Electoral Commission on ACT

October 24th, 2008 at 7:20 am by David Farrar

David Benson-Pope will be happy – his complaint to the Electoral Commission against ACT has been upheld.

Up until 2005 Sir Robert Jones provided free office space to for an out of parliament office. The value was around $20,000 a year.

ACT’s position was:

The Party Secretary acknowledges that the office space was provided “for an Out of Parliament office” used for the Wellington-based list MPs to carry out their constituency work and that the office staff and equipment were funded by Parliamentary Services out of the budget provided for the list MPs.

The Secretary states that the party did not use the office for campaigning or other party purposes, as the party obtained another office for those purposes.

The Secretary claims that the party did not benefit from the provision of the office space and
therefore did not need to declare it.

In a way this is really about whether a donation to a parliamentary section of a party counts as a donation to the party. The consequences of this ruling could be quite large, as any MP who gets a cheap rate for their out of parliament office may be covered by this.

The Commission ruled that the parliamentary section of a party is considered part of a party, and the free rent was a donation that should have been declared. The deadline for prosecutions has expired, luckily for ACT. They have asked ACT to file amended returns for the affected years.

Some will claim a moral equivalence with NZ First. That is nonsense. There is a reasonable argument (even though they lost the argument) about whether free OOP office space for MPs (which by definition should not be used for political or campaign activity) should be included as a party donation. There is no argument over receiving large sums of money directly and not declaring them.

This does not mean ACT can not be criticised for their decision. If I was in their shoes I would have pro-actively asked the for a ruling on whether free office space for an MPs office constitutes a donation to the party itself. Erring on the side of caution is sensible when it comes to electoral law.

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40 Responses to “Electoral Commission on ACT”

  1. Grant Michael McKenna (1,159 comments) says:

    Ooooh- if DBP had cheap rentals on his offices in Dunedin, the one in the building owned by the party, would it put him in breech? I didn’t see that “donation” declared on his returns- or did I just misread it?

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  2. pushmepullu (686 comments) says:

    It is an unforgiveable waste of the court’s time to even consider this. They took a complaint from Benson-Pope? Confirmed [deleted by DPF] and liar Benson-Pope? Were he not a minister of the government that exercises an iron hand over the courts he would be thrown out and arrested for wasting court’s time for even trying to bring this prosecution, the filthy old bastard.

    The idea that ACT, a group of concerned citizens workijng hard to do what is best for New Zealand and all New Zealanders (except [deleted by DPF] like Benson-Pope, who will hopefully be stripped of his citizenship by this time next year) and the idea that they would ever break the law is ludicrous.

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  3. clintheine (1,570 comments) says:

    Benson Peeps Dunedin office in South Dunedin is rather large and flash, but no surprises considering how much real estate Labour owns in Dunners. But personal remarks aside, the commission has still found that Winston is still very very dodgy and you cannot attribute this situation to Rodney, as it all occurred when Prebs was leader. :)

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  4. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    DPF says “Erring on the side of caution is sensible when it comes to electoral law.”

    Especially with the fucking dogs breakfast Hulun and Mikhael have made of it.

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  5. dave strings (608 comments) says:

    Push me

    Brain in top before fingers or mouth in first – one of an old man’s pieces of wisdom.

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  6. dave strings (608 comments) says:

    The reakity of Winston is that, despite his protestations of innocence last night and this morning, he was found to have misled Parliament and the public and was censured for it. This is the fact that voters must have put back in front of them.

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  7. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    afraid the voters run across a normal curve, with a bottom quartile ripe for the picking by NZF, Green, MP and Labour type shysters.

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  8. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    The deadline for prosecutions has expired,

    Hearing a bit of that these days…what the hell is the point?!

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  9. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Dirty little Hall Monitor got caught with his hands in the Principals cookie jar, but wait, hunker down for 6 months and avoid prosecution.

    Because you say there is a difference between breaking rules doesn’t mean it is so. Hide broke Parliaments rules.

    Association of C_ _ _ _ and Tyrants indeed.

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  10. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Yawn.

    Paul = Syruper.

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  11. MikeE (555 comments) says:

    So what about the multiple buildings that labour party trusts own?

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  12. iiq374 (262 comments) says:

    Paul – And so did Helen in the first term when she used Prime Ministerial letterhead to oppose a boarding house near her private residence. Your point being?

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  13. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Did he break the law or not – answer is YES, but hunker down for 6 months and seems you can get away with anything including free money.

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  14. GerryandthePM (328 comments) says:

    Leighton Smith, on Newstalkzb, is making the point that commercial rent is normally paid monthly.

    Technically ACT received twelve donations of $1,666 each.

    Was a declaration required?

