The incompetence of the Serious Fraud Office is breath-taking.
Faced with a simple case of electoral donation abuses by the New Zealand First Foundation, the SFO prosecuted foundation officials under the Crimes Act with charges designed to catch fraud and theft for personal gain. But there was no personal gain – just a brazen, cynical abuse of our electoral laws which require political parties to inform us when big donors provide political donations.
The New Zealand First Foundation were not operating a criminal ring to steal money donated to a political party – they were operating a deliberate, savage attack on our democracy by illegally protecting their big donors from being publicly identified.
The SFO prosecution of the New Zealand First Foundation failed on Friday.
Big political party donors typically don’t want to be identified and the New Zealand First Foundation skirted electoral law to protect their identity. When big figures in the racing and fishing industries and people who don’t want a Capital Gains Tax are digging deep into their pockets for New Zealand First then we need to know – in fact we have a right to know. When there are close connections between donations and policy implementations there is an even greater imperative for us to know.
New Zealand First didn’t tell us and the SFO failed to protect our democratic right to know.
The SFO stuffed it up. It was so incompetent it almost looks as though the SFO are running a protection racket for those abusing our electoral laws.
It refused to prosecute another blatant abuse of democracy by Christchurch Mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel after the 2019 local body election when Dalziel was exposed as filing a false electoral expenses return which didn’t identity the biggest donors to her election campaign.
Dalziel should have been required to put forward her flimsy defence in court (“my husband was to blame”) and been subjected to cross-examination but the SFO weren’t interested.
Our electoral laws are a shambles – designed to look reasonable but open to frequent and systematic abuse by our main political parties (National and Labour are also before the courts for electoral law breaches) It is in their interests to provide a wide range of loopholes to protect their biggest donors from being identified.
These loopholes are big enough for the political party busses from New Zealand First, National and Labour to drive through them without touching the sides – and without anyone knowing.
Labour’s proposed electoral law changes are weak and pathetic and should be abandoned.
This whole question of political party donations must come out of parliament and be decided through an independent inquiry. We can’t trust party politicians or government officials to protect democracy from big business influence. Just last week the Justice Department said it would not be making the Labour Party submission to its proposed electoral law changes public (National agreed for their submission to be made public) but it would release submissions from other groups and individuals. Outrageous. Just who is protecting who here?
We have no idea who is paying big money for big political favours via our political parties. It’s time we did.