John Banks - not unlawful, just incompetent

John Banks didn't breach the Local Electoral Act, because he doesn't bother reading the legal declarations that get put in front of him. It's lucky he doesn't have an important job or anything ... .

I'm not all that surprised at the Police's decision not to prosecute John Banks over his blatantly false donation report following the 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign. Basically, the Local Electoral Act provisions requiring disclosure of the identity of donors are so weak as to be nearly voluntary (as our national electoral laws used to be, back before the much-maligned Electoral Finance Act 2007 tightened things up). And as I said here:

...if [Banks] didn't know of the false return (i.e. it can be shown that it was someone in his campaign that wrongly reported the donation as anonymous and he didn't realise the mistake was made), then at most Mr Banks may be in line for a small fine.

Actually, that last bit of that sentence was wrong ... I'd overlooked the 6 month time limit on bringing prosecutions for unwittingly filing a false return (which it's pretty clear the Police think Banks did). But once Banks found someone to take the blame for misstating the nature of the donations he received (i.e. by describing them as "anonymous", rather than listing their actual source), then he could credibly claim that the false return wasn't a result of a "knowing" misrepresentation. Which gets him off the hook for the more serious offence for which he could still be prosecuted, and had he been convicted of would have resulted in his having to leave Parliament.

That said, let's just note what we're left with at the end of the Police's investigation. We know John Banks went around wealthy people and companies getting donations in the five figures. The Police clearly are of the opinion he did so in full knowledge they were giving him this significant support. But he then signed a document purporting to accurately declare who had given him the money for his campaign apparently without even reading it, but simply after asking the volunteer who put it together "you're sure this is accurate?"

OK. This story gets him off the hook legally. But, you know ... this guy presently is a Minister of the Crown, holding responsibility for Regulatory Reform and Small Business, as well as being the Associate Minister of Commerce and Associate Minister of Education.

And he doesn't even read the things that get put in front of him.