Where’s Winston?

October 14th, 2008 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

We’re in Tauranga and driving in have yet to see a single Winston billboard or hoarding.

Saw nine Simon Bridges ones driving in. A couple of Labour. Even saw Greens, and Kiwi Party. And saw one for Peter Brown.

But not a single hoarding yet for Winston. Why?

And over in Hamilton, saw NZ First hoardings for Doug Woolerton and unlike all the other years, no photo of Winston. Have they worked out he is now a negative brand?

Anyway we are heading into the CBD now, trying to find a photo of Winston or even better, the man himself. Or failing Winston, we’ll try visiting that nice Tommy Gear’s place. After all Winston officially lives with Tommy.

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Now we know what Tommy Gear does

September 29th, 2008 at 6:33 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reveals that Tommy Gear is the NZ First staff member who pressured Te Ururoa Flavell to vote for Winston.

We always wondered what Mr Gear does for his taxpayer funded salary. Now we know – it is to lobby MPs not to find Winston guilty.

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Interesting random questions

August 9th, 2008 at 2:36 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has asked:

  1. Who is Brian Deadman?
  2. Does he know Tommy Gear?
  3. Are those their real names?

And some interesting research in his comments section. Means nothing to me, but who knows where it is leading.

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Ben Thomas on Winston

July 18th, 2008 at 12:30 pm by David Farrar

Ben Thomas has an excellent column in NBR today. It is not online, but here are some key extracts:

Union leader and former Alliance president Matt McCarten told TV3′s Sunrise programme that journalists were asking the wrong questions: that Peters could be believed when he assured them New Zealand First had never received a donation from Glenn.

That still left open the possibility, McCarten suggested, that Peters had a “leader’s fund” operating separately from his party and its accounts.

Indeed. McCarten is right that the questions need to be more focused.

A leader’s fund is nothing particularly sophisticated or technical in itself. It could mean a trust is set up to handle deposits from donors – or cake stalls – or these days it may mean just an additional cheque suffix on a politician’s online banking account. Or it could be handled by a close confidante or employee of the leader, who would probably not hold an official position in the party.

Hmmn a close confidante or employee.

So the possible existence of a New Zealand First leader’s fund is one possible explanation for why Glenn seems sure he donated money to New Zealand First but why Peters denies it.

New Zealand First’s president Dail Jones was corrected by Peters in February about where some cash – “closer to $100,000 than $10,000″ – had come from last year in the party’s accounts.

What is interesting is that as far as I know, Jones has never publicly recanted from his view.

The question of whether Glenn donated to the party directly (if at all) is not a trivial one. In its 2007 donations returns to the Electoral Commission the party did not disclose any donations over $10,000.

And filing a false return has very serious penalties.

But if a donation over $10,000 was received anonymously, and New Zealand First didn’t disclose that to the Electoral Commission, then it breached the Electoral Act (that act still covers donations disclosures for the 2007 year). That’s an offence punishable by a $100,000 fine.

And up to two years in jail if done knowingly.

NZ First claimed it could not file its donations return while the leader, Peters, was out of the country. Yet the return disclosed no donations over $10,000 – that is, it was empty. That would seem to be a fairly straightforward document to sign off and one that could be accounted for without consultation with Peters.

I can’t think of any other party that would have the Leader involved in what is merely a statutory return.

The Electoral Commission has not made a decision on New Zealand First’s late return.

No, but they have on every other party that had a late return. They all got let off because they had “reasonable excuses”. The lack of a decision on NZ First suggests they are awaiting further information to determine if their excuse was reasonable or not.

It’s a murky position. And the public and media’s best efforts to trust Peters are not helped by his continued lack of disclosure around the role Tauranga man Tommy Gear plays in New Zealand First.

Indeed.

He was later found to be a staff member of Peters‘ office, although not in the Parliamentary phone directory. He also shares the same address as Peters on the electoral roll.

So WInston officially resides with Mr Gear. Sounds like hs is both a close confidante and a employee.

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Dom Post on NZ First

July 14th, 2008 at 8:35 pm by David Farrar

Almost overlooked their editorial this morning:

The “over-enthusiastic supporter” on whom Winston Peters blamed the breach turned out not to be someone with only a tenuous connection to the party, but Tommy Gear, a friend of the NZ First leader and a man who has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Parliamentary Service for work done for NZ First.

He is more than a friend. According to the electoral roll, Winston lives with Mr Gear in Tauranga.

But if readers think it is a source of concern that a man on the parliamentary payroll is unaware of the rules governing political advertising, it gets worse.

