Two mayors under SFO investigation over donations

The Serious Fraud Office, already prosecuting four people including MP Jami-Lee Ross over donations made to the National Party and investigating  donations made to the NZ First Foundation, has announced two more investigations, one into Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel, the other into Auckland mayor Phil Goff.

Stuff: Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel under scrutiny as expenses complaint referred to Serious Fraud Office

Pressure is mounting on Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel after police referred a complaint about her election expenses to the Serious Fraud Office.

The SFO said police passed on the matter of Dalziel’s expenses on Tuesday, the organisation receiving the file on Friday.

Dalziel, who defeated Darryll Park and John Minto in October to win her third term as mayor, was criticised for failing to identify donors who made significant contributions to her campaign.

Minto made the complaint to electoral officer Jo Daly in December after Dalziel’s election return listed only her husband, lawyer Rob Davidson, as a donor at a campaign fundraiser in July.

But after coming under public pressure she revealed the names of six people who donated more than $1500 at the dinner by buying auctioned wine for prices higher than market value.

All six have connections with Davidson, and many have links to China.

The mayor has also previously declined to release details of her 2016 election campaign donations, despite the timeframe for any prosecution having expired.

Dalziel is not the first mayor to have difficulties with election expenses. This month the SFO revealed it has seen a 40 per cent increase in cases involving public officials, central and local government, in the past five years.

Stuff: Auckland Mayor Phil Goff referred to Serious Fraud Office over election expenses

The Serious Fraud Office has received a referral from police in relation to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff’s election expenses.

The SFO said it would be assessing the matter and had no further comment at this time.

Electoral law dictates candidates can accept anonymous donations under $1500, but must disclose the names of donors who contribute more than that sum.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said he had “no knowledge of a complaint being referred to the SFO nor of any irregularities”.

In September, Auckland’s electoral officer, Dale Ofsoske, passed on to police a complaint about Auckland mayor Phil Goff’s 2016 election expense declaration.

Goff’s $366,000 fundraising auction declaration did not specify individual donations or purchases, which included the sale at an auction of a book for $150,000. The book had belonged to Goff, a former minister of foreign affairs, and had been signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Police made “a number of inquiries” before the timeframe for any prosecution expired in December, rendering them unable to progress the matter.

Ofsoske told Stuff at the time the complaint was under section 112D of the Local Electoral Act 2001, ‘Filing a false return of electoral donations and expenses’.

Pressure is increasing on changing electoral laws on donations. The problem is, the parties who benefit the most from donations decide on what the rules should be.

The Press Editorial:  It’s time to end the secrecy over political donations

There are now questions over the funding of two of our major political parties, including one that is in Government, and the mayors of our two largest cities, both of whom are former Cabinet ministers.

Even if the process is not corrupt, the secrecy and the manipulation of the rules risks eroding public trust in our democracy.

Is there a better way to fund elections? Dalziel’s mayoral challenger, John Minto, who brought the complaint about Dalziel’s donations to the electoral officer, has suggested an overhaul of donation rules within wider electoral law reform. Minto argues that all donors giving over $50 should be identified, individuals should be named rather than companies and donors should be identified at least one week before the election.

Informed voters could make their choices accordingly.

But in Christchurch, neither Dalziel nor candidate Darryll Park was prepared to do the same. Minto volunteered that he had just one donation over $1500, from the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa.

Banning donations and publicly funding candidates and parties instead is not the answer. Rather, New Zealand voters must now start to demand greater transparency.

Listener editorial: A simple way to clean up the political donations mess

The Greens have an idea for cleaning up political donations, starting with “an independent citizens’ assembly” because, they say, “it’s clear that Parliament is incapable of [making] meaningful reforms to itself”.

Here’s a different idea for cleaning up political donations, which is simpler and more cost-effective than the Greens’ proposal: obey the law. Everyone else must, whatever their line of work, and political parties should, too.

Just because parties and individuals sometimes fall foul of electoral law does not automatically mean the law needs “reform”…

Good call. It just means that the current laws need to be applied.

The current prosecutions and investigations are likely to have a significant impact on potential donors as well as parties and politicians. They have been warned.

