Carrick Graham says Dirty Politics won’t stop him.
The PR supremo whose employment of attack bloggers was exposed in Dirty Politics says his unconventional media strategies are here to stay.
A defiant Carrick Graham broke his silence over Dirty Politics, which led to the resignation, and exoneration this week, of Judith Collins over allegations she had undermined former SFO boss Adam Feeley.
An inquiry found Graham played third fiddle in the attacks on Feeley, behind his "out-of-control" cohorts Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers.
But Graham told the Herald on Sunday this week he was simply trying to turn the tide of overwhelmingly negative coverage against his client Mark Hotchin, former Hanover boss.
And he dismissed concerns raised by the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand about the questionable ethics of his radical tactics.
"I don't think it surprises anyone that when they read the paper in the morning or watch the news, there is someone pushing an agenda somewhere. Whether it's PR people, MPs, officials, or even the media themselves.
"I don't want to burst anyone's bubbles by pretending that the world is black and white. Some people don't communicate very well, and the tide turns against them, and that's where I come in."
Graham was accused of paying Slater for commercial "hit" jobs; mainly targeting opponents of Hotchin but also opponents of other clients.
On a piece of paper in plain view at his Parnell offices, Graham had typed out his communications strategy for the interview with the Herald on Sunday: he would not talk about the Dirty Politics book or its author Nicky Hager.
But it didn't take much prodding for Graham to deviate from his plan. "People can read into things too much," said Graham of the alleged plots exposed in Hager's book.
"Nicky takes a sinister view of everything. For someone to believe he is on a moral standing on the basis of receiving and using stolen emails is reprehensible."
Graham said "Chaos and Mayhem" - the codeword for Graham, Slater, and Odgers' PR strategy - was a "euphemism" coined between friends to describe "enthusiastic endeavour".
He said being thrust from the role of behind-the-scenes practitioner of the dark arts of public relations to centre stage had been "stressful".
But he said it hadn't harmed his business. His clients include private individuals, businesses, from small players to multinationals, trade associations and political campaigns - and he said none have left him since the Dirty Politics revelations.
Hotchin is no longer a client, though that arrangement came to an end in 2012.
His new enterprise, a consultancy with Herald on Sunday Spy columnist Ricardo Simich and Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer, is growing, he said.
His relationship with Slater goes back decades to when they both attended Auckland Grammar School, Slater a few years ahead.
They are both steeped in National Party politics: Graham's father is former Justice Minister Doug Graham, and Slater's father John is the former party president. "We played in the same political circles, we grew up in political families."
And Graham said when you hired Slater as a consultant you received the full breadth of his communication skills. Slater's extreme views could be "unhelpful", Graham said, but he would hire his childhood friend again if the PR strategy required it.