Edgeler on Labour’s undeclared donation

May 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

at Public Address blogs:

If these count as donations (and both , and the Electoral Commission appear to accept they do), then each of the sums above created a separate obligation of disclosure, with 10 working days allowed after each to declare it. The failure to do so within that time period, on each of the four occasions is (unless the Party Secretary has a “reasonable excuse”) a separate offence, carrying a maximum fine of $40,000.

So what about the reasonable excuse? Labour claims it was unsure whether or not a bequest counts as a donation. Edgeler points out:

So I do not consider this is as clear as others believe. However, despite my doubts, I have no sympathy for the Labour Party.

I simply cannot accept “confusion” as an explanation. Being confused about this means you received the money and thought about it whether it had to be disclosed, and just couldn’t make up your mind for certain either way. In a situation like this, if you think you may have a legal obligation to do something, and are confused, the thing you do is check. If the reason the two Labour Party Secretaries involved (Chris Flatt at the time of the first three payments, and Tim Barnett at the time of the last payment) didn’t declare these payments as donations was because they were “confused” about whether it was required then what they’ve realised that what they’re (not) doing may be an offence, but have chosen to run the risk.

I call bullshit on the claim they were confused. If you are confused, then you seek advice. Graeme’s advice would have been:

I am happy to provide you with a legal opinion if you really want, but why do you care? Just file a disclosure anyway, and save yourself some money. At the very least, just call up the Electoral Commission and ask. If they say you a bequest doesn’t count as a donation, then don’t file a return, but otherwise, what’s the harm? 

All Labour had to do was e-mail the Electoral Commission and ask them.

Newstalk ZB’s Felix Marwick apparently has confirmation that the Electoral Commission won’t be referring these matters to the Police, which has disappointed a number of people. There is nothing to stop individuals laying complaints with the police, and I suspect a number will, although it seems unlikely police will pursue charges.

Someone should complain to the Police, and if the Police don’t act, then a private prosecution sounds a good idea.

I don’t know the reasons for the Commission’s decision, but the view that it would be wrong to hold an individual responsible for whatever failure happened in this case (when it may have been someone else’s fault) may factor. This possibility shows, I think, one of the flaws in our electoral law. For something like this, there will often be no reason to sheet responsibility to an individual for a failure like this. The law should allow political parties to be charged directly, not sheet home responsibility only to party secretaries.

I agree, it should be Labour facing a fine, not their former or current general secretaries.

 

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28 Responses to “Edgeler on Labour’s undeclared donation”

  1. Mike Collins (166 comments) says:

    Disgraceful decision not to refer to Police (who in all likelihood would find a reason not to prosecute).

    In any case, next time Labour start referring to ‘big money in politics’ and ‘buying power anonymously’ we’ll all have something to remind them of.

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  2. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    It seems right that this is not referred to Police. The law is confusing and as we have seen before we can’t expect the people who write and enact the laws to understand them. Labour do, after all is said and done, need to try and win an election and declaring large donations isn’t a good look… So fair enough they just didn’t do it – it’s not like these people need to follow the law.

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  3. RRM (9,998 comments) says:

    7. Complete the following line from a well known novel by George Orwell:

    Four legs good, two legs ______!

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  4. Barnsley Bill (983 comments) says:

    Labour have a long and proud tradition of flouting electoral law. From Indians with 47 fake voters in a single house to Clark changing the law to make her stealing legal none of us should be surprised.
    The party workers party can always be relied upon to do anything they can to win. Irrespective of legality. And a compliant police force is nothing short of abject cowardice at best and corruption at worst.

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  5. Peter (1,723 comments) says:

    I see nothing wrong with the people who make the laws not following them, and the people who uphold the law not doing so. If you want to be a Banana Republic, then that’s the way you must roll.

    Get with the program, brothers. Relax. Have a coconut cocktail, mon.

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  6. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    but the view that it would be wrong to hold an individual responsible for whatever failure happened in this case (when it may have been someone else’s fault) may factor.

    It would seem to be the standard position for Labour Leaders

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  7. BeaB (2,141 comments) says:

    So what is the point of these rules?

    Well said, Burt. If any party thinks it is ‘entitled’ it is the Labour/Greens.

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  8. dishy (248 comments) says:

    If our MSM were consistent and fair, or if this were about National rather than Labour, the Police would not need to be involved – the MSM would be judge, jury and executioner. And they would pursue the matter with the same vigour that they recently pursued a certain dickhead list MP – anybody know who he was?

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  9. s.russell (1,645 comments) says:

    I think in this case “confused” simply means mistaken. Since it is a bequest, it is not like Labour can offer any under-the-table payback. So I think it unlikely there is anything other than stupidity/sloppiness/ignorance at work here.

    That said, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. They should be prosecuted and fined as an object lesson.

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  10. PaulL (6,035 comments) says:

    If there’s no under-the-table shenanigans, and it’s a bequest so no particular public opprobrium from receiving it, then why on earth would you not just declare it? I don’t get what Labour benefited from choosing to not declare it despite their “confusion”, therefore logically it is just laziness or sloppiness.

    Whilst I recognise that the party organisation aren’t the bit that actually run the country if they win, I would have thought that the parliamentary wing have some level of supervision/involvement. If they can’t manage to supervise a relatively small organisation that has rather few obligations, how could they hope to supervise something like, I dunno, a single purchaser of power in a regulated power market?

