Friday, March 07, 2008

Billboards and authorisations

In 2005, the election campaign began in January, with National launching a nationwide billboard campaign deliberately timed to circumvent their spending cap. Now that the precedent has been set, everyone else will be doing it too - and thi syear even the Greens are getting in on the act, with a series of "proud to be green" billboards. Unlike last time, it will all count towards their overall spending cap - though given that the Greens have never come remotely close to it, that's unlikely to be a problem.

One curious thing is that, at first glance at least, neither billboard appeared to bear an authorisation statment as required by sections 63 (2) and 65 of the Electoral Finance Act. They're there, but you have to look bloody hard to find them. On a bilboard I suppose they'll be more noticable, but still - shouldn't those authorisation statements at least be required to be legible?

Meanwhile Labour seems to be getting itself into trouble with a promotional CD which fails to bear a proper authorisation and a taxpayer-funded booklet on Labour's achievements which doesn't bear any authorisation at all. Despite Labour's attempts at spin, it is difficult to see how the latter is not an election advertisement - the clear purpose after all is to encourage people to vote for them. It's not explicit, so its within Parliamentary spending rules (as it should be - MPs and by extension their parties need to be able to tell their constituents what they have been doing on their behalf), but it also clearly falls within the definition in s5 (1) (a) (i) of the Act. While it may be considered material produced by an MP in their capacity as such, that simply affects whether or not it is an election expense which counts against the spending cap, not whether it must be authorised. All I can say is if you pass a law requiring proper transparency in the name of democracy, you should live by it. Otherwise you simply look like stupid hypocrites, not to mention criminals.