Parallel campaigning pretty much legal: No group to be prosecuted under the Electoral Finance Act
The Electoral Commission has decided to let the EPMU register as a Third Party under the Electoral Finance Act opening the door to parallel campaigning. It also means no group can be prosecuted under the Electoral Finance Act under section 111.
One of the objectives of the Act was to eliminate the extent of parallel campaigning.
The main objection was that the EPMU is ineligible to be listed as a Third Party because it is ‘a person involved in the administration of the affairs of a party’. The Electoral Commission made no comment whether the EPMU is involved in the affairs of the party – which it arguably is., but is outlawed in the Act, based on Crown Law advice.
That’s because the commission concluded that EPMU could not be such a “person”, because person means a natural person, not a legal person. So Andrew Little could not register as a Third Party because he is involved in the affairs of Labour but his union can. Bill English can’t, but if John Key and English form an unincorporated society it can. It also means that any group involved in a candidate’s campaign can register as a Third Party.
It also means that any group cannot not commit an offence under the EFA - under Section 111 it has to be nailed down to a person - such as the person who committed the offence - ( but will financial agents be deemed responsible?)So if a group of people in a body – say the EPMU - commit an offence, the Electoral Commission can’t refer the EPMU to the police, it has to either find the person/s involved, or some other individual to the police unless it believes the offence is inconsequential.
update it gets worse section 137 says
If an offense is committed against any of the provisions of this Act by the financial agent of a principal, the principal party is, without prejudice to the liability of the financial agent, liable under that provision in the same manner and to the same extent as if the principal had personally committed the
In s137 a principal means a Third Party. Such Third Parties are liable for offenses. Third Parties are either liable for offences or they are not. In s111 they are not, in s137 they are. Isn’t that inconsistent – or is the Electoral Commission going to arbitarily determine that a Third party is no longer a liable principal due to the recent Crown Law advice?
UPDATE was emailed by a lawyer who knows about such things and he advised thatthe Crown Law advice only applies to that subsction of the Act being looked at. So "person" is not restricted to individuals in other sections of the EFA.
Labels: Electoral FInance Act