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  11. publicwatchdog (2,763 comments) says:

    So David – in the interests of consistency – where do you stand on the private prosecution of John Banks for alleged electoral fraud?

    Do you support this private prosecution – or not?

    Kind regards,

    Penny Bright
    ‘Anti-corruption /anti-privatisation’ campaigner

    2013 Auckland Mayoral candidate.

    http://www.dodgyjohnhasgone.com

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  12. David Farrar (1,900 comments) says:

    I think people have a right to do private prosecutions. Whether it was justified or not will be dependent on the outcome.

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  13. backster (2,183 comments) says:

    It was a case of what you can get away with. Shearer tried to get away with keeping secret the treasure stash in his J.PMorgan Bank Account until the Tax department started investigation into New Zealanders hiding their wealth overseas. His party didn’t want to reveal their windfall from a deceased property developer until they realised the party might also be outed at an embarrassing time.

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  14. PaulL (6,035 comments) says:

    There’s a difference between something where they appear to have admitted liability but the police don’t want to prosecute, and where it isn’t clear whether there is any crime committed (as I understand it, with Banks what he did is unlikely to be illegal under the relevant act for local govt, and therefore a prosecution makes little sense). In the case of Banks, I think he’s already suffered the ill effects, it was politically very painful for him. Whereas with Labour, so far they appear to be getting off scott free.

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  15. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    DPF

    I think people have a right to do private prosecutions. Whether it was justified or not will be dependent on the outcome.

    Or on parliament killing the case via urgent retrospective validations in the best interest of protecting dear leader.

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  16. Paulus (2,656 comments) says:

    It is an effing donation constituted by money received.
    What else can it be – lying hypocritical toads, and that includes the media, who are just as bad.

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  17. flipper (4,188 comments) says:

    Oh this is just crap.

    A lad with a Standard 4 education knows right from wrong. The labour secretariat insults our intelligence.

    A bequest is a bequest. Good luck to them. But they seriously broke the law when they did not declare it. Not once, Not twice. Not three times. BUT four times.

    How many folks. be they speeders, vagrants, thieves, or whatever, go down because of stupidity and “confusion”?

    The problem is that the Electoral Commission HAS BEEN SHOWN OVER successive elections to be a left wing biased group.

    Time to kick them out!

    PS
    Note the similarity to the Benghazi scandal?

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  18. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    The problem is that the Electoral Commission HAS BEEN SHOWN OVER successive elections to be a left wing biased group.

    The Electoral Commission has covered precisely one general election. There was something else called the Electoral Commission before the 2011 election, but precisely one person who worked for it is working for the new one, and they’re not involved in the running elections part of it.

    I would also note that the current Chief Electoral Office is the person who, as Deputy Chief Electoral Officer in 2005, laid the complaint about Labour’s pledgecard-caused overspending with the Chief Electoral Officer.

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  19. flipper (4,188 comments) says:

    GE…

    Whatever they (he EDC ) call themselves; whoever they are in 2013, they are always forgiving of Labour.

    Does that not lift the scab (no personal offence intended!) on your legal façade?

    This is just a repetition of the pledge scam. Try that on for drink driving, theft or the like. Just an insult for the ordinary, simple folk, who do not like legalistic bullshit.

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  20. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    This is just a repetition of the pledge scam.

    The pledge card was fully investigated by the Chief Electoral Officer and the Electoral Commission and was referred by them to Police.

    That is the full extent of their powers.

    The failure of police to prosecute electoral offending referred to them is something that the Electoral Commission have spoken out against more than once.

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  21. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    This saying has a nice ring to it…. Without fear or prejudice… Not sure what it means though….

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  22. MT_Tinman (3,246 comments) says:

    Graeme Edgeler (2,900) Says:
    May 13th, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    The failure of police to prosecute electoral offending referred to them is something that the Electoral Commission have spoken out against more than once.

    I have no doubt you are correct.

    Time to fire the Police!

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  23. PaulL (6,035 comments) says:

    @burt: without fear or favour? Has a better ring to it. :-)

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  24. redqueen (582 comments) says:

    If you launch it, David, I’ll happily donate money towards it. This is absolutely outrageous (as they now should have had enough time to make at least a preliminary statement). That said, maybe a private prosecution should be brought against the Electoral Commission for failing in their duties.

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  25. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    DPF

    It’s hard to imagine you will have trouble getting donations to the cause.

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  26. burt (8,293 comments) says:

    In pondering taking such a case the risk needs to be assessed that Labour may regain office and retrospectively validate that bequeaths are not donations thereby forking your case.

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  27. UpandComer (537 comments) says:

    What grates me the most is the double standard. If National ever failed to declare that amount of money for that amount of time it would be the harbringer of the great right ring conspiracy coming to fruition. The economy is in really good shape in relative terms atm, yet the media says nothing. The left wing bias is getting really awful now that the media lefties are starting to feel like they really need to give their team a leg up.

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  28. rg (214 comments) says:

    Our law makers are not very good at folowing the law are they? The police should act or lose the respect of the people. They have been shown to be Labour’s lapdogs on more than one occasion.

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