A throwaway comment at The Standard
had me thinking the heat had gone off John Banks because the spin that the law was in some way unclear was working.
Read the Act
people. What don't these people understand about the meaning of anonymous
Here's the transcript of John Key talking to Leighton Smith, Newstalk ZB May 15: "People can criticise the way it might have all worked out in terms of the donations and I don’t need to know all the ins and outs and I don’t because all I need is a clear assurance he hasn’t broken the law.
"But I will say this. The Local Electoral Act, which is the act that covered taking of donations for the mayoral campaign, is a very liberal and loose act. So the previous Labour Government changed the act when it came to central government, chose not to do it for local government.
"Under the old local government rules you can go and talk to a donor, I can say ‘Leighton I would love you to give to me.' You can say to the donor ‘look you may not want to be identified so you can give anonymously.’ You can tell them how to do it. And in the end unless you don’t absolutely know that they’ve given, you’ve complied with the law.
"Now that might seem like a crazy law, but that’s the way the law was constructed. And you can’t hang someone for complying with the law.'
The Labour-led Government and local government minister Sandra Lee did change the Act. There is nothing in it about schooling people on how to donate anonymously. In fact, the sections relating to anonymity seem to be so the candidate doesn’t have to account for every dollar dropped into a bucket at a rally, rather than allowing the old game of “hide the donor” to continue.
There’s a clear definition of donations, including a formula for working out the value of goods or services donated at a discount, and a discussion on aggregation – so the idea of splitting donations to anonymise them is on another planet.
There is a limit as to how much can be spent, depending on the population size of the area being contested, which didn’t exist in local government before 2001.
The candidate, not their agent or campaign, is required to sign the schedule of donations and expenses.
They must list “the name and address of each person who made an electoral donation to the candidate and the amount of each electoral donation.”
If an electoral donation of money or of the equivalent of money is made to the candidate anonymously and the amount of that donation exceeds $1000, they must list (i) the amount of that donation; and (ii) the fact that it has been received anonymously.
Anonymous “means a donation that is made in such a way that the candidate concerned does not know who made the donation.”
If “know” means the same as former justice ministers Doug Graham and Bill Jefferies were supposed to “know” what their finance company was up to, the question of Banks’ knowingness has to hinge on “made in such a way”.
By that standard he had to “know” the origin of all cheques made into campaign accounts under his control, because it says so on the cheque or the deposit slip. Even if it was routed through a trust, that has to be disclosed.
It would seem the only way large donations could come in anonymously is cash in plain envelopes, delivered by strangers in darkened rooms.