PATRICK GOWER: National owes the taxpayer for Todd Barclay's hush money
The Government has been caught out using a secretive slush fund of taxpayers' money to pay off its MP Todd Barclay's problems.
It has used its $2 million "leader's budget" to hush up Barclay's employment issues.
There is only one right thing for National to do: pay it back.
This is not National's money - it is the taxpayers'.
The leader's budget should be a huge privilege - it is there for a party to dip into and put towards political purposes such as polling, research or advertising.
But in this instance it was used to top up a payment to one of Barclay's employees, who had her privacy breached when he allegedly secretly recorded her in some weird office dispute.
She was already getting a payout from her employer, but National gave it a taxpayer-funded top up.
You'll need to go a long way to find a taxpayer who thinks their hard earned money should be siphoned off to settle an employment dispute, which ended with a confidentiality agreement that protects the MP in question.
National raises millions of dollars from private sources that it uses for campaign advertising - why can't this be used to pay off Barclay's problems?
And of course, National has kept this secret from the taxpayer until now.
That is one of the big problems with the leader's budget - because it comes under Parliamentary Services, it is not subject to the Official Information Act so the public can't learn how it is spent.
The very existence of this budget - that can be spent on whatever a party wants with the protection of secrecy provisions - is questionable in itself.
But this use of it for taxpayer hush money is an absolute breach of privilege.
National should do the right thing and pay it back.
Sadly, I suspect it will be too arrogant to do so.
Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.