Richard Prebble in today’s “The Letter” sums up the seriousness and implications of Labour’s electoral over-spending scandal.
Labour’s electoral over spending is now being investigated by the Police. The penalty is just a fine. Last week the issue got much more serious. The Speaker advised the Parliamentary Commission that she had referred complaints made during the election by ACT’s Stephen Franks and National’s Simon Power to the Auditor-General. The Auditor-General has agreed not just to investigate but to make another report on the use of taxpayer funded publicity.
Party President Mike Williams’ admission that Helen Clark had used her Leader’s fund money in the last three elections to fund Labour’s election pledge cards has made the position much worse. The Member’s Handbook not only bans using taxpayer’s Leader’s funds from financing “electioneering material”, the Handbook says that all publicity must carry the Parliamentary Crest to show it is taxpayer funded. None of the pledge cards have the Parliamentary Crest on them. Leaving off the Parliamentary Crest is prima facie evidence that Clark knew this was not legitimate spending and she was attempting to hide the misappropriation.
Clark is very worried
Clark escaped having to repay the $90,000 for the bus stop billboards because the Speaker upheld the spending. This time Speaker Wilson has not upheld the spending. It would be extra ordinary if the Auditor-General disagreed with the Electoral Commission that the pledge cards are “electioneering material”.
The Donna precedents
When the Auditor-General said he believed that Donna Awatere-Huata had misused her taxpayer accommodation expenses, he recommended the matter be referred to the Serious Fraud Office. The Serious Fraud Office did not charge her because she was entitled to claim the expenses and she herself had not benefited. The Pipi fund fraud was another matter, Donna benefited and the Serious Fraud Office prosecuted. The precedent is set. Clark has benefited from her illegal spending. The Auditor-General must recommend that Clark’s spending be referred to the Serious Fraud Office for prosecution
In parliament Labour has not tried to defend its actions but to claim that others are also guilty. There is a problem. The Electoral Commission has already dismissed Labour’s claim that Don Brash authorised the Brethren spending.
What about Peters and Dunne
Winston Peters said after the Tauranga Electoral petition he had no regrets bringing the case and “that the intent of our electoral law was that there were stipulated spending limits.” While he attacked National last week, Peters has made no comment on Clark’s use of the Leaders fund. Both he and Peter Dunne are shocked at the revelations. They are waiting to see if the Police prosecute and what the Auditor-General says. This scandal has the potential to dissolve the coalition, bring down the government, end Clark’s hopes of a UN job and even see Clark in the cell next to Donna’s.