A robust democracy needs political parties to be sufficiently funded to actively participate in elections. That is not cheap and parties rely on donations to foot it in an election campaign. If the $15,000 limit above which a single donation must be declared – and the $40,000 from one donor in a year – is considered the wrong level, then parties can make a case to set it higher or lower. Whatever the limit, the incentive to give just under the cut-off point will always apply to those who would prefer, for whatever reason, not to have their names disclosed.

The ability to solicit donations is a reasonable way for parties to pay for their activities, and the ability to donate is, equally, a reasonable way for New Zealanders to support their preferred party. The alternative is state funding. Nothing suggests that would find favour with the public.

Regardless of the outcome of the investigations involving National and NZ First, perhaps all parties need to reconsider the training they provide to MPs, staff, officers and volunteers about the laws affecting donations.

I think the biggest problems seem to be at the top of parties and campaigns.

It’s hard to know whether the sudden splurge of SFO investigations is a sign of more questionable donation dealings, or more complaints, or more response to complaints by the SFO. It should at least serve as a warning too parties and candidates in this year’s election.

Applying the current laws may be all that is needed to ensure far better compliance.

Labour’s election support by district under threat?

From Harry Jamieson@graveyjones5

The Labour party managed to form a coalition government after this election, making @jacindaardern the 2nd youngest PM in NZ history. They performed best in cities (Dunedin, Wellington, Nelson ect) as well as in rural areas with large Maori populations (East Coast).

Image

This excludes special votes but should be approximately the same.  It is done per district rather than per electorate.

Māori support was strong, but that could be challenged this year.

RNZ: Whānau Ora head warns minister over funding allocation

Whānau Ora minister Peeni Henare can kiss Māori progress goodbye if he continues to allow other agencies to dip into its funding, the organisation’s head has warned.

It comes as distinguished Māori leaders seek an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing over the government’s handling of Whānau Ora funding.

It received an $80m funding boost over four years in the 2019 Budget, but North Island commissioning agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said not all of that money was going to Whānau Ora.

“From what we have seen, particularly in the last 12 months, we believe that the government is starting to undermine Whānau Ora,” Raukawa-Tait told RNZ’sCheckpoint.

She – along with Dame Naida Glavish, Dame Tariana Turia, Lady Tureiti Moxon and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi – wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in November last year expressing their concerns, but said they had not had a response.

They are now seeking an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing, claiming the government has breached the Treaty of Waitangi by refusing to adequately and transparently fund Whānau Ora.

Of the $20m extra funding Whānau Ora was promised last year, only about $5m was received by the commissioning agencies.

Raukawa-Tait said that did not make any sense, and she had a message for the Minister of Whānau Ora, Peeni Henare.

“Be the minister that we want to have confidence in. At this present moment we do not.”If he does not understand his role and our expectations of him than you can kiss Māori progress goodbye for the next two decades.”

She said if he continued to allow government agencies to use its funding, Whānau Ora faced destruction by stealth.

Henare denied any of the Whānau Ora funding was going to other government agencies, and said the move was politically motivated.

He’s referring to the move to challenge the funding of Whānau Ora – of course there’s politics involved, that’s how the Government is lobbied, especially in an election year.

It’s hard to know how Labour support will be generally this year, but it should actually increase. In the 2017 election they got 36.89% of the party vote, but since then have mostly polled in the 40s:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_2020_New_Zealand_general_election

That trend my be a bit of a concern for Labour.

Their poll support peaked at 50.8 in June 2019 (Newshub/Reid Research), but the same pollster had them at 41.6% in October and three polls since then (two from Colmar Brunton and one from YouGov) were 40%, 41% and 39%.

A generally sound economy with promises and money available for big spending boosts this year will be in Labour’s favour, but influential coalition partner NZ First is best known this term for dishing out dollops of money to the regions, and the Greens are pushing for even higher levels of borrowing and spending,

Labour will need to try to get the balance right between buying voter support (with voters’ money) without appearing too financially reckless.

Distribution of 2017 Maori Party votes by district

This from Graveyjones7 at Redditt shows the distribution of votes for the Maori Party by district in the 2017 general election.

