Why donate $50K to John Banks in the first place? Dotcom camp explains

ACT leader John Banks may now be ruing the day he fell out with Kim Dotcom.

When Dotcom was jailed after the January 20, 2013 raid on his mansion, he reached out to Banks, only to be spurned.

The giant German is now an enthusiastic witness for the prosecution in Banks' election fraud trial.

But NBR's question is not so much why the pair fell out, or whether the two $25,000 cheques were anonymous, but why Dotcom donated $50,000 to the (then) Auckland mayoral candidate in the first place? 

Many trendy-lefty advocates of a free and open internet, who form the natural support base for the political party Dotcom says he'll launch in the new year, must be asking the same thing.

Did Dotcom admire the hardline social conservative Banks' policies? Was he angling for advantage over his citizenship and property purchase applications? Neither answer is particularly satisfying to the liberals and internet freedom advocates considering a vote for Dotcom candidates.

Sure, the $50,000 donation pre-dated the spy bills (voted for by ACT, strongly opposed by Dotcom), and the current phase of Banks' political career. But the ACT leader has always been a conservative with an authoritarian bent. Where was the common ground?

NBR did not manage to put the question to Dotcom, but his colleague Finn Batato did respond, saying: "I can only tell you what I have heard from Kim, which is that John made clear that he is interested in improving the digital business in NZ which is the same interest Kim had and still has."

In The Secret Life of Kim Dotcom, David Fisher writes, "Dotcom said he saw Banks as a forward-thinking politician who was pro-internet and pro-business. 'That's why I gave him the money.'"

Mr Fisher notes that it also emerged that "Banks had lobbied his old friend, Lands Minister Maurice Williamson, over Dotcom's application to purchase the mansion."

Williamson signed off on Dotcom's mid-2011 application to buy the $30 million Coatesville mansion, owned by the Chrisco founders Richard and Ruth Bradley. But the deal also required the support of (then) Justice Minister Simon Power, who declined.

He also writes, "It also emerged that Banks also sought a donation for the ACT Party. He recalled being told "to go get f**ked as your government has caused me too much trouble." The timing would palce it just after the mansion rejection."

UPDATE: On December 4, 2013, shortly after Crown Law took over his electoral fraud prosecution, John Banks said he would stand down as ACT leader at the party's annual meeting March 1, 2014, and not contest the Epsom electorate at the next election.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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