Monday, October 16, 2006

I was wrong... but got some of it right...

"... the continuing stoooory of the pet who has gone to the dogs..." Well that is how Jim Henson might have scripted it.

The news today on election overspending...
New Zealand First is likely to recall undistributed leaflets from its branches to back its case disputing the Auditor-General's findings that it unlawfully spent $157,934 last election.

And it hopes that when leader Winston Peters presents the evidence to the Auditor-General it will avoid a legal challenge of the findings.
Once the evidence is collected, it is expected the party will appeal to Auditor-General Kevin Brady to reconsider his finding. Mr Peters and Mr Brady have not yet met.

Party president Dail Jones hopes the party will not have to challenge the findings in court.

"Going to court is a sign of failure in a way. If you settle it before you go to court that's a lot better than wasting your client's money going to court."

Mr Jones said he was not sure of the sums involved but that if, for example, 60,000 pamphlets had been printed for $60,000 and 40,000 had been distributed during the campaign, then the party would argue that $20,000 should come off the total. "All around, let's hope common sense will prevail."

Don't bet on it Winnie. I can't see Brady backing down.
In other developments, Labour's ruling body yesterday authorised president Mike Williams to seek a one-off levy from MPs tomorrow to fund virtually half of its $824,524 spending.

I note that H2 has not been levied. Perhaps she could pay as much as H1.
Labour president Mike Williams said he would ask Labour MPs tomorrow for a one-off payment of 5 per cent of their gross annual salary.

That would raise about half of what Labour has agreed to repay - although it assiduously avoids the term "repay", preferring "refund", a term that implies no obligation.

THere was an interesting speculation that Labour might try delaying repayment until after the validating legislation has been passed. Given that Labour is still in denial on the whole mess it is a possibility; but a remote one. More on that aspect later.
And United Future will decide tomorrow how to tackle the $71,867 identified as unlawful.

After they find their leader... Oh! He's is there!
United Future leader Peter Dunne said his party was not trying to play games on the matter. "We are just taking it steadily and calmly."

He said United Future would make its decision independently of whether New Zealand First took a legal challenge.

The Green Party has said it will pay its $87,192 within this financial year.


On the matter of the validating legislation -
Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen has labelled retrospective legislation validating the expenditure as a confidence issue because, technically, part of it relates to supply in this financial year.

But it won't be seen as an ordinary confidence issue because, in the unlikely event of it not passing, the Government would not realistically be expected to resign.

New Zealand First has said it will back it, and the Greens have indicated they will abstain, meaning there will be enough votes to pass it.

Not resign if they lose?

Oh, and who IS H2?
Heather Simpson, Helen Clark's long-time chief of staff, is believed to have insisted on producing the party's $447,000 pledge card for last year's election, despite the misgivings of members of the party's council.

She and Labour minister Trevor Mallard met Auditor-General Kevin Brady at his request before the last election, when he warned parties to be careful with their spending.

There is also resentment in some caucus quarters at the way Heather Simpson and Helen Clark have handled the issue.

They are annoyed that the Prime Minister waited so long to commit to repaying the unlawful spending when MPs were daily coming under pressure from their electorates to give the money back.

No MP who wants a future in the party would dare to publicly criticise Heather Simpson. She is "untouchable", as one MP put it yesterday, because of the complete confidence Helen Clark has in her.

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