Even within NZ First few know what Mr Gear has done to earn a salary of up to $50,000 a year. And neither Mr Peters nor the Parliamentary Service is prepared to say.

We could run a guessing competition, but I think that could get messy!

Mr Peters, who has refused to even confirm that Mr Gear works for NZ First, has responded to questions with his usual belligerence. “Print one thing wrong, sunshine, and I will sue you.” The Parliamentary Service refuses to say what Mr Gear does, how much he is payed, what hours he works, or even whether he is still on the payroll. Pay and hours are a matter for the MP and the staff member, says general manager Geoff Thorn.

That is an outrage. Mr Peters demands transparency and accountability of others but, as ACT leader Rodney Hide has rightly pointed out, he “can’t answer the most basic questions to do with public money and his own behaviour”.

Yay Rodney.

Only slightly less outrageous is the refusal of National to comment on what is clearly an unsatisfactory state of affairs.

It is hardly surprising that Mr Peters is refusing to talk about his relationship with Mr Gear. It is only a few weeks ago that he refused to reveal to which charities NZ First had given the $158,000 it misspent during the last election campaign rather than return it to the public purse.

But the main Opposition party should have something to say about public money being spent in such an unaccountable fashion. That National does not suggests either that it does not want to invite scrutiny of its own use of parliamentary funds, or it does not want to alienate a potential coalition partner.

The latter I would say. Good to see they are not staying totally quiet on this latest issue.

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Winston’s mystery staffer

July 5th, 2008 at 10:35 am by David Farrar

Do you remember how NZ First said the illegal election advertisements in Tauranga were put up by an over-enthusiastic supporter? Well it seems the property they were put up on, is one of Winston’s closest friends and a parliamentary staffer of his.

Phil Kitchin investigates:

A NZ First staffer likely to face police scrutiny in a test of new electoral laws has received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for a job many in his party know almost nothing about.

Tommy Gear, a close friend of party leader Winston Peters, is expected to be questioned by police following an alleged breach of the Electoral Finance Act.

The case is the first under the controversial new law governing political party advertising to have been referred to police by the Electoral Commission.

Mr Gear is likely to be questioned about NZ First banners that were strung from the remains of his property in Maxwells Rd, Tauranga, in April.

Mr Gear has been employed by the Parliamentary Service, which administers Parliament, from as early as 1998.

I’ve never heard of Mr Gear before I have to say.

He has occasionally used his black Mercedes to chauffeur Mr Peters and carry his bags – but what else Mr Gear has done for a salary in some years of up to $50,000 is a mystery to many party officials.

Mr Peters often stayed with Mr Gear and his wife at their former million-dollar Maxwells Rd property. Mr Gear occasionally stays with Mr Peters in Wellington.

Sources say many NZ First officials have little or no idea of what Mr Gear has done for a salary that has fluctuated between $19,000 and $50,000. Mr Gear was seen in Parliament only a few times a year, a source said.

“He’s a mystery man.”

Parties are free to hire whomever they want from their parliamentary funding, but normally they are listed in the parliamentary directory.

The National Party complained to the Electoral Commission about the NZ First banners because they had no promoter’s name or address.

One banner said: “Keeping them honest.”

When NZ First failed to respond to a “please explain” from the Electoral Commission police were asked to investigate.

A breach of the Electoral Finance Act, a law NZ First strongly supported, can incur a fine of up to $40,000.

Mr Peters said this week that the banners were the work of an “over-enthusiastic supporter”. NZ First would cooperate with the police inquiry even though the party was “not certain” the law had been breached.

If the over-enthusiastic supporter is on the NZ First parliamentary payroll, that puts a very different light on it.

Contacted yesterday, Mr Peters would not answer repeated questions about whether Mr Gear worked for NZ First.

“Print one thing wrong, sunshine, and I will sue you,” Mr Peters said before hanging up.

Phil Kitchin has been threatened with lawsuits more often that most people have had hot dinners I suspect, so I doubt he was worried by this threat.

In Mr Gear’s early years working for Mr Peters, his job was to maintain relationships with local authority leaders and to deputise for Mr Peters when he was away from his electorate.

But former Tauranga mayor Noel Pope said he never met or spoke to Mr Gear about briefings. Mr Pope met Mr Peters each month. “Tom is a mate of [Mr Peters] … He is his minder.”

Current mayor Stuart Crosby said he had only ever seen Mr Gear acting as a driver for Mr Peters.

In February 2000 Mr Gear was fined $500 after being clocked at 168kmh driving Mr Peters to Auckland airport.

How intriguing.

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