Did the Greens break the law?

lee_banks_pannett

There sure is a wealth of nuggets of information in the campaign donations and expense returns. Check out our previous post for a good overview.

There are plenty of rules around what you can and can’t do. One very important rule is around donations – you have to declare any donations you receive that are over $1,500 (including smaller donations from the same source that are over $1,500 when aggregated up). See part 5 of the Local Electoral Act for the full rules.

During the campaign it was reasonably well known that the Green Party had given somewhere in the region of $5,000 to all of their candidates in the election – there were a few other candidates who were pretty jealous of the fact, particularly after people like David Lee started bragging about it.

Good on Sarah Free for doing the legal thing and declaring a total of eight donations from the Green Party to a combined total of $4880.14 (one of the individual donations – $1916.46 was above the donation threshold on its own!)

However, that then leaves us with a very interesting question – what about the other candidates? David Lee and Iona Pannett both filed in donations returns without mentioning their Green Party donations. Did they not get any, or did they file a false return?

Given the hot water that John Banks has found himself in for not properly declaring donations towards an election he didn’t even win – it’s hard to see how Lee and Pannett will get through this if they have indeed filed false returns. Can we expect two by-elections very soon?

Update: Both of the Green regional council candidates declared large donations from their head office, with Sue Kedgeley getting $4657 and Paul Bruce getting $4393. It is really starting to look like Lee and Pannett have filed false returns.

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11 responses to “Did the Greens break the law?

  1. “Given the hot water that John Banks has found himself in for not properly declaring donations towards an election he didn’t even win – it’s hard to see how Lee and Pannett will get through this if they have indeed filed false returns.”

    I won’t defend non-declaration, but at this point it’s not exactly the same thing, even after discounting the different electoral laws between local elections and national elections.

    John Banks is in hot water because the donation was $50,000 (considerably more), he declared it as anonymous, and the allegations are that he both knew exactly where it was coming from, and made a conscious effort to design things so he could make it look as if he didn’t know. ie. That he knowingly filed a false return.

    By contrast all that we so far know about David Lee and Iona Pannet, if either of them actually did receive $1500+ from the Green Party, is that they forgot to add it to the list. I can’t think of specifics, but I’m sure there have been plenty of examples in recent years, elections and elsewhere, where poliicians have forgotten to declare amounts and amended the returns afterwards, giving plenty of (often believible) reasons why they forgot. Even if penalties should have been worse, they’ve been relatively minimal.

  2. It is incorrect to say that the Green Party gave money to “all” their candidates. Councillor Lee and myself did not receive any donations from the Green Party. Our respective returns of election expenses are therefore correct.

    Some of the expenditure by the Green Party on behalf of candidates’ campaigns were loans, which are not required to be recorded under the Local Electoral Act, only donations are.

    Cr Lee and I took our responsibility to file accurate returns seriously to meet our legal obligations and these obligations have been met in full.

    • I’m confident our returns are true and accurate, as we anticipated there would be public interest following the Banks/Dotcom donations saga. I self-funded my campaign and received no donations from the Green Party. However, looking ahead I’m happy to received early donations for my 2016 campaign.

  3. Pingback: Have Green local candidates declared their donations | Kiwiblog·

  4. Izogi

    Banks donation was for local government not central , so your specious comment re difference between Local and “National” government is irrelevant.
    Also your claim that Banks was different because hes gone out of his way to cover up his donation has perhaps been blown out of the water by Ms Pannets claim that the Greens are circumventing electoral law by making loans instead of donations.

    will they ever be paid back or just written off.

  5. Iona well have you paid the loans off or if loans were given have they been forgiven meaning a donation. If it was a nod and wink loan then maybe there is a problem. I assume by your post you received a loan because of your knowledge.
    The next question is were they interest free. If so the interest portion is therefore surely a loan.
    Now if you carry your logic through…I loan you $200,000.00 for your election campaign you don’t have to declare it right? So a big wealthy green party supporter lends you that loan…wow is that not an advantage.

    So the question is…did the green party give you a loan?

  6. Sorry, my mistake about the Local versus National. I don’t believe it was a terribly significant factor in any case.

    The loan thing? It really depends on whether you think the GP will simply write it off some day. If you’re the class of person who automatically believes that the Green Party is a pack of immoral conniving trolls who must always have an evil scheme up their sleeve no matter what they’re involved in, it’s probably a foregone conclusion that that’s exactly what will happen and that this is clearly an unacceptable malicious attempt to subvert electoral law.

    Back in the real world, if it’s written off and therefore becomes an undeclared donation, then it’s obviously interesting. If not, the candidates will still be funding that amount. It’s not as if the amounts being spent are hidden (they’re declared as expenses), and the candidates are still liable for paying anything that wasn’t donated either now or later.

    But Owl’s point about the interest (if there is none being charged) is an interesting one. It’d be interesting to know what sorts of interest rates (if any) the Green Party charges, and also (if it’s an issue) how a donation of interest can even be clearly declared when it’s not yet clear what the interest would amount to. Maybe that’s something around which electoral law should be revised, so that candidates know what they should be declaring.

  7. It is a simple solution..loans must be declared as well. However I disagree…if the green party gave a loan to fund a campaign it is equivalent to donation in lieu ..you must declare free support. It has a value and the electoral act covers that.
    A loan is a donation in lieu to fund a campaign. Ioana Needs to come clean and state was there a loan, yes or no and what are the terms

  8. Perhaps. But if someone’s not very rich and so takes out a bank loan or mortgages their house in exchange for a loan, do they need to declare a loan from the bank? If they put their account into overdraft for a week or for a month, does that need to be declared? If the Green Party, or any party, has a programme so that its non-millionaire approved candidates can borrow money at a “fair” interest rate (and I have no idea if this is what happen) to enable them to run in elections, what’s the telling thing which says it should be treated differently?

    An interest write-off in particular sounds quite important to me, so maybe a requirement to declare interest-free loans or unusually low-interest loans would make sense, but I not convinced it’s really clear in the law.

  9. Good points..but for ioane sake to clear the matter she should say yes or no whether she got a loan … Accepting she is right on the law. Why should she declare it? Because she raised the issue first. The public is now able to ask further questions and receive answers.

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