National MP Judith Collins says she is "very pleased" by what she described as a thorough inquiry, after a report into Dirty Politics allegations found no evidence the former justice minister acted inappropriately.
But says she's been "let down".
Ms Collins resigned her ministerial portfolios in the lead-up to this year's election after an email emerged that appeared to link her to a blog campaign to undermine former Serious Fraud Office boss Adam Feeley.
Prime Minister John Key initiated a government inquiry into the matter, headed by High Court judge Justice Lester Chisholm.
The inquiry found that while Ms Collins had provided information about Mr Feeley to WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater, "there was nothing improper about the provision of this information".
Ms Collins said it was up to the Prime Minister whether she was ever reinstated as a Minister.
"I feel this chapter of having to deal with these allegations is now closed. I feel very firmly that I acted appropriately and within my ministerial responsibilities."
Asked about her relationship with Mr Slater now, she said Mr Slater had made some big mistakes. She did not believe he had intended to do her harm "and he has apologised".
"I have been let down....That's where I'll leave it."
What the report said
The report said that in her interview with the inquiry, Ms Collins claimed Slater had made up his comments about her "gunning" for Mr Feeley.
Justice Chisholm noted that Ms Collins believed Slater had misinterpreted her "really bad mood" as being aimed at Mr Feeley when it was actually frustration with Mr Slater's blog posts.
Quoting from Ms Collins' evidence to the inquiry, Justice Chisholm wrote "Ms Collins believed that it suited Mr Slater's story to tell his friends "that he has great contacts and he can do whatever he likes and, you know, he can be the added member of their team. That's the way I see it. And he's using my name to do it."
Slater also said he was "overegging a casual conversation" and told the inquiry Ms Collins had not directly said she wanted Mr Feeley to go - rather he had picked it up from "her tone."
"She was expressing to me her feelings, I guess, and I was getting those from her tone, that she was displeased."
Justice Chisholm listed information he believed had passed between Slater and Ms Collins, including on the topic of the Bridgecorp champagne bottle matter being passed to the State Services Commission, Slater's blogs attacking Mr Feeley and his change of stance, the media controversy over it and political matters in light on the coming 2011 election. However, he said it had not been inappropriate of Ms Collins to have done so.
He said it would have been "very surprising" if Ms Collins' decision to refer the matter to the SSC and Slater's blogs on the issue had not been discussed by the pair and one long phone conversation had taken place soon after Slater's blog went up.
"The blogs were already in the public arena and the minister was undoubtedly entitled to raise these matters with Mr Slater, especially when she was politically accountable for any fallout. Whether or not she was wise to to do so is beside the point."
He said he was unable to find any evidence she had expressed a view Mr Feeley should be sacked.
"On the other hand, I do not accept that Ms Collins said anything that justified Slater's emails stating she was livid with Mr Feeley, was gunning for him, wanted information about him, had added the staff turnover issue to the matters to be investigated by the State Services Commissioner, or was 'on a trawl' for information."
He said while Ms Collins was undoubtedly "upset and disappointed" about the champagne bottle, she had maintained a public silence after forwarding it to the OIA and had been publicly supportive of Mr Feeley after the SSC reported back.
Prime MInister releases report
Today Mr Key released the findings of the inquiry, saying he received the report yesterday and wanted to get it out at the earliest opportunity.
"I am pleased the report shows no evidence that Ms Collins acted inappropriately."
He also said he would recommending to the Governor-General that Ms Collins she granted use of the title "The Honourable" for life."
The report said two separate groups were attempting to undermine Mr Feeley.
One group comprised current and former staff at the SFO. The other group was made up of Mr Slater, Hong Kong-based Cathy Odgers, and lobbyist Carrick Graham.
"Except for her association with Mr Slater, Ms Collins was not involved in the activities of these groups," the report said.
The email which was provided to Mr Key's office and led to Ms Collins' resignation was "incompatible" with other evidence presented to the inquiry.
"There is no probative evidence that Ms Collins undermined or attempted to undermine Mr Feeley. The implication that she was so involved is untenable."
Mr Key said yesterday that Ms Collins would not immediately be reappointed to the front benches if she was cleared but "it would certainly assist in enabling her to come back".
"I've fixed my Cabinet now and I don't have a spare spot and that's the harshness of what goes on."
Today's report also reveals key figures in the inquiry into Ms Collins tried to suspend the probe, given the possibility of a criminal investigation into the aggressive public relations strategy employed on behalf of former Hanover Finance boss Mark Hotchin.
But after police confirmed mid-way through the inquiry they were not investigating a complaint by then Labour Party deputy leader David Parker, inquiry chair Lester Chisholm ruled he was free to compel bloggers Mr Slater and Ms Odgers, and Hotchin's former spokesman Carrick Graham, to testify.
The report said Mr Slater had "expressed concern about his position if the police investigation led to the laying of charges," with similar comments made by both Ms Odgers and Mr Graham.
Mr Parker had written to police on September 1, days after Ms Collins' resignation, requesting police investigate allegations of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
A letter from the police provided to the inquiry on October 15 had settled this question, with the Chisholm report noting police said "they did not at this time intend to commence any criminal investigation into the matters that had been raised about the former Minister, subject to the reservation that the matter might be reconsidered if any substantive evidence was subsequently provided."
Lobbyist releases statement
Carrick Graham issued a statement this afternoon, saying Mr Chisholm's report had exonerated his client Mr Hotchin.
He said Mr Hotchin had been the subject of numerous defamatory or misleading media reports, and his organisation Facilitate Communications had worked to address this.
Mr Graham said there was never an intention to undermine Mr Feeley, saying he brought the criticism on himself.
The lobbyist also defended the criticism of public servants, especially "when there is an uneven playing field in terms of media commentary".