Now we know why John Banks won't tell us about Kim Dotcom's donation. Blame the bloody lawyers ... again.
After two days of appearing on TV doing a very good impression of a befuddled senior citizen in the latter stages of senile dementia (as well as engaging in what is probably the most bizarre phone interview with a journalist ever), John Banks has decided to come clean on the details of how Kim Dotcom came to give his mayoral campaign a $50,000 donation.
He always wanted to, you see. He's just that kind of guy: "absolutely upfront" with the media and the public and never having any problems answering questions in "a very straight manner".
There was just one little problem - he'd have explained matters straight away, if it wasn't for those meddling lawyers with their legal advice not to say anything about it least this "jeopardise" a future inquiry into the issue. So Mr Banks, fully concerned to ensure that such an inquiry can go ahead unimpeded, held his cards to his chest, whereas "if I had quite specifically and quite easily answered all of those questions upfront, contrary to the legal advice, then I wouldn't find myself in this situation where people think I'm obfuscating."
But now Mr Banks sees the error of that approach: "That piece of legal advice, while I respect it, in hindsight I regret taking it". And so from now on (one can only assume), he's turning over a new leaf. Full disclosure. All questions answered. Nothing to hide here.
That's great! So ... what have we now been told by Mr Banks regarding the details of how Mr Dotcom came to donate that $50,000, and did Mr Banks really advise that it be split into two $25,000 amounts (and if so, why), and how was his mayoral campaign fundraising structured so as to ensure he gained no knowledge of the details of any given donation?
Urrrm ... nothing. All we learned is that Mr Banks is "100% sure" he has nothing to fear or hide from an inquiry. Wait until that is complete. We'll see then that this was all a beat-up.
All of which leaves me a little worried about Mr Banks. You see, he's very, very, very concerned that we understand he didn't travel up (or down) the river by cabbage boat. But this sway that lawyers seem to have over his actions (even after he realises their advice is harmful to his interests) makes me wonder if perhaps he actually hasn't been, at some point in time, acquatically transported by a form of brassica-carrying vessel after all.
Because here's a small piece of advice about lawyers (given free of charge, as well!). Any lawyer advising any client who is facing potential police investigation will always tell that person not to say anything about it in public. And not because of any high-minded fears about "jeopardising" the investigation or the like. Rather, the lawyer will have in mind that, no matter how vociferously the client proclaims her or his innocence, she or he could well be as guilty as sin. And if she or he goes shooting their mouth off in public, they may inadvertently provide the evidence that proves her or his guilt. Which is something that a lawyer has a professional (dare I say "ethical", if that word means anything these days) obligation to try and stop from happening.
So a politician who knows he has broken no laws (and hence cannot incriminate himself through his answers to questions about his actions), but nevertheless chooses to take his lawyer's advice at face value and refuse to answer any questions about the matter (instead choosing to lie about his ability to recall events so as to evade those questions), is an idiot. In fact, he is such an idiot as to call into question his basic political skills, because to think that somehow this issue would just go away quietly of its own accord is magical thinking of the highest order.
What, then, about where a politician comes to his senses and realises how politically damaging that evasive behaviour has been, but still fails to provide any real answers to the various questions he has been asked about a matter? How exactly are we to interpret that behaviour?
In one of two ways, I suggest.
First, we may choose to conclude that the politician is less sure about his innocence than he is letting on, and actually recognises that there's a pretty good reason for sticking to the "say nothing in public" advice that his lawyer originally provided.
Or, second, we may choose to conclude that the politician knows he hasn't actually broken any laws ... but that the fundraising stratagems put in place to allow donations to be received without him "knowing" about them will look so dodgy to the public eye that they really are better not opened up to scrutiny.
Because, if there is a clear explanation for the whole "Banks.com" affair that demonstrates how Mr Banks cannot be guilty of any breach of the Local Electoral Act and shows that Mr Dotcom's account of what took place is false ... well, we're yet to hear it.
And we can no longer blame the lawyers for that fact.