Wednesday, September 14, 2022

We need tougher penalties for electoral donation fraud

Writing in Stuff, Max Rashbrooke Lisa Marriott examine the dismal history of election donation fraud in Aotearoa, and conclude that there are no real consequences for it. Prosecutions are rare, and the penalties derisory:

It looks awfully like one law for the rich and one for the poor. At one end of the justice system, people can be fined or jailed for relatively minor crimes such as the driving offence of “wheel-spinning”, where no injury is caused. But there seem to be few legal consequences for breaking the laws around donations to political parties, something which typically involves the rich and powerful.


Meanwhile, the penalties in the act are often relatively minor, at least from the point of view of wealthy individuals. Admittedly, a party secretary convicted of any corrupt practice faces a prison term of up to two years, or a fine of up to $100,000.

But wilfully misleading the Electoral Commission attracts a maximum fine of just $2000 – and many other offences similarly have maximum fines of $1000 to $2000. This is roughly the same maximum penalty that applies for tagging a tree.

They suggest greater penalties, and greater powers for the Electoral Commission to investigate the prosecute offences. I agree. You can get seven years for stealing a TV set; stealing an election seems rather more serious. The problem of course is that one of these crimes is committed by poor people, while the other is committed exclusively by rich people and politicians, who write the laws to suit themselves.