Rules covering such spending specifically allow parties to publicise their policies – but not to solicit votes.
Labour made a complete nonsense of those rules.
Getting the taxpayer to bear the cost of producing and distributing its signature pledge card was breathtaking in its audacity.
Labour’s mistake was to go a step further and try to exclude that spending from its expenses covering the three months prior to the election. In the commission’s view, that took Labour over the limit.
Regardless of what the police determine, pre-election arrogance has boomeranged badly on Labour.
The pledge card – a device designed to increase trust in Labour – has been devalued.
Labour now looks shamefaced. To defuse things, it is deliberately fudging and confusing the separate issues of election overspending and spending of parliamentary funds.
Indeed. What will be interesting is how Labour deals with the investigation. It is unthinkable that the Police will not prosecute at least one Labour official for the offence. Now the issue will be do they get him or her to plead guilty?
National is also I think likely to be prosecuted for the GST broadcasting error, but they have been totally candid about the fact they booked too much broadcasting, reported it themselves to the Electoral Commission and will plead guilty if charged and pay any fine.
But for Labour it will be a terrible dilemna. If the people charged plead guilty then the pressure to repay the $445,000 will be immense. If they plead not guilty then the issue stays in the media for much longer and all sorts of incriminating evidence could come out in a trial.