There are three issues relating to Labour’s pledge cards, and here is where we start to get into what the Police got wrong. The three issues are:
2) Were the pledge cards an “advertisement” under Section 221 of the Electoral Act 1993.
3) Should the pledge cards have been funded out of The Parliamentary Serice, under the rules set in place by The Parliamentary Service Commission.
Now here is the crucial bit. Issues (1) and (2) have very little to do with (3). The first two issues are connected to each other, as they use similiar definitions in the same Act. But (3) is not connected.
To be specific, one can find the pledge cards are a legitimate use of Parlimentary funding, and also find they are an election expense and an advertisement under the Electoral Act.
Now this is not just my view, but the view of the High Court in the Wairarapa Electoral Petition, the view of the Chief Electoral Officer and the Electoral Commission. It is also made clear in the election guide to political parties:
Parties should also be aware that some facilities and services claimed against MPs’ budgets within Vote Parliamentary Service may have to be included in a party’s return of election expenses if they are used for an election activity on behalf of the party.
Now the fatal mistake the Police made is they spent all their time investigating Issue (3) which wasn’t even an issue for them. It has nothing to do with them. It is a matter for the Speaker and the Auditor-General.
The Police seemed to think that merely being okay under The Parliament Service Commission’s internal rules, means that it is okay under the Electoral Act. This is not true, as the Electoral Act stands on its own merits.
You will see in later documents how the Police were confused on this point right up until after they released their findings, and the Chief Electoral Officer had to put them right.