The HoS reports:
John Key’s right-hand man is living it up with big-spending lobbyists in the casinos of Las Vegas, sparking questions about their influence on Government policy.
I’ve only been to Las Vegas once, and was dubious about going because of the reputation. However I absolutely loved it there, and definitely will be going back.It is a great city, and non stop fun.
During the day the swimming pools are scorching, and in the evening there is just unlimited entertainment. What I especially loved was the shows – Vegas now gets bigger and better shows than New York and London.
The Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson, has spent the past week enjoying a shootin’, smokin’ and boozin’ trip to “Sin City”. He has been travelling with NZ Post chief executive Brian Roche, and lobbyists Mark Unsworth and Roger Sowry – a former National Party deputy leader who remains a member of John Key and Bill English’s inner circle.
Wayne, Mark and Roger has been best mates for probably 20 years or so. Their wives are also good friends, so it is no surprise they holiday together. In the middle of our winter, Vegas is a great choice of destination.
Knowing the three men quite well, I can fairly safely predict that the last thing they’ll be doing over there is talking politics, and regardless you don’t just dump your mates because of their current job.
The Herald on Sunday has been told Key has explicitly discouraged his ministers from publicly fraternising with lobbyists – but it seems this does not apply to Eagleson.
Because they are pre-existing friends. This is not having XYZ Firm take you to Queenstown, and pick up the expenses. They are all paying their own way.
National Party pollster and conservative blogger David Farrar said the success of the firm was due to the lobbyists’ close relationship with politicians.
“They’re successful partly because they’re so well connected.”
Relationships are important. But Mark (and the wider firm) are successful because they build professional relationships with people in all parties. Mark is in fact a former Labour press secretary, and has excellent relations with many Labour MPs also.
Note the direct quote from me used the word “partly”. Relationships only take you so far. Their sucess is also due to their professionalism and no bullshit approach.
Sowry is, in addition to his lobbying work, is a member of the Electricity Commission.
After a long Friday night of free drinks, Unsworth posted online: “Off to the Hoover Dam tomorrow and I think I am the designated driver which is a worry. Still, then we can put the whole trip down as a business expense to the Electricity Commission, no?”
Electricity Commission chairman David Caygill said he was not aware of any official business being conducted in the United States by Unsworth or Sowry, and the line seemed to be in jest.
Heh I love it that they actually checked with David Caygill. As Mark’s former boss, I am sure he was well aware it was Unsworth’s sense of humour.
Labour leader Phil Goff said the trip raised questions over how the entertainment was being funded: “I’ve no idea who’s paying for what over there.”
Goff said fraternisation between lobbyists and Government figures risked giving the impression that access to Government was for sale. “There needs to be caution to ensure that these relationships don’t lead to special treatment for the lobbyists’ clients.”
Good on Goff for not trying to blow this up – his comments are pretty mild. I agree it would be a different issue, if one party was covering the expenses of the others.
News of the trip comes from the Facebook updates of the normally discreet Unsworth.
He wrote that the party engaged in “serious betting” on casino blackjack tables before hitting a bar famous for bartop-dancing waitresses.
“It’s 12:30am Sowry just did a ton on the tables tonight but he’s well up, I am about 10 in front and as Wayne says that doesn’t count the free drinks or being able to smoke cigars inside with a Heinie as you bet.
“We had a great night tonight and pushed on to Coyote Ugly and a duelling pianos bar where we all sang Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Of the many words to describe Mark, I am not sure discrete is one I would use. His Facebook page is often required reading 🙂