Monday, September 05, 2011

Attempted bribery

Over the weekend, billionaire tax-exile Owen Glenn offered to donate $100 million to youth and education in New Zealand, but only if National won the election. Its a pretty shameless attempt at bribery, which has caused some well-justified outrage. But as Brian Edwards Judy Callingham points out, it may also be a criminal offence. Section 216 of the Electoral Act prohibits bribery, defined as:

(2) Every person commits the offence of bribery who, directly or indirectly, by himself or herself or by any other person on his or her behalf—

(a) gives any money or procures any office to or for any voter, or to or for any other person on behalf of any voter, or to or for any other person, in order to induce any voter to vote or refrain from voting; or

(b) corruptly does any such act as aforesaid on account of any voter having voted or refrained from voting; or

(c) makes any such gift or procurement as aforesaid to or for any person in order to induce that person to procure, or endeavour to procure, the return of any person or candidates at an election or the vote of any voter...

(Emphasis added)

Glenn's offer is clearly an attempt to induce people to vote a particular way. While he is not offering the money directly to voters, he is offering it to other people in an effort to sway their views. The fact that no money has yet changed hands is immaterial; section 216(3)(a) makes it clear that offering or promising money is legally the equivalent of paying it.

What we have here is a serious attempt by a wealthy man to subvert our democracy. We should not tolerate it. Glenn should be prosecuted, and if convicted, jailed.

Correction: Expanded the quote from the Electoral Act. 216(2)(a) makes it clear that paying others is a problem, but focuses on payments to get people to vote or not vote; 216(2)(c) criminalises any such payment to get people to vote a particular way.

I understand that someone has complained to the Electoral Commission about Glenn's comments, so maybe we'll see a ruling from them.