Hard News by Russell Brown

59

Maxim-ising the vote

Finally got my copy of The Hollow Men last night. It's fascinating. Hard News gets a citation on p209. The date and title of the cited post are wrong, but the content is correct. (NB: Mystery solved - the date and title of the citation are right - it's just the vehicle that was wrong. It wasn't Hard News, it was Left Field, my column in Unlimited, one titled Right and Wrong, which quoted the same Maxim-supplied newspaper editorial as my original Hard News post did.)

It's a quote from a Pohutukawa Times editorial parroting (probably verbatim) the shonky "wasted vote" message from the Maxim Institute's "voter education" campaign.

I read the first 80 pages of the book before skipping forward to the main part about Maxim (from p203) to see if my speculation that National and Maxim had colluded on the institute's "one stop shop for voters offering objective information and not pushing any political agenda" was correct.

Yup. Thought so.

The NZVotes "education" campaign was discussed extensively with National months before other parties even knew about it. National had direct input on the campaign, it knew how much money Maxim was spending and, of course, the intent of the campaign was to haul the conservative vote away from third parties and consolidate it with National.

Naturally, neither side was inclined to acknowledge the extent of co-operation. When the Star Times ran its moral issues feature and Ruth Laugesen contacted National for comment, Richard Long circulated an email warning the crew not to "over-egg the links to Maxim".

There's some interesting stuff about Maxim's funding too.

Meanwhile Paul Litterick's Fundy Post - now a real blog, but as disrespectful as ever - notes the recent Maxim makeover:

The makeover is more Monster Garage than What Not To Wear: huge amounts of useless verbiage have been thrown out to create a new image. New Maxim is caring and sharing, working "towards a more just, free and compassionate New Zealand." Old Maxim talked about Family and fretted about Maori spirituality. New Maxim is not afraid to talk about whanau. Everything has gone green as well …

I wonder if Richard Poole is still working for Maxim? Yes, the same Richard Poole who in 2000 (with the assistance of the Holmes programme) fronted the "Lost Generation" campaign that earned a mention in The Guardian:

A 27-year-old Kiwi, Richard Poole, sent an email to some of the 600,000 New Zealanders who work abroad, urging them to donate NZ$30 (about £8.50) for a newspaper advertisement calling for the country's leaders act on the issue of the 'lost generation' - young New Zealanders fleeing the country for better paid jobs in Australia, the US and the UK.

Claiming to be the non-political fears of twenty-somethings, the Poole email was exposed by the government as being backed by money from the Business Roundtable, a pro-business pressure group.

NB: I should clarify the context here, I think: Poole is quoted in an email to Bryan Sinclair, 30 November, 2003. Hager says he was "in discussion with National at that time about working for it and was describing his existing marketing projects," which according to Hager included "working for the Maxim Institute on the early stages of fundraising aand strategy for a major education project." (p204-205) I gather Poole has his own marketing company in Auckland, so it seems more likely he was "working" as a contractor rather than an employee of Maxim.

A feature of the wider story in The Hollow Men is the way the same characters turn up over and again, often in different guises and almost invariably not being honest about their motives or their funding. I confess, the edge is taken off my outrage by the perception that so many of them are such thoroughgoing prats.

Finally, what exactly did Sean Plunket mean to say when he signed off his first, slightly tetchy, interview with John Key as National Party leader with the words "unfortunately that's the new National Party leader, John Key" on Morning Report today? Click the audio link at the top of this post if you don't believe me.

PS: Okay, no more waterfront stadium - so everyone can stop pretending there isn't a major problem with the Eden Park plan: it's nearly a quarter of a billion dollars shy of being paid for. I expect that the taxpayers and ratepayers will be tapped - and I damn well hope that our money buys us a commanding presence on the Eden Park Trust. There's quite a difference between spending public money on a public asset and spending it on a private one.

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