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  15. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Ah, but Helen isn’t the self appointed (or self anointed) Hall Monitor of Parliament running up and down the corridors telling everyone to pull their socks up and go running to the Principal.

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  16. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    “Did he break the law or not…”

    No, he didn’t Paul.

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  17. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Leighton Smith would excuse straight out fraud if it was by any of his precious right wing bullie boys. And you guys talk about MSM being biased. Make me laugh.

    He got caught, and yes I am here gloating, it’s bloody funny. But also sad that all they have to do is wait out 6 months and they’re free. I wonder if my speeding ticket expires in 6 months – that would be nice.

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  18. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Gooner

    You don’t get prosecuted for nothing

    “The ruling against ACT says it should have declared the office space, which was donated for several years till 2005. It noted the non-declaration was outside the six-month limit for prosecution, but ordered ACT to make amended returns for the years it used the space.”

    From Stuff.co.,nz

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  19. Gooner (995 comments) says:

    Paul, he did not break the law. It’s that simple.

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  20. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Anyone go to school in ChCh and can tell Paul what a syruper is?

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  21. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Ouch that’s really got to hurt the Gooner – squeaky clean Hall Monitor in Real Estate Scandal.

    Can’t take credit for this but, this could be more succinctly put (from a comment on the Standard)

    “Rodney”
    “yes Roger”
    “the kettle is indeed black”
    “damn”

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  22. Paul (1,315 comments) says:

    Could anyone explain to expat what Hypocrisy is and put in a sentence with the name Rodney Hide.

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  23. clintheine (1,570 comments) says:

    How sad is it that Paul is now Winstons head cheerleader? Nice one chump. Bet you never thought you would ever go so low.

    But keep on going – you’ll get the appropriate diddums come election day.

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  24. deanknight (263 comments) says:

    DPF:

    I’m pleased to see you now accept that it is legitimate to have regard to whether people have a reasonable expectation of certain interpretations of law; if they have a reasonable basis for adopting that position, they deserve some credit in mitigation.

    Of course, this is the argument that some of us have been making for quite some time, in the context of things such as the pledge cards, Peters’ pecuniary interest declaration, etc. But if I recall, you and others seemed to poo-poo that argument?

    [DPF: I think I have been consistent. The pledge cards in terms of the EA were warned three times by the CEO that they were election adverts and expenses. They deserve the opposite of credit for that. As for Winston's pecuniary interests - I have never said that was a hanging offence - if he had told the truth about it. If he had came out and said "Yeah I got a donation for legal fees but I don't think it counts".But he lied and lied and lied about it. My issues with Winston have always been more of hypocrisy and lying than suggesting he should be found guilty of crimes]

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  25. BlairM (2,321 comments) says:

    I remember when ACT got that office. It wasn’t something they wanted – it was demanded by Parliamentary Services! It was forced upon them, even though ACT had perfectly good offices in Bowen House just down the road.

    Rather than waste perfectly good tax money, Bob Jones was generous enough to donate a small space to comply. To even ask whether it constituted a party donation never occurred to anybody. It was an unnecessary office to comply with some bureaucrat’s checklist, and it was empty most of the time.

    So gee, sorry we didn’t declare that we were trying to save your tax money from being wasted. Sorry we don’t do what Labour does, and collect rent directly from Parliamentary Services on buildings they own. Maybe if we went about rorting the system like everybody else, we wouldn’t get into so much trouble?

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  26. freethinker (688 comments) says:

    Paul

    The good news is your speeding ticket does expire after 6 months if the Police have not issued a prosection within that time – perhaps because they don,t understand the law or they are just incompetent in issuing a prosecution in time. The bad news is the police failed to Prosecute Helen/Labour Ministers/Labour party of multiple offences and confirmed they did know the 6 month limitation as on one occaision they admitted that the following day was the the last day for issuance. Conclusion the Police and/are Incompetent & politicsed as evidenced by The Shane Ardern case were they proved themselves incontinent and politicised. And yes the pun is intended.

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  27. freedom101 (496 comments) says:

    If the ACT office was for parliamentary purposes and was not used by the party at all, then how can it be for the party purposes? This ruling suggests therefore that all other parliamentary spending is also for party purposes – eg ministerial press secretaries (who everyone knows are there to promote Labour). Actually, the ruling makes sense when viewed in this light.

    Maybe a complaint against Helengrad is in order for Liarbor’s non-declaration of its grossly inflated ‘communications’ ministerial staff budget, all of which should have been declared a taxpayer donation to the party.

    Note the difference if you will – a donation by a private individual to a parliamentary purpose, to service constituents, needs to be declared as a donation to a party, but a taxpayer contribution for far more partisan ends does not.

    Welcome to Alice in Wonderland.

