Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Disgrace for sons of Supercity

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Len Brown (left) and John Banks. Photo / Greg Bowker
Len Brown (left) and John Banks. Photo / Greg Bowker

Two of our Supercity sons have disgraced themselves.

The former Auckland Mayor and contender for the role of super mayor, John Banks, and our current Mayor, Len Brown, have got themselves deep in moral quagmire this week.

Banks' crime was straightforward. The police gutlessness in not charging him in the first place was outrageous. The judge wasn't having any of Banks' denials and sent him to trial.

Does anyone believe that Banks didn't ask Kim Dotcom to split his $50,000 donation to his mayoral campaign into two, so he could pass the money off as anonymous?

Banks' defence - that he couldn't remember ever meeting Dotcom (all three times), nor helicoptering to his mansion for dinner where the money was agreed - is pathetic.

While any deceit and lying about getting the donation is bad enough, witnesses claim Banks said he needed the money to be untraceable. In my opinion, he could offer his new benefactor favours only if people didn't know of their relationship.

Ah, relationships. That's where I come to our current Mayor.

Naturally, Brown's affair with Bevan Chuang is humiliating for himself and his family. That aside, we generally don't use opponents' personal relationship failings as weapons. Overseas, it's fair game.

Maybe that's why a recent immigrant on John Palino's campaign team thought romancing a woman and then badgering her to set up her former lover seemed a legitimate campaign strategy.

Palino comes from New Jersey, arguably the American state with the most ruthless and corrupt politics, where this sort of takedown is standard fare.

A new paradigm in politics, it seems, has been imported into New Zealand. I think Palino's belated denials ring hollow.

Brown's affair was intended to be published by Palino's campaign manager's son during the campaign to destroy his opponent. Palino's fiancee is a friend of Chuang, who was a volunteer on Palino's campaign and a candidate on the National Party-aligned Citizens and Ratepayers ticket in the election.

Chuang knew what she was doing. But the way she was exploited by everyone in this sordid business is inexcusable.

I've run more campaigns than I care to remember and know most of the senior players in this world. None of them believe Palino and his senior people didn't know about the dirty tricks campaign. My only concession is that I know John Slater, Palino's campaign manager. If he says he didn't know, I believe him. But he should have - and stopped it.

It's easy to feel morally indignant about Banks' apparent willingness to solicit donations for favours. Brown, unfortunately, has arguably committed a similar crime.

Our Mayor solicited sex and concealed the relationship, and then helped his sexual benefactor get a council job without the public knowing there was a relationship with implied obligations. Brown gave his lover a work reference for a job at the Auckland Art Gallery. The Mayor's recommendation would surely have been decisive in her successful application.

Conversely, it seems, Banks solicited donations and concealed them so he could help his financial benefactor without the public knowing there was a relationship with implied obligations.

Apart from Banks dropping Dotcom when he called in a favour, what's the difference? Not much. Both used their positions of trust with dishonour.

Our two fallen sons are self-proclaimed practising Christians. I look forward to see how they go about seeking redemption and making amends.

I'm holding my breath - not for too long, I hope.

- Herald on Sunday

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