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Prosecuting Cunliffe

Written By: - Date published: 3:06 pm, December 5th, 2013 - 56 comments
Categories: david cunliffe, electoral commission, electoral systems, police - Tags: ,

no-right-turn-256No Right Turn writes on what should happen with David Cunliffe screwing up on election day. Sensible advice and commentary on what looks like a typical example of some of the innumerable silly mistakes and accidents that happen during election campaigns. The reaction of some on the right has been pretty damn hilarious when they compare what looks like deliberate concealment of electoral finance with a silly tweeting mistake.

David Cunliffe’s election-day tweet has been referred to police. Good. Its a clear (though minor) breach of the law, and the Electoral Commission has to uphold the rules. Unfortunately, judging by their past performance, the police won’t – they have no interest in electoral crimes, and even less in prosecuting politicians who could one day decide their budget and powers. So naturally, Graham McCready is stepping up and offering to bring a private prosecution.

I have two comments on this. Firstly, that its a sad state of affairs that this is necessary. We ought to be able to have faith that our police will protect the integrity of our electoral system, but we can’t. And that suggests that the police are in serious need of reform, and that we should shift prosecution power for electoral offences to a body which can be trusted, such as the Electoral Commission. Secondly, if McCready brings a case, Cunliffe should plead guilty. He’s already admitted posting the statement, and its intent to influence voters is clear. The offence carries a fine of up to $20,000, but its hard to see the maximum being enforced for a minor breach which was immediately corrected, reported and admitted. And it is not severe enough to require resignation from Parliament. Political honesty and the integrity of our electoral system would be served by Cunliffe admitting it, paying the fine, and moving on.

56 comments on “Prosecuting Cunliffe”

  1. gobsmacked 1

    Very good post by NRT. Especially on the broader issue – the police have been hopeless for years, get an independent body that cares about this stuff.

    Andrew Geddis makes a good point over at Pundit:

    “There’s the somewhat awkward fact that the Police are still sitting on top of a whole raft of complaints referred to them by the Electoral Commission following the 2011 election – including a number of people accused of using Twitter and Facebook to publish messages intended to affect how people vote. So if the Police were to move with alacrity to charge Cunliffe, this actually would be “unequal treatment” when compared to others who have committed similar actions.

    Please note that I’m not saying Cunliffe shouldn’t be charged here … I’m just saying that if he’s going to be treated like everyone else, he won’t be.”

    http://www.pundit.co.nz/content/cunliffes-folly

    For our swivel-eyed guests (“Cunlffe IS Banks!!!111!1”), the phrase “be careful what you wish for” springs to mind.

  2. Papa Tuanuku 2

    dammit, no-one on the left blogs seems to have picked up on the ongoing spying after the Tūhoe raids.

    • lprent 2.1

      Write a guest post and/or send us a link. See the contact us.

      But my general assumption is that the police will observe, spy, and generally keep an eye on things. That is part of their job. The difficulty is when they act on the basis of some paranoias out of one of those centres