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  28. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    Paul,

    When are you going to accept that if you are a Right party and you get given a service that is equivalent to money, that is nowhere near as corrupt as when a Left party gets given money? It just isn’t, ok? It is their Leftism more than anything else that makes them corrupt. “Left” = “corrupt”. Just ask Ratbiter. That, and the fact the sun shines out Dear Rodney’s posterior…

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  29. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    So right Ratbiter the left are corrupt, fucking corrupt, they have to be, no honest bastard would get away with the shit these pricks pull. You all piss in each others pockets and steal taxpayers money because no one with half a brain will donate to you losers and the those poor hacks that are dumb enough to sign up to a union are milked like cows. The end is near for the left, enjoy it will you can.

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  30. Lee (610 comments) says:

    This would be the same David Benson Pope who use to get his rocks off making schoolgirls on camps stand outside in the cold in their underwear so he could perv at them?

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  31. getstaffed (9,186 comments) says:

    freedom101 – Also, I wonder if the ‘Crown’ is paying over market rates for property owned by the Labour party? Perhaps rent review and have any excess count as ‘donations’?

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  32. Tauhei Notts (1,693 comments) says:

    As a tax accountant I find this interesting.
    Donations to political parties are not deductible.
    Jones’ company has donated $20,000 per year to the Act Party each year for, say, three years.
    The Tax Man will ask for $6,666.67 GST and $17,600 income tax being one ninth of the $60,000 (GST) and 33% of the balance. Possibly Use of Money interest at the usurious rate of 14.24% plus penalties will be added on.
    Stop and think about this for a moment.
    Imagine a committed Green Party voter who is a dentist and has quoted $500 per hour to straighten our prime minister’s teeth. She turns him down as he has spent 25 hours helping with the Green Party’s campaign. After all, who would want a dentist who was so phucked in the head. Will the Green Party have to declare that $12,500 donation? (25 hours @ $500) Will the dentist get an awful tax demand as I set out above for the Jones’ company? Is this a tactic to stop highly educated people giving their time to political parties? This is unusual, because if they were highly educated, and did not have their snout in the taxpayers’ trough, they would be most unlikely to support Labour.
    I have been the honorary auditor of the local Act Party electorate for the past eleven years. Am I likely to get a tax demand for the time given voluntarily, just as the Jones company may get a demand for the office space given voluntarily?
    The Electoral Commission could be opening a huge can of worms here. Putting a value on services given voluntarily could destroy our volunteer society. Go and tax those bitches that work their guts out voluntarily for the local netball association. Yeah, right.
    This incremental creeping socialism is becoming endemic. Bit by bit by bit.

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  33. ScaryThoughts (15 comments) says:

    Tauhei – Is this why the annual returns for Charity now require a summary of volunteer hours …

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  34. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,746 comments) says:

    ACT will be able to help steer a confused National in the right direction after 8 November.

    The Electoral laws will be tidied up just right.

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  35. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Tauhei:

    “The Electoral Commission could be opening a huge can of worms here. Putting a value on services given voluntarily could destroy our volunteer society. Go and tax those bitches that work their guts out voluntarily for the local netball association. Yeah, right.
    This incremental creeping socialism is becoming endemic. Bit by bit by bit.”

    Does this mean that a civic-minded type could use the EFA to prosecute the untaxed use of ‘voluntary’ labour by union-members – especially if it is engaged in during work -hours?

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  36. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    nice try but services will be deemed seperate to donated goods. by the commie appointed commissars.

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  37. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    I posted this on http://monkeyswithtypewriter.blogspot.com/ I think it is a logical progression that volountary service will be declarable.

    sonic – if you are reading this – remember what I told you and your short-sighted ilk LAST SEPTEMBER.

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  38. Tom Barker (138 comments) says:

    “The idea that ACT, a group of concerned citizens working hard to do what is best for New Zealand and all New Zealanders… would ever break the law is ludicrous.”

    What’s that exemplary former ACT MP Donna Awatere-Huata doing these days? Has she kept up her party membership?

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  39. Pascal (1,969 comments) says:

    Yes Tom, what did happen to her?

    And whilst you’re looking that up, tell me what happened to Taito Philip Fields, Winston Peters, Helen Clark, Mike Smith and what is about to happen to Shane Jones?

    I mean, it’s not like any of those people stole $800,000 or more from the public. It’s not like they’ve been involved in all sorts of dodgy immigration dealings in return for cash. It’s not like they commit fraud. Or channel money secretly through trusts to fund their election campaigns. Or even attempt to use the public service funds for electioneering.

    Not at all, eh?

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  40. Tom Barker (138 comments) says:

    Pascal, if you think they’ve all broken the law, maybe you should inform the police of the facts. Maybe they’ll all end doing time, up like your former MP. Do your duty, man.

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