It shows they got most votes from provincial and rural North Island.

The whole thing takes a really long time, because the party results are given by electorate. And most electorates exist in multiple districts. (Both Regular and Maori electorates)

In the results it gives the vote totals for each polling location (Probably like ~2500 locations in NZ). I then determine which district each polling location is in, then I total up the votes from all the polling locations that apply to a district. Some electorates are split among 7 districts so that is a real bitch. Maori electorates give their results sorted by regular electorates, so once the regular electorate has been catgorised correctly, the maori ones are pretty straightforward.

Someone else added:

If you’re wondering about population density of Maori in New Zealand, /u/whangadude made a good map of it.

As for those voting patterns, this iwi map might shed further light on it.

I think most voters can manage a couple of referendum votes as well as party and candidate votes

That sounds like nonsense to me. I’m fairly sure most voters will be able to manage a couple of referendum votes on top of a couple of general election votes (one party vote, one electorate vote).

It will still be far simpler than local body elections where there are multiple STV votes (here it was city mayor, city council, regional council and DHB board) where ranking of a large number of candidates is required.

The two referendums – one on cannabis, the other on the End of Life Choice bill – may attract more people to vote.

More negative commentary on the referendums:  Labour and the referendums of dread

Both of these referendums are a potential problem for the Government and not insignificant ones. The first and most obvious reason is that cannabis and euthanasia could crowd out whatever issues the Government is running on: be it the Zero Carbon Bill, trade deals, a strong economy, low unemployment.

This could, of course, be a problem for both the Government and the Opposition. At key points in the lead-up to and during the campaign, either party’s momentum could be stalled if the wrong drug or euthanasia issue crops up.

But the political downsides are potentially much worse for the Government. First, and most obviously, the National party has a leader who genuinely and simply opposes both of these things. And secondly, as this column flagged a couple of weeks ago, National is going to sharpen its focus on cost of living issues, which it sees as of key importance for voters. National can effectively paint any focus away from those things as a distracted Government concerned with peripheral issues.

The euthanasia bill is probably not so much of a problem – it wasn’t the Government’s idea and it was supported by MPs across the political divide. Cannabis is a different story. Counting the Nats, NZ First voters at the last election – nominally conservative voters, plus probably not an insubstantial conservative working class Labour vote, this could be a lose-lose issue for Labour. Lots of Labour voters, and the Prime Minister has said this of her own experience growing up in small rural towns, know the damage drugs can do.

While Ardern may see merits in legalisation for health reasons, she is very far from being some sort of pro-drug flag-waving leftie. Essentially the Prime Minister wants to be a citizen like everyone else in this issue, in all the difficulties it poses. The problem is that in the heat of a campaign, that could be politically difficult.

Yet as the election moves on, the issues could prove hard to avoid and there is probably no ‘right’ side of the argument for Labour. It could potentially lose votes either way.

It could potentially do nothing like this as well.

The fact is we are having two referendums alongside next year’s general election.

I’m fairly sure Labour and National will figure out campaign strategies the run alongside the referendum issue debates.

And I think that most voters will manage a couple of yes/no votes (if they choose to vote on the referendum questions) as well as choosing a party and an electorate candidate (if they bother to vote on these).

It won’t be complicated. Sure the extra votes could deter a few people from voting. But I think it is more likely to encourage more people to vote – those who are passionate about either of the referendum questions, and those who can’t usually be bothered voting for parties and politicians.

 

Morrison majority for Australian government more or less confirmed

Results are slow to come in for marginal seats but the ABC has now called the election as a clear (but slim) majority for the return of a Scott Morrison led government.

ABC News:  Election results see Scott Morrison reach 76 seats to win majority government

The Coalition is predicted to win 78 seats in the House of Representatives — a result consecutive opinion polls and political commentators failed to predict.

The seat of Chisholm in Melbourne’s east delivered the Coalition its final required seat, with Liberal candidate Gladys Liu winning despite a small swing to the Labor Party.

Reaching majority government — 76 seats out of 150 — means the Coalition will not have to rely on independent MPs to pass controversial legislation provided no MPs cross the floor.

