeptical about who exactly was behind the leak of Slater’s emails. Curious, isn’t it, who was mentioned in those dumps (not always by the same people by the way).

[Redacted] Think about it… that doesn’t apply to all releases….

[Redacted]

Ask yourself how many leaks of this magnitude have not resulted in an arrest. Yes. Ponder that. In the history of large scale hacks, how often is it that the purpetrator (lol) has not been caught?

The true situation is much, much more complex that people realize. The mix is extraordinary.

Reasons for why the PM didn’t want to pursue “Rawshark”?

[Redacted]

Another breather who unfortunately left a trail of sorts is an activist authorities don’t dare arrest because the dirt he has is even worse, much, much worse and damaging. GCSB and industry related.

Another is a woman with such just cause very few in the NZ public, no matter how mean they may have become, would abide her persecution I bet – and they bet too clearly.

Oh and there’s others… It’s an open joke among hackers how open the systems of Slater, that slithery insect, were. He should be grateful to the hackers he so loathes. They have standards or morals to such a degree that they have agreed to draw a line[Redacted] That’s right, Cam: some of them have had that used against them by the security services you praise so much. I’m afraid they operate to a much higher ethical standard.

Will anyone ever get to the bottom of it? Well the truth is they mostly have and for the above and other reasons it won’t come out. [Redacted]

If this comment gets through, know, players listed above, that we know all your weaknesses. We have documents for East Germany and dirt for Africa. But you know that don’t you? You rely on the fact that the public doesn’t care: that it doesn’t care about the minutiae of your business, of the shady deals you do, [Redacted]…. could run to 500 pages but due to go clubbing just shortly…

We are here, we are not going away, and any move (or more moves) you make against us will result in devastating leaks. But you know that.

We have communicated what we expect. And recently you have been coming to the party at least in terms of prosecuting migrant labour abuses. Smiley face and big tick!

But we are not going away. We know you purposefully did not consult with Maori over the Kermadecs. It’s not the first time you have tried to use Tangata Whenua (sorry, the Maori Party who are hardly representational) to shoot down labour and environmental issues at sea. Remember when the Maori Party changed their mind at the last moment in respect of the foreign charter legislation? They looked freaked out, didn’t they…. I wonder why. Don’t forget who you are dealing with. You cannot arrest us, we know too much – and you know that very well now don’t you?

We know you know who we are. Hell, we don’t even bother to hide ourselves to mr [Redacted]. Top bloke.

Until soon

Sounds dirty as, all round.

I think this needs airing but I have redacted claims and accusations against people that aren’t backed by evidence – it’s difficult to know what is dirty, and what might be dirty lies.

Time will tell whether ‘in the next few months more revelations will come out’, and whether anyone much will listen.

Bradbury in Williams v Craig

One of the last witnesses to appear for Colin Craig in his defamation case with Jordan Williams was Martyn Bradbury.

The NZH senior police reporter Anna Leask from Heated scenes at Colin Craig trial:

He was called by Colin Craig’s team to give evidence about Jordan Williams, it was basically a character witness kind of thing.

He was talking about Williams and his previous experience with him, and he told the jury that Jordan had lied directly to him in the past, and described him as  one of a pack of hyenas who were intent on taking Craig down.

Bradbury was quite boisterous and colourful in court, and he referred to people who participate in this practice… as cancers and political sadists, Williams included in his opinion.

From NZH: Jordan Williams emotional and angry in court

Media commentator and blogger Martyn Bradbury was also called today to give evidence about his previous experience with Williams.

He claimed in court that in the past Williams had lied to him directly and “created a fake email identity” which he used to “send a false tip-off”.

He said Williams had embarked on a “political hit job” against Craig and described him as one of “a pack of hyenas” who had turned on the former politician.

“I thought (Craig’s pamphlet Dirty Politics and Hidden Agenda) was an appropriate response to a pack of political sadists,” Bradbury said.

I always thought the pamphlet was a bizarre, crazy way of trying to deal with things, and in no way appropriate (but I have no idea whether it may constitute defamation).

He told the jury he thought Williams and a number of others he felt were involved in the practice of dirty politics in New Zealand were “a cancer on the body politics in this
country”.

Bradbury was asked what he thought the defamation trial was about and replied: “an angry fight between two people who don’t like each other much”.

There may well be some anger and indignation involved, but some of those who get into political activism seem to see it as a bit of a game to be won at any cost.

Under cross-examination Williams’ lawyer Peter Knight grilled Bradbury about his posting blogs that had “derogatory, horrible and sleazy” comments about his client before he gave evidence.

He asked Bradbury if he thought it appropriate to “attack” Williams online given he was coming to court to give evidence against him days later.

I said last week that I thought it was quite unwise for Bradbury to post about the case he was to be a witness in.

His derogatory, horrible and sleazy” comments will have taken the edge somewhat off his accusations of others being dirty.

Bradbury admitted posting about the trial last week but said he had not posted about his own evidence.

“Did you think it was appropriate given you were going to be a witness, to do that?” said McKnight.

“My understanding was that I could not talk about my evidence, I didn’t realise I couldn’t blog about breaking news,” he said.

Craig’s team should have made it clear to Bradbury in advance of the Court sitting what was appropriate and what wasn’t.

And Bradbury should have known better or should have found out what he could do and what he shouldn’t do. He seems to have difficulty being discrete at times, and in this case may have damaged his credibility in court.

UPDATE: More from Stuff on Bradbury’s appearance – Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams’ courtroom rant

Political commentator and blogger Martyn Bradbury on Friday afternoon told the court that Jordan Williams was “manipulative” and akin to a “venomous spider”. 

