The New Zealand First Foundation risks being for Jacinda Ardern in 2020 what the Spencer Trust was for Helen Clark in 2008: the centre of a slow-burning scandal that will undermine not just NZ First's reputation but also Labour's, and that of the Prime Minister herself.
Tuesday's revelations by a Tauranga journalist is certainly just the start of ongoing leaks by former NZ First officials disgruntled with the foundation's activities, the party's operations and the suggestion of an overlap.
The foundation and how it operates are almost certainly legal. The Spencer Trust, remember, was never found to have broken the law by the relevant authorities including the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Winston Peters and his closest confidants are very careful and act only with the benefit of legal advice.
Nevertheless, the irresistible combination of the nation's kingmaker, significant amounts of money, unnamed businesspeople and lack of transparency will drive the story on over the months ahead.
The Prime Minister is therefore best to assume that the reports out of Tauranga are a mere apéritif. We are presumably soon to learn the identity of the primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires reported to have donated to the foundation. That will then lead to questions about how they may have benefited from Government policy.
While agencies such as the SFO will inevitably fail to find evidence of anything illegal, the whole saga and the speculation behind it will drain the Government's legitimacy.
Back in 2008, Clark publicly supported her Foreign Minister Winston Peters through the early stages of the Spencer Trust scandal, before distancing herself from him and then announcing that he had himself decided to stand aside pending the SFO investigation.
It was too late for both of them, with the relentless news coverage eroding both NZ First and more importantly Labour's public standing ahead of the 2008 election which saw John Key narrowly elected to power.
Today, Ardern faces what appears to be a very similar situation.
Ardern and her closest political ally, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, are by nature cautious politicians. Their instincts in the face of many months of provocation by NZ First generally and Shane Jones specifically has been to batten down the hatches, await further events and hope it goes away.
If they apply that strategy to the current situation, they face 10 months staggering on until a September election, responding to whatever corrosive media revelations and deliberate ministerial provocation lie ahead.
• NZ First Leader Winston Peters insists party in the clear over electoral donation claims
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To underline how long 10 months is in political terms, the March 15 terrorist attack was just eight months ago.
Allowing her Government to drift under the shadow of alleged scandal for that long will almost guarantee Simon Bridges will attend Apec 2020 in Malaysia as Prime Minister of a National-led Government.
Ardern's other option is to assume that much worse than today's allegations lie ahead and that a stiff upper lip will serve her as badly as it did Clark in 2008.
As she did when she became Labour leader just weeks before the 2017 election and again after the terrorist attack, Ardern is better advised to act boldly and decisively now.
In 1984, Sir Robert Muldoon called his snap election exactly one month before polling day. The advice now is that elections should occur no sooner than 41 days after being called, but Parliament is sovereign and can set any day it likes.
There is no doubt National would provide Labour will the necessary votes in Parliament to allow for an election on Saturday 14 or Saturday 21 December, ahead of Christmas.
It would be rushed but, as in 1984, there is no doubt the Electoral Commission would do whatever it took to ensure it was conducted as professionally as possible.
With both Ardern and Bridges ruling out working with NZ First afterwards, a December election would be a straight drag race between Labour and the Greens in the left lane and National and Act in the right.
The overwhelming majority of polls suggest a Labour-Green Government would be victorious, one surely more able to advance Ardern's personal policy agenda than the failing status quo.
But bold Ardern will need to be. If she hesitates more than a few days, a pre-Christmas election would be impossible and Ardern will be stuck with NZ First until at least March.
After the difficulty of executing a year of delivery even in 2019, she will then face the difficulty of bringing together an election-year Budget in May with a cantankerous and perhaps scandal-ridden coalition partner.
The Prime Minister is having her wisdom teeth out in Friday, under general anaesthetic. She must expect to be zonked for much of the weekend and below par until the middle of next week.
By that stage, the window for a pre-Christmas election will have closed and she will have set her Government on a much more difficult trajectory towards probable defeat in 2020.
Better to postpone the wisdom teeth operation until January, dispatch first Peters today or tomorrow and then Bridges next month, and enjoy her Christmas with three more years ahead as Prime Minister, and with a coalition partner with which she would work much more comfortably to deliver the transformational agenda she promised.