Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Wewege paid $13k by Palino

Mayoral campaign aide linked to sex revelations rewarded handsomely with $1000 a week, election returns reveal.

Luigi Wewege, who worked for Palino. Photo / Doug Sherring
Luigi Wewege, who worked for Palino. Photo / Doug Sherring

Political campaign worker Luigi Wewege pocketed $13,000 for just three months' work on John Palino's failed Auckland mayoral bid - a sum that has surprised volunteers on other political campaigns.

Wewege was the man Bevan Chuang says pressured her to blow the whistle on her affair with mayor Len Brown before the election. Chuang and Wewege were in a relationship at the time, she says. He denied her claims, but has left New Zealand for the United States.

His payment is noted in Palino's election donations and expenses return, which had to be filed by Friday. Palino also paid $13,800 to Textile Associates, a company owned by campaign manager John Slater.

Slater's son Cameron exposed Brown's affair on the Whale Oil blog, days after he was returned as mayor.

Public relations consultant David Lewis volunteered as Len Brown's campaign manager in the lead-up to October's election. He said the Brown campaign paid only $11,885 in wages, split between "two or three" younger staff who needed to be paid.

"I have the luxury of having other clients. But we had a couple of young people who had to put food on the table," he said. "In a campaign, you want to get as much bang for your buck as possible, so you try to limit what goes out."

Chuang said last night that the $13,000 was money poorly spent, given Wewege undermined his own candidate's reputation. "I knew he was paid," she said. "I didn't know how much, but I don't really care. Given how Luigi only managed to destroy Palino's political reputation, it was obviously far too much."

Former Labour Party president Mike Williams doubted Wewege had "much to offer", but he considered $1000 a week was cheap.

"You pay for experts, it's not an amateur game anymore."

He said he was surprised Slater had accepted payment from Palino.

"He must be less well off than most of us imagine."

Palino declared $149,983 spent on his campaign - but received only $22,271 in donations, mostly made up of 23 small, anonymous donations. The balance was funded out of his own pocket.

Neither Wewege nor Palino responded to interview requests yesterday, but John Slater said he had been paid for working 17 hours a day, seven days a week.

"I didn't seek [money]," he said. "It was offered. Most of my time in the National Party, and citizens' and ratepayers was done for free."

He said Wewege also did a lot of work related to emails and media. "He was involved before I was."

Brown spent far more on his campaign, $338,584, most of it through a printing, advertising and communications agency called Image Centre Holdings in Mt Albert.

It cost Brown $5210 for the hire of the Sorrento function centre on One Tree Hill for his launch party. He also paid Auckland Council $3248 for the cost of his mayoral driver while out campaigning.

Brown's campaign was funded by donations from some of the biggest names of Auckland business, including former TVNZ chairman Brian Corban ($10,000), property investor Trevor Farmer ($4500), Sir Noel Robinson ($20,000) and Taiwan-born property investor Kuo Feng-Chu Shih ($10,000).

Yesterday, Sir Noel said the donation was a personal matter. Jerry Shih said his mother was "just trying to show her support for the mayor" to acknowledge Brown's work on the sister city relationship.

By far Brown's biggest donor, though, was the New Auckland Council Trust, which chipped in $273,375. The trust allows donors to hide their identities when they make contributions.

Brown's campaign spokesman Lewis said the trust was not breaking any laws as many donations were made to the trust before rules around anonymous donations were changed.

"The mayor would prefer all donations were transparent, but acknowledges a lot of people ... prefer to do anonymous donations."

- Herald on Sunday

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