National’s by-election campaigning costs

National have offered voters of Northland many millions of taxpayer funded pork to try and rescue the electorate from a Peters and media onslaught.

They have also piled probably unprecedented resources into the campaign itself, with a swarm of Ministers including the Prime Minister using a significant state funded travel advantage.

Rob Salmond at Polity claims:

National has poured massive, massive resources into Northland, most of which won’t show up in the financial returns. Polling, focus-grouping, canvassing, MP visits, Ministerial cars, taxpayer bribes, flying squads to drive people to the polls. All of it is off the by-election books. I have heard rumours that National’s total outlay is close to $250,000, not to mention the bill the taxpayer will carry.

They have a huge financial and organisational advantage. Comments add to this. George D:

If National’s outlay is in the order of $250,000 then there are surely things that should come to the attention of the Electoral Commission?

Deborah Russell:

Lots of things aren’t caught by the rules. Venue hire, MPs’ time, ministers’ time, petrol, polling, focus groups, paying organisers’ wages, wood for billboards, wages for people to put them up. I can see how the costs could mount up very quickly. I might find it a little hard to get to $250,000, but even so, I can see how lots and lots and lots of money could be spent.

So what are the spending rules:


6.2 Expenditure limit

The regulated period for the 2014 General Election will start on Friday 20 June 2014, and will end with the close of the day before election day (Friday 19 September 2014).

An electorate candidate’s election expenses during the regulated period must not exceed $25,700 (including GST).  It is a serious offence to spend more than this.

If you are representing a registered party, you should stay in touch with your party secretary on advertising.  This is because there can be boundary problems between advertising by candidates and advertising by the party, with consequential effects on the expenditure limits and expenditure returns of the candidate and the party.

The election expense regime does not apply to people who are list candidates only.  Any spending by those candidates promoting the party is an election expense of the party and must be authorised by the party secretary.


6.2 Expenditure limit

An electorate candidate’s election expenses during the regulated period must not exceed $25,700 (including GST).  It is a serious offence to spend more than this.

This is for a general election but I presume it applies to a by-election as well.

6.3 Election expenses

A candidate’s election expenses are the costs of advertising in any medium that:

  • may reasonably be regarded as either encouraging voters to vote for the candidate, or discouraging voters from voting for another candidate, or both (whether or not the name of the candidate(s) are mentioned),
  • is published, or continues to be published, during the regulated period (from 20 June to 19 September 2014), and
  • is promoted by the candidate or any person (including a registered promoter) authorised by the candidate.

[See section 205 of the Electoral Act].

Candidate election expenses include:

  • the cost incurred in the preparation, design, composition, printing, postage and publication of the advertisement,
  • the reasonable market value of any materials used for the advertisement, including materials provided to the candidate for free or below reasonable market value,
  • the apportioned costs for advertisements that promote two or more candidates, or a party and a candidate  (see paragraph 6.5 below for further information on apportionment).

[See section 3E of the Electoral Act].

A candidate’s deposit or the costs of food, hall hire, surveys or opinion polls, free labour, or replacing materials destroyed through no fault of the candidate are not election expenses.  The cost of any framework that supports a hoarding (other than a commercial framework) is no longer an advertising expense.

So National have a huge financial advantage in general.

But it’s not all going their way. Winston Peters has had a huge and free amount of support from the media, getting effectively promotional that money can’t buy but can be priceless in a campaign.

Such is the corruption of our electoral system. Money and media rules.

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