Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Dotcom, dirty deals and political 'corruption'

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Kim Dotcom.
Kim Dotcom.

Allegations of 'corruption' and 'dirty deals' are being thrown around over the relationship between some of our political party leaders and wealthy internet businessman and wannabe politician Kim Dotcom.

It all relates to the fact that various politicians have been courting Dotcom's favour, while at the same time discussing whether they would intervene to help prevent Dotcom being extradited to the United States by fighting in government to overturn any judicial decision. According to some commentators there is, at the very least, an issue with the perception of inappropriate and opaque electoral deals being made.

The strongest condemnation of the potential links between party policy and support for Dotcom have come from rightwing blogger David Farrar, who claims that some politicians are 'saying they will over-turn the courts in his favour at the same time as they meet him to discuss political strategy. That is pretty close to corruption' - see: Would Labour and Greens over-rule the court for Kim Dotcom?.

Farrar explains the problem, as he sees it: 'Russel Norman has been out twice to meet Dotcom, and ask him to support the Greens instead of setting up his own political party. And in return he is offering that a Labour/Greens Government would basically corruptly over-turn the decision of the court in Dotcom's favour.

Cunliffe is not ruling out that he would also over-turn any court decision. We also learn Winston Peters has been out to meet DotCom multiple times'. Farrar warns that 'We head towards corruption if people can buy themselves a different decision'.

Farrar's argument might easily be dismissed as partisan point-scoring if it wasn't for others on the left making some similar points. Labour blogger Rob Salmond has also voiced strong concern that the parties of the left might fall under 'the influence of individuals seeking to essentially buy government policy for cash'. He suggests that Dotcom is offering to throw his weight behind whatever party gives him the best personal deal by political means.

Salmond says, that 'by "his weight," I presume he means large buckets of money. That sets up an silent auction for parties to compete for Dotcom's money on the basis of policy promises, first and foremost about Dotcom's own extradition case. That is, if parties decide they want to play. I think the opposition parties should all take a pass.... this gambit looks exactly like a convoluted version of a rich guy offering up cash in exchange for personally favourable policies. Yuck. We're now in this odd position where left parties that actively compete in the policy space for Dotcom's affections will be hypocrites' - see: Kim Dotcom's 5% gambit.

The original 'dirty deals' story was broken by Patrick Gower - see his opinion piece, Labour, Greens willing to free Dotcom. Gower has asked the Labour and Greens leaders directly about their willingness to block the extradition of Dotcom - which you can view in his 2-minute TV3 item, One in five would consider voting for Dotcom.

Patrick Gower ?(@patrickgowernz) has also tweeted to joke that the choice at the election could boil down to this: 'You want Dotcom gone? Vote for J.Key and Crusher Collins. Want chance of Dotcom stay? Vote Labour-Green'. And quite sensibly, Bill Ralston (@BillyRalston) has tweeted: 'It might be helpful if all politicians who have had talks with KDC declared their interest and what was discussed, who's been with him & why'. For more from Twitter, see my blogpost Top tweets about Dotcom, the Internet Party, and deals with other parties.

Of course, it's worth pointing out that there is not necessarily any connection at all between what happens with Dotcom's legal case and what the various parliamentary parties are talking to him about. Much of the commentary is mere speculation. Nonetheless it is interesting that so many politicians have been in discussions with Dotcom.

Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater has been particularly keen to put the spotlight on the political visits to Dotcom's mansion, and speculate on resulting outcomes - see, for example, his blogpost Don Brash, Russel Norman and now Winston Peters. Slater says, 'What is more concerning though is that Kim Dotcom thinks he can influence and buy off politicians at the drop of a hat. He donates money to John Banks, and seeks favours. Russel Norman visits and now he announces he is not in favour of our extradition treaties, Winston Peters visits at least three times and now he is pushing Dotcom's agenda from parliament'.

It's the Green Party and Russel Norman who are first in the firing line over allegations about 'dirty deals'. This is because Norman has clearly stated his inclination to fight Dotcom's extradition if the Greens enter government.

John Armstrong has pointed to the Greens' 'massive conflict of interest', and suggested that a party that normally takes a very critical stance towards anyone else's perceived conflicts of interest, needs 'to take a long hard look in the mirror and address matters much closer to home' - see: Greens blinded by Dotcom's aura.

For more on the Greens' orientation to the Internet Party, see Simon Wong's Greens could get Internet Party's support and Matthew Backhouse's Norman asked Dotcom to scrap political party.

Eyebrows have been raised about Norman's unambiguous opposition to Dotcom's extradition. For instance, Andrew Geddis says that his 'phrasing is a little unfortunate, because it looks a lot like Norman has already made up his mind on the matter' - see: Will no one rid me of this turbulent German?. See also, Russell Brown's The Uses of Dotcom.

John Key has called Norman 'foolish', and today's Manawatu Standard editorial also takes him to task - see: Norman comments irresponsible. And for other critical voices, see Julie Moffett's Labour distancing itself from Dotcom.

Andrew Geddis' blogpost is also the best discussion of the legalities of the extradition process. He argues that the Minister of Justice actually has to consider the extradition request, rather than simply rubber-stamp what the courts decide. Geddis also says that David Cunliffe's comments so far have been appropriate. Cunliffe now appears to be backtracking somewhat further, making it look less likely that a Labour government would block extradition - see Briar Marbeck's Labour 'won't intervene' in Dotcom extradition.

The current Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, is scathing about the public statements being made by politicians on the case - see Laura McQuillan and Barry Soper's PM weighs in on Dotcom chatter. She labels Cunliffe and Norman's behaviour as 'irresponsible' and 'unconstitutional'. And the Prime Minister is suggesting that if a future government blocked extradition proceedings, it would essentially pull New Zealand out of the treaty with the US - see Briar Marbeck's Key: 'Fair enough' if Greens break extradition treaty.

But would a change of government really make any difference to the likelihood of Dotcom being extradited? Blogger Andrew Chen thinks not. He believes pressure from the US would override any resistance from a new government, and anyway, 'It is far more likely that his case will shrivel up in court (either here or in the US) and Dotcom gets to spend the rest of his days freely in New Zealand. The Minister of Justice won't get to play any role in that decision' - see: Extradition and the Internet Party.

Finally, for a satirical take on it all see Danyl Mclauchlan's Labour planning dodgy electoral deal with immortal giant, and Steve Braunias' The secret diary of Kim Dotcom.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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