Bradbury had the jury in fits of laughter as he also explained his disdain for Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater. 

Without knowing what he actually said I think that’s quite sad, not funny.

“Loathe is not strong enough a word,” he said. 

His descriptions prompted Williams’ lawyer Peter McKnight to suggest Bradbury was being “flippant”. 

Bradbury gave evidence of Williams’ character and criticised his relationship with Slater. 

Williams’ leaking information about Craig to Slater was for Williams’ “own political ends”, Bradbury thought. 

 “As far as I was concerned, I thought the leaflet was an appropriate response to a pack of political sadists,” Bradbury said.

“I think this [trial is] an angry fight between two people who don’t like each other much. It’s very, very important for the jury to find the truth in this.” 

That is funny, trying to instruct the jury.

Dirty local body politics?

A story of ‘political skulduggery’ in Marlborough from Stuff: Marlborough councillors brand Whale Oil leak ‘despicable’

Political skulduggery has again rocked the council chamber in Marlborough as lawyers are called in to investigate a secret recording of a committee meeting leaked to a right-wing blog. 

The leak to Whale Oil could see heads roll at the council, as councillors who attended the meeting are made to front up on Monday.

A recording of a tense behind closed doors discussion about the cash-strapped ASB Theatre was published on the blog site on Friday.

Council chief executive Mark Wheeler said if a councillor had leaked the public-excluded discussion he or she could be asked to resign. 

The committee meeting took place in April. 

Councillor Peter Jerram said the leak was “absolutely orchestrated” and smacked of “dirty politics” emerging in Marlborough. 

“Party politics are definitely involved. But worse than that, it’s gutter politics.” 

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said the post was a clear attack on mayoral frontrunner Leggett, after a “very successful” attack on Sowman himself. 

Whale Oil involved in local body politics in Marlborough might seem a bit odd, they don’t usually do much about the provinces and most will have no idea who the current mayor of Marlborough is and who the candidates are.

But Whale Oil has had a number of posts on Marlborough local body politics over the last few months. Why? The Stuff article has a hint.

Political strategist Simon Lusk, who has links to Whale Oil, spoke at a local government seminar in Marlborough earlier this year attended by several council candidates. 

Lusk said at the time fighting for transparency was meaningless unless candidates opposed bad news being hidden in publicly excluded council meetings.

Lusk did not confirm or deny whether he was involved when contacted on Saturday. 

He was told information had come through on the blog’s tip line, he said. 

Why Lusk or Whale Oil might have such an interest in Marlborough local body politics is anyone’s guess.

There’s an unusual number of posts on Marlborough issues at Whale Oil going back to about June. No other regions have had this much attention so they stood out.

I never took much notice of the Marlborough posts apart from noticing they were there, they seemed local and not very interesting.

But what we have now is a story of wider interest:

  • a secret recording of a closed Marlborough District Council meeting in April
  • details of the recording published on Whale Oil in September, on the day that local body election voting papers are sent out
  • council chief executive Mark Wheeler said if a councillor had leaked the public-excluded discussion he or she could be asked to resign

Being asked to resign three weeks before the election closes might be horse bolted timing.

What if the leaker is a candidate for the election? Their name is already printed on the ballot and posted to voters, but it could affect votes.

The Marlborough Express (Stuff) has followed up with Marlborough council announces investigation into Whale Oil leak ahead of final meeting

A secret recording of a private council meeting has triggered an investigation into all councillors and staff who were at the meeting. 

The investigation will require everyone at the behind closed doors discussion in Marlborough to sign a statutory declaration saying they were not behind the recording or it being leaked to a right-wing blog. 

It is a criminal offence to knowingly make a false declaration.

They are taking it very seriously.

Meanwhile Whale Oil had a string of posts on it yesterday too.

As predicted yesterday the Marlborough Express has written an attack piece on me. They didn’t even call for comment.

After we busted John Leggett and the Marlborough Express tried to ignore the story there still remain a number of unanswered questions that I am sure the ratepayers of Marlborough wants answers to.

The Marlbourgh Express doesn’t seem to know the first rule of politics. Explaining is losing.

That’s funny considering the number of posts explaining everything.

Locals don’t dare speak out because their lives will be made hell.  Local news doesn’t dare speak up because their commercial viability is under threat if they speak up against their biggest advertisers.

More explaining. They could be important issues for people in Marlborough, but that’s local stuff that most people are unlikely to be interested in.

So they act like they are violated, scream “Whaleoil” and hope that voters will forget what it is really all about.

What an utter waste of rate payers’ money to try and figure out who helped the truth get to the public.

Stop screaming my name, and start taking responsibility for your own words and actions.

That’s more interesting, to me anyway.

A secret recording was taken of a closed door council meeting and supplied to a media outlet and published during an election campaign.

The recording is a serious matter. If it was a councillor they could be asked to resign. If it was a staff member  I expect it would potentially be a sackable offence.

But Cameron Slater and Whale Oil don’t think that how the information was obtained matters, or is excusable as the story they want to tell is what is important.

Nicky Hager thought something similar when he published Dirty Politics.

Another thing that puzzles me about this – how much influence would Whale Oil have on the Marlborough election?

Most people are barely or not interested in local body elections. Most Marlborough voters are unlikely to read Whale Oil.

I’m baffled as to why Whale Oil is giving so much coverage over several months for a relatively low interest issue that can hardly be attracting many clicks or much advertising to the blog.

It will be interesting to see whether Whale Oil sees their whistle blowing coverage of sufficient importance and interest to continue their coverage after the election.