Thursday, September 04, 2008

Not just historical

Over the weekend, we learned conclusively that NZ First violated the Electoral Act by failing to declare donations channelled to it by the Spencer Trust in 2006. Unfortunately, due to the six-month time limit on bringing charges, they can never be prosecuted for it. However, it seems that their offending wasn't just historical. The administrators of the Spencer Trust have admitted they channelled more than $10,000 to NZ First in 2007. Despite a clear requirement in the law, this money was never declared by the party in its annual return of donations - a prima facie breach of the law.

This cannot be allowed to pass. Transparency around donations exists for good reason: to ensure that we can have confidence in our political system and that our politicians are not being bribed or influenced by large donors. The Electoral Commission must investigate, and if a case can be made, bring charges. And they need to hurry - they only have until November 16 to do it.

As for the Spencer Trust, while they are disclaiming any responsibility for disclosure, under the Electoral Finance Act, they now have a positive duty to identify the original donor or contributors when passing on money. Failing to do so is a criminal offence carrying a penalty of up to $40,000. While this doesn't apply to last year's donations, it does apply from 2008 onwards, and you'd hope they are complying with the law. Otherwise, they too could (and should) end up being prosecuted.