Your money, his campaign

It?s hard to fundraise when you spend all your time and money on your mates Jim, Jack and Johnnie. That?s something Winston Peters must know all too well.

So when you?re tits at fundraising and your party faithful couldn?t organise a piss up in a brewery, it?s little time before schemes are hatched to run a campaign on the cheap on the taxpayer.

It looks as though the wily old fox has been forced to show his hand after a bit of sniffing about by the Taxpayers Union.?Winston’s baggage boy, Api Dawson, has been based up in Northland for some time, but only on Wednesday did you and I taxpayer, stop paying for him.

?NZ First leader Winston Peters has rejected claims a member of his Northland campaign team is being funded by the taxpayer.

Questions were raised by the Taxpayers’ Union that parliamentary staffer Api Dawson was carrying out campaign work on Peters’ “Force for the North” bus tour of Northland.

Peters is standing in the Northland by-election – a seat left vacant by the sudden resignation of former National MP Mike Sabin, due to personal reasons.

Peters has confirmed Dawson is managing his campaign, but has taken annual leave from his Parliamentary Service role to do so. After questioning yesterday, Peters confirmed Dawson’s leave kicked in from midday on Wednesday. If Dawson was carrying out any campaign functions in Northland before that date, the party would have breached rules that stipulate Parliamentary Service staff should not engage in party campaigning, membership or fund raising activities.

A photo of Dawson and NZ First MP Pita Paraone standing outside Peters’ campaign bus was posted to Paraone’s page, the Taxpayers’ Union said. A search late yesterday appeared to suggest the picture had been removed. It is not clear when it was originally posted. ??

A spokeswoman for Parliamentary Service confirmed Dawson was on their payroll as the party’s director for research. But later, after Peters’ explanation, she confirmed Dawson was on leave from midday on Wednesday.

Peters rejected allegations Dawson had breached the rules. “Mr Dawson is on holiday leave, any allegations of impropriety will be met with the strongest defence. Pedalling deliberate posturing moves will not in any way affect a seriously effective campaign.”

It’s not the first time Dawson’s role within the party has come under scrutiny. He resigned last year after former NZ First MP Brendan Horan laid a complaint to Parliament’s Speaker, David Carter, that Parliamentary Service funding was being used for party political purposes including fundraising. Carter investigated the claim, but did not release the findings only to say “no further action will be taken unless further evidence is produced”.

Yesterday, Peters refused to answer questions over when Dawson was re-hired.?

Even a complete political novice would know that Winston?s words don?t add up. Any campaign manager would be on the job well before his candidate announces he?s standing.

Api Dawson and Winston Peters have form for abusing taxpayer money. Dawson once used Parliamentary Service funds to buy a CRM and Winston still hasn?t paid back the $158,000 (plus interest).

Winston First is keen to parrot on about how they run campaigns on a shoestring, with one of the best votes to money ratios of any party. It looks as though the Taxpayers Union have cast some serious doubt on that fa?ade.

As usual the tip-line is running hot with information suggesting that another Parliamentary staff member was working full-time on the 2014 campaign out of their office in Bowen House.

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