What follows is an attempt to provide context to some of the questions Peters answered.
“Is the Serious Fraud Office justified in launching an investigation into your party’s handling of donations and loans?”
Peters did not mention the Electoral Commission’s referral of New Zealand First Foundation donations to the Police at all. By his answer, it sounded as if SFO investigation was his idea. “Having seen the controversy out there” in the past months’ through Stuff and RNZ’s reporting of the Foundation’s affairs, he said, “we had decided, from my consultation with the party itself, that we should request the police’s involvement because they would have the powers to get out the truth.” Finding the leaker was only “one of the matters” that Peters desperately wanted resolved with Police (and now SFO) assistance.
Welcoming an inquiry by a law enforcement agency is a smart PR move – after all, why not welcome it if you have nothing to hide? Peters has embraced the tactic with such enthusiasm, though, it appears to have affected his short term memory. His claim that his party had resolved to seek an investigation into its donations is not borne out by any of his statements prior to the Electoral Commission actually referring the donations to the Police on Monday.
On Sunday, Peters released a statement saying that he was recommending that the Party’s president make a complaint to the Police based on a “massive breach of party information”.
When Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking asked Peters on Monday (before the Electoral Commission’s statement) what he was intending to ask Police to do, Peters’ response was “what we can do is get them to trace the person responsible [for the leaks] and charge them because it’s a criminal offence.”
You almost have to admire the lies when they get this brazen. The reality is they kept saying they had complied with laws at all time and nothing to see here right up until the day the Electoral Commission told them it was referring them to the Police.
“What does the NZ First Foundation do and what was it set up for?”
An excellent question, to quote Peters himself. “A group decided the National Party had a foundation and that we should duplicate that.” But a better question might have been, what is the relationship between the Foundation and the party? This is a key question. If the Foundation operates genuinely independently from the party, then many of the nascent issues raised in the investigation will be solved. But is it independent?
This should be a key focus of the SFO. We know the Foundation paid expenses incurred by the party or by MPs. It spent $425,000 on stuff ranging from campaign office rent to website expenses to legal advice for MPs to a $5,000 tent at the races. Most of these bills were addressed to Winston Peters or his staff.
So who authorised this spending? Who decided that the Foundation should be asked to pay these expenses and who authorised the expenditure on behalf of the Foundation?
$425,000 is a huge amount of spending. It is hard to imagine that anyone junior could authorise such spending.
Sam Sachdeva also writes:
Decrying a smear campaign against New Zealand First and promising to deliver a message not edited or “contaminated” by outsiders, Peters said nothing he had not already offered up to media throughout the last few months.
The foundation was based on the National Party’s model, he said (an argument vigorously disputed by National); the law was the law, and should be observed as such (a tautology that ignores the more substantive debate about the donations).
Perhaps most interesting was his continued effort to distance himself from the foundation’s creation and operation, noting: “My only involvement then and all the way through was to say at the start, you make sure it’s all legal.”
“I did not receive any money, full stop. I’m not part of the foundation, full stop. And so have I got any information I can proffer to, for example, the police or the Serious Fraud Office? No, because I’ve never seen one of the accounts and that happens to be the truth.”
Again the Foundation spent $425,000 on behalf of NZ First and most of the bills it paid were addressed to Winston personally or his office. The claim his only involvement was to say make sure its legal is of the same nature as his claim he knew nothing about $100,000 from Owen Glenn.