Over at Kiwiblog, DPF blogs:
The Nation had Clayton Cosgrove on this morning, with the news summary being:Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove says he is a long standing friend of a property developer who donated $17,500 to his campaign at the last election.The donation came after Mr Cosgrove drafted a private members’ bill which would have allowed the developer, Mike Dormer, to go ahead with a development stopped by the Christchurch District Plan.Speaking today on TV3’s “The Nation”, Mr Cosgrove said, he was a longstanding friend of Mr Dormer.“We go back about 12 years,” he said.“He’s a friend of my family, I know his family well.“He’s a respected person, I’m proud to say I’m a mate of his.”In 2008 Mr Dormer’s company, Independent Fisheries, bought 22ha of land at Styx Mill, north of Christchurch Airport and in Mr Cosgrove’s then electorate of Waimakiriri with the intention of developing it for houses.But the company became frustrated at restrictions on the development imposed at the behest of Christchurch Airport.Other landowners in the same area were also concerned at the tight noise boundaries around the airport which prohibited residential development.In June 2009 Mr Cosgrove convened a public meeting about the boundaries and announced that he was preparing a private members’ bill to counter them.His Bill would have required landowners within the noise boundaries to forfeit any right to object to airport noise. In return residential development would get a go ahead.Mr Dormer described the bill as “win win” and “outstanding”.And five months later, in November 2009, Independent Fisheries donated $2500 toI had discussion with all landowners. We set up a group of landowners across the board who had legal support, some who didn’t. I was leading negotiations on behalf of over a 100 constituents with the International Airport and others, for years on this.After the Christchurch earthquake in September 2010, Mr Cosgrove withdrew his bill from the private members’ list of bills in Parliament.In June 2011, Mr Cosgrove got another donation from Independent Fisheries. This time it was for $15,000, making a total of $17,500, one of the highest sums given to any individual MP at the last election.And in August 2011, Mr Cosgrove issued a press release advocating passage of his Bill as a way of freeing up land for desperately needed sections in Christchurch.But he vigorously denied that there was any connection between the Bill and its obvious benefits for Independent Fisheries Ltd and the donations.“I’ve never accepted a donation with any preconditions and I have never been offered a donation with any preconditions,” he said.Mr Cosgrove rejected the suggestion that it could appear that he had a conflict of interest.There would have been a conflict of interest from any person, and I have people donate money to me in support from all political persuasions.” he said.“There would be a conflict of interest if it came with preconditions, and by the way every MP receives donations.“There would be a very bad look and a lack of judgement if those donations were hidden and not declared.“There is transparency here, and the reason you can question me is because I declared them.”Mr Cosgrove claimed the report on “The Nation” had been “shopped around” by Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, in an attempt to smear him.But Nation presenter, Rachel Smalley, said that no one from Front Page, the production company which produces “The Nation” had spoken to Mr Brownlee or anyone from his office.Independent Fisheries is one a number of parties who have a legal action against Mr Brownlee on this issue currently before the High Court in Christchurch.
We didn't see the interview with Clayton Cosgrove yesterday on The Nation. But whilst he has given assurances that there were no strings to the Independant Fisheries donation, it's a very bad look.
The mere fact that Cosgrove is pushing legislation which would see Independant Fisheries benefit leaves him wide open to allegations of a conflict of interest. Given some of his recent attacks in the House over partial asset sales and ACC, it seems as though he is perhaps the last Labour MP who should be flinging mud right at the moment.
We suggest that readers check out the full transcript of Cosgrove's interview with Rachel Smalley which is included in DPF's post (so we won't bother repeating it). What is noteworthy is that on several occasions, he gives answers to questions which haven't been asked, and tries to create the impression that this is a set-up by 3News. It's a very defensive position for him to have taken.
UPDATE: Others around the blogosphere, and from both sides of the fence have commented on Cosgrove's situation. Over at Homepaddock, Ele notes that it's odd that so much of Cosgrove's allowed donations came from one source. And Danyl at the Dim-Post calls it "fishy" noting:
Here’s the problem: While Clayton Cosgrove knows his own soul and is confident he did nothing wrong, there’s no way for the public to discern between an honest MP who drafts a bill in good faith and just happens to receive a very large donation from a company which benefits from it, and a corrupt MP who takes a payment from a company for drafting a bill. Which is why MPs usually go out of their way to avoid this kind of confusion, and declare conflicts of interests when intersections of money, friendship and legislation pop up.Labour (rightly) demanded that Nick Smith stop down over the ACC affair, and that John Banks step down over the Sky City donations: I don’t see how they can keep Cosgrove on the front bench.