National Pushes Limits Of Campaign Spending
National Pushes Limits Of Campaign Spending In 2005
In the battle for the hearts and minds of the New Zealand voter in 2005 National spent more than two million dollars attempting to get their message across. According to figures that have just become available at the Electoral Commission National spent $2,128,028 (incl GST) on election advertising for the 2005 election campaign. Under section 214B(2) of the electoral Act 1993 the cap on election expenses for National in the 2005 General Election was $2,240,000 (incl GST).
Just prior to Christmas it was revealed that National had exceeded by more than $100,000 the amount it was allowed to spend on broadcasting time for its election advertisements. According to a National press release the reason for the overspending was "due to a misunderstanding between the Party and its advertising booking agency, the agency booked advertising for National on radio and television for the campaign totalling $900,000 excluding GST, instead of $900,000 including GST."
Also revealed prior to Christmas was the fact that while he hadn't broken the law National's Tauranga candidate Bob Clarkson had underestimated his election spending. After a High Court tussle brought about by a petition from NZ First leader Winston Peters, Justices Randerson, Goddard and Panckhurst concluded that Mr Clarkson's campaign cost $18.159.79. While safely under the $20,000 mark that is allowed by the Electoral Act this figure was greatly in excess of Mr Clarkson's initial campaign spending estimate of around $10,000.
National's biggest single expense by far in the 2005 campaign was Billboard rental, which according to their election expense return, exceeded $600,000. Other big expenses incurred by National related to "mailouts". The election expenses involving "mailouts" presumably related to the cost of printing and sending out a 'Taxathon Pamphlet' in which the Prime Minister was referred to as the Prime Money Waster and Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen was characterised as the Wastemaster-General. Getting across the message that Labour wasted money cost National nearly a million dollars.
Not included in National's campaign spending was of course the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by the religious sect the Exclusive Brethren - aimed at 'changing the Government' – presumably to one led by the major opposition party, ie National.
After a complaint from the Green Party last year regarding the Exclusive Brethren's pamphlet campaign the Chief Electoral Officer was of the opinion that "the [Exclusive Brethren's] leaflet does appear to promote the party vote for National. I have decided to refer the matter to police for investigation as to whether an person has breached section 221 of the Electoral Act 1993, and if so, whether any prosecution in terms of section 221(4) is appropriate."
National leader Dr Don Brash, who had been involved in meetings with the Exclusive Brethren where their pamphlet campaign had been discussed, distanced his party from any official ties to the Exclusive Brethren prior to the election. In a press statement dated 8 September 2005 Dr Brash confirmed that National had no formal relationship with the Exclusive Brethren Church.
Dr Brash did concede after discussions with his campaign manager (Steven Joyce) that some Exclusive Brethren members had been assisting with "canvassing" and "billboards". Dr Brash however considered that the Exclusive Brethren were just "keen to change the Government".
Whether or not National has any competition for what is likely to be the most expensive election campaign in New Zealand history remains something of a mystery as returns for Labour, ACT, NZ First and United Future are currently not yet available for public scrutiny. According to the Electoral Commission these parties have been asked to clarify various details relating to their returns.
Of the other parties represented in Parliament the Maori Party got the best return for their money - gaining four seats and only spending a tad over $100,000. The Green Party just scraped back in to Parliament clearing the 5% MMP threshold and spending around half a million dollars. Jim Anderton's Progressive Party spent more than $200,000 on election advertising . Sadly, for Matt Robson, this advertising spend up was not enough to keep his job as an MP. Currently, Jim Anderton's Progressive Party, is represented in Parliament by only Mr Anderton.