The seats of BassCowanLilley and Macquarieare still in doubt according to the ABC election computer.

The West Australian seat of Cowan is held by Labor’s Ann Aly, who as of 10:55pm (AEST) had 50.5 per cent of the preference count.

In the Tasmanian seat of Bass, Labor MP Ross Hart is trailing Liberal candidate Bridget Archer, who has had a 5.8 per cent swing towards her.

In the seat of Macquarie, Liberal candidate Sarah Richards was leading Labor incumbent Susan Templeman by 151 votes at 10:55pm (AEST).

A New Zealand view:

I have heard similar mentioned elsewhere – the Australian election result proves that if policies are too ‘progressive’ or radical the chances of winning an election are slim.

I think it is much more complex than that.

It depends on the policies being proposed  – how they are presented and how far they try to change things.

But it also depends on the people who are promoting the policies, especially party leaders. And how election campaigns are conducted is also important, especially in close electorates.

Australian elections – are polls bad, or does media misuse them?

Scott Morrison and his National Coalition winning the Australian election is being reported as a shock, in part due to polls predicting a loss.  Are polls a waste of time? Or does media put too much weight on imprecise indications of how people might vote?

I keep saying that at best polls are an approximate indication of how people may vote in the past, and can in no way predict accurate election results in the future. Polls have well known statistical margins of error, but media reporting on them seem to largely ignore this.

Perhaps more accurate ways could be found to predict election results, but I think that a media obsession with trying to predict what will happen in the future is aas much a problem as polling methods.

RNZ – Australia election: Why polls got it so wrong

It was predicted to be the federal election Labor simply couldn’t lose, but after last night’s surprise Coalition win, the opinion poll may struggle to stand the test of time.

Experts say cost cutting and technological change in the polling process is leading to many inaccurate and misleading suggestions.

Nearly all polls predicted Labor leader Bill Shorten would have an easy win with a 51:49 lead over Prime Minister Scott Morrison on a two-party preferred basis.

I dispute that. Polls generally ask something like ‘if an election was held today who would you vote for?’ – perhaps some polls ask ‘who will you vote for on election day?’ but i have never seen that.

And a 2% gap is well within margins of error, which are usually around 3-4%.

51% with a 3% margin of error means there’s a 95% chance of the result being between 48% and 54%.

49% with a 3% margin of error means there’s a 95% chance of the result being between 46% and 52%.

So there is quite an overlap.

In fact, for three years the polls had picked the Opposition to take government.

Again I dispute that. Over the last three years polls tried to measure who people might vote for in the week or two prior to the poll being published.

They are usually whole country polls. Elections in non-MMP countries like Australia and the USA can be decided in just a few key swing electorates or swing states. \being swing electorates they have a history of impressionable swing voters.

Election campaigns are carefully planned to try to change crucial votes right up until election day. Polls are not designed to examine how people mat change their mind at the last minute.

I obviously have ideas about who to vote for in the weeks and days before an election, but I don’t decide for sure until I vote. There must be others who do similar. Polls can’t get inside our heads.

So why exactly were the polls, as ABC political editor Andrew Probyn put it last night, such a “shambles”?

Former Newspoll boss Martin O’Shannessy blamed the flawed forecasting on the fact that many people’s telephone habits have changed.

“Not everybody has a landline and the numbers that are published are incomplete.”

That might be a part of the problem – but that doesn’t address the ‘trying to predict the future’  misrepresentation of polls.

Polls can only be approximate.

I think that media trying to use polls as precise predictors of future voting is the biggest problem here.

Australian election – Morrison returned as Prime Minister

Despite late polls giving a slight advantage to Labor their leader Bill Shorten has conceded to incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Stuff – Bill Shorten concedes defeat, Scott Morrison to return as PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has claimed victory in a stunning political “miracle” that has devastated the Labor Party, forced Bill Shorten to step down as its leader and reshaped Australian politics.

Shorten had been favoured in exit polls and made significant gains in some seats in New South Wales and Victoria, while independent candidate Zali Steggall defeated former prime minister Tony Abbott in Warringah.

