Peters: enough wiggle room?

Winston Peters has announced that expat billionaire Owen Glenn donated $100,000 towards the cost of the litigation that followed an election petition Peters launched after the 2005 election. The key questions must be, what did Peters know and when? But also, did he deliberately avoid knowing certain things, and why?

Peters and his lawyer had arranged things so that donations were secret, including from Peters (from the NZPA via stuff):

He said that since 1991 he had been involved in 14 legal actions which had been partly funded through donations, and Mr Henry had “a firm policy” of not disclosing the source of donations.

“I have never been told the source of these donations but have personally met the shortfall which has amounted to many hundred thousands of dollars,” Mr Peters said in a statement.

That’s where David Farrar’s elaborate logical exercise seeking to demonstrate that Peters must have known about the donation falls over.

Farrar says (original spelling):

“Now if one is to beleive that Peters did not know of the donation from Glenn until Friday, you have to beleive all of the following. Note – not just one of the following- but all of it.”

Sorry, Farrar, but it would be quite possible for Peters to have pointed Glenn at his lawyer, and not to have known if or how much Glenn contributed to cover his legal costs. It appears that after Peters’s legal costs were paid, the residue was transferred to the NZ First accounts.

Was this a donation from Glenn, or was it a donation from Peters’s trust fund? Matt McCarten hinted at something along these lines recently.

Peters can argue that, strictly speaking:

  • he was not aware of the donation and therefore did not knowingly mislead anyone (“I told the prime minister what I then knew, and today I have told her what I have learnt”);
  • the Party did not receive a donation from Glenn in any case (Glenn would have seen his donation as going to “NZ First”, but it actually went to Peters’s lawyer).

Will this wash? It shouldn’t, for the following reasons:

  • Given the amounts involved, Peters must have strongly suspected the source, even though he had not had this confirmed. Yet he still choose the blanket denial.
  • Peters could have verified whether he had received a donation from Glenn (via his lawyer) that was then transferred to the party’s accounts, but he deliberately choose not to despite the likelihood that this was the case.
  • The routing of a donation through a third party (in this case Peters’s trust fund) should not obscure the source, otherwise it undermines the law. Thus, the original size and source of the donation should have been declared.
  • Peters said that the large sum that his then party president referred to was a number of small donations that had been bundled together. There were undoubtedly some small donations included in the amount transferred to the party’s account, but he appears not to have checked that they were all originally small donations with his lawyer, (unless he was misled by his lawyer).

But, will it wash anyway? I think that the issues are too fine for most people to understand — Farrar doesn’t appear to — and there is sufficient wiggle room, for Peters to carry on. We can only hope that the NZ electorate finally drives an electoral stake though his heart this time around.

Update: Idiot Savant points out that, while Peters did not need to declare the donation as a candidate, he has been since 2006 obliged as an MP to submit annual returns of his pecuniary interests, including gifts with a market value in NZ of more than $500. He didn’t declare this donation.



3 Responses to “Peters: enough wiggle room?”

  1. Inventory2 Says:

    Re the “stake thriough the heart” comment JP – you’ll get no argument from this blogger! And as far as “wiggle-room” for Peters – quite frankly, I don’t believe Peters on this – but as you say, the pecuniary interests return might be the law that eventually hangs him.

  2. Thoughts from the Blogosphere-on Winston Peters « The Inquiring Mind Says:

    […] When Adam wrote this post he had not read the comprehensive take by Jafapete on Winston and Wiggle room. Well worth a look. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)The Saturday Rant-5 July […]

  3. MacDoctor Says:

    Peters will get away with this again. There is no political will to remove him directly. Clark needs him now and Key may need him later (although he’ll probably be hoping the the election removes Winston completely).

    However, the man does seem to have more political lives than a cat on steroids.

    MacD: Probably? Key probably has a hitman standing by as Plan B. If he doesn’t, he ought to.

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