But his bid to become Australia’s 31st Prime Minister – through a platform of tax, wages and climate policy reform – was in deep trouble with his party suffering damaging defeats in key electorates the party needed to claim power.

Mr Shorten announced he would stand down as Labor leader while staying in Parliament, adding the federal election campaign had been “toxic at times” but that Labor had fought for ambitious change.

The election result was yet to be finalised at the end of election night, with several seats in doubt, but the Coalition defied the opinion polls to hold its ground and win seats from Labor.

With almost three quarters of the vote counted, the Coalition had 74 of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives and was within sight of forming government in its own right or with support in a hung Parliament.

Any result would have been dramatic. When was the last time an Australian Prime Minister won an election?

But:

However, the result shows the nation is divided along geographic and ideological lines with Mr Abbott declaring a political “realignment” with Labor making gains in progressive wealthy seats and the Coalition doing better in working class areas.

A group of key independents could still hold the key to power.

Neither of the major parties are popular in Australia.

Tamihere/Fletcher Auckland mayoralty bid: “Shake it up and sort it out”

As widely indicated since yesterday, John Tamihere has launched a bid for the Auckland mayoralty, alongside current councillor Christine Fletcher. If Phil Goff stands for re-election this will be a challenge to him, especially if it splits the left leaning vote and a credible centre or right leaning candidate also contests the election.

Stuff:  John Tamihere and Christine Fletcher team up to challenge Auckland Mayor Phil Goff

Two-term Labour MP, former talkback host, and social agency leader John Tamihere has launched his bid for the Auckland mayoralty.

Tamihere has teamed up with former National MP and Auckland City Mayor, and current councillor, Christine Fletcher, in an unusual move to campaign with a ready-made deputy-mayor.

Tamihere pledged to “open the books and clean the house”, and said it’s not clear how ratepayers money is being spent.

Tamihere has called for more democratic control over public assets and wants to appoint councillors to the boards of all council-controlled-organisations such as Auckland Transport. That would require a law change.

The only endorsement so far on the campaign website, is from Tamihere’s running mate Christine Fletcher.

After promising yesterday…

There is nothing more on twitter yet, but he has a presence on Facebook:

The launch:

The campaign website: JT For Mayor


1. Open the Books and Clean the House

Aucklanders pay billions in rates and charges, but where does all that money go? Auckland has ended up with the most council staff ever, the biggest wage bill ever – and yet the most out of touch and secretive management ever. I will open all the doors and open all the books. We will find out who the billions are being paid to, what it’s being spent on, and why.

2. Return Democracy to Neighbourhoods

Too much power in our city is controlled by faceless managers in central Auckland. Control of the city must go back into the hands of the people. I will return local resources and decisions to local elected boards and their communities.

3. Bring Public Assets back under Democratic Control

Three quarters of Auckland Council’s assets are controlled by bureaucrats with no accountability. I want all Council owned organisations under democratic control. As a first step I will appoint elected councillors on every Council business board to ensure openness and oversight.

4. Crack down on Waste and Incompetence

Aucklanders deserve accountability and high performance from their Council. I will establish an Integrity Unit to investigate corruption, unacceptable conduct, and incompetence. This unit will report directly to me as your mayor. Aucklanders can be confident that their serious complaints will come to my desk for action.

5. Proper Partnership with Central Government

Aucklanders pay a huge part of the government’s costs. So why are Aucklanders forced to pay an extra fuel tax when no other region does? The present mayor should never have agreed to that. The huge infrastructure pressure on Auckland is the direct outcome of Central Government’s unplanned immigration, and Auckland ratepayers shouldn’t have to pick up the entire bill. As the new mayor representing a third of the country, I will expect a more equal partnership especially with transport and housing.

Recount in Florida, US election administration awful

There have been a number of stories on the US election of awful administration on top of ongoing problems of gerrymandering, voter restrictions and difficulties in voting on election day.

The overall result is pretty much settled, with the Republicans assured of a 0-3 seat majority in the Senate (I think a 50-50 deadlock is broken by the Vice President), and the Democrats assured of control of the House with the only likely possibility that they may increase their election night majority.

Both delays and problems persist, and the courts are often involved (with elected officials and judges) in trying to sort out problems.

Reuters:  Voter advocates sue over delays at polling sites

Voting rights activists successfully sued Georgia and Texas asking them to extend voting hours in some counties after problems with voting machines led to delays and long lines thanks to a big turnout in U.S. elections on Tuesday.

This thread suggests a shambles in Indiana:

Florida is involved in tight contests and controversy again:

Of course trump is involved:

But:

Problems vary because each state does voting their own way, and parties are heavily involved in many aspects of the process.

And the biggest problems here are getting more people to vote (our turnouts are relatively high) and quibbling about vote advocating on election day when a a lot of votes are cast early when it promotion and advertising are allowed.

Our Electoral Commission may be a bit slack in dealing with (relatively minor) transgressions, but overall we have a very good electoral system.

Our candidates and politicians and lobby groups are all generally far less controversial than in the US too.

Points of note from US midterm elections

Now the dust has settled and most of the results have been confirmed it’s worth looking at what the US midterm elections mean 9for the US) in the short term and for the 2020 election.

RealClear Politics:  Six Takeaways From the Midterms

Democrats accomplished something that seemed impossible in early 2017: They took control of the House of Representatives; they picked up multiple governorships.

Overall, Republicans had a tough night Tuesday. When all is said and done, Democrats look to have gained around 35 seats in the House, seven governorships and over 330 state legislators. Yet as rough as it was, it could have been much worse for Republicans.

In the Senate, Republicans actually expanded their majority — as it appears they will pick up 3 seats.

Some factors to consider:

  1. The GOP got killed in the suburbs. This is a significant long-term problem for the party if it continues.
  2. This probably doesn’t count as a wave. Our preliminary results suggest that things have moved about 23 points toward Democrats.  That’s a substantial shift, but it falls short of even “semi-wave elections” such as 2014 (a shift of 26 points toward Republicans) and 2006 (a movement of 30 points toward Democrats).
  3. Money. Democrats had a massive fundraising advantage in the lower chamber. This allowed them to catch a number of incumbent Republicans napping, and to spread the playing field out such that the GOP just had too many brush fires to put out.
    To the extent we wish to deduce anything about 2020 from these midterms, we should bear in mind that the next election will probably be fought on a more even financial playing field.
  4. The maps moved out from under Republicans. Many of these districts that swung against the GOP were suburban districts that included urban areas…when there was a suburban swing, the Republicans were spread too thin to survive.
  5. The red state/blue state divide is getting deeper…generally speaking, Republicans won red states and Democrats won blue states, with proper allowance for incumbency.  This is yet another example of how polarized we are becoming.
  6. This all takes place against the backdrop of a booming economy. Finally, it is important to note that Republicans should not have found themselves in this position amid a vibrant economy.  It is quite unusual to have a result this bad in a time of peace and prosperity. Some of this is the suburban realignment, but some is driven by Donald Trump’s more extreme actions, which alienate suburban moderates.

It’s very difficult to predict two years ahead, especially with the division and upheaval going on in US politics, and the unpredictability of Trump.

…if Trump can smooth out the rougher edges that turn suburbanites off, he could prove to be a formidable candidate in 2020.  Most of his states from 2016 continued to support Republicans this cycle.  But, on the other hand, he hasn’t shown much interest in smoothing out those edges.  And if the economy slides into recession, all bets are off.

The Senate will be a tougher battle for the Republicans next time.The House could swing either way.

As for the presidency, it looks likely that Trump will stand again, and much will depend on how he handles the second half of his term as president. And the economy.

And a big unknown is who the Democrats will put up against Trump. They stuffed up last time with Hillary Clinton. If she gets another shot then I think Trump will be favoured, to have lost once to him was a remarkable defeat, and on top of that she has too many negatives.

Both the Senate and the House could easily go either way, depending on what happens over the next two years.

And I think it is impossible to predict Trump, and also impossible to predict whether he can hold sufficient support to win again. It looks like he has a substantial base of support that will keep ignoring his fallibilities. But he needs more than that. If he keeps attacking different groups and demographics he will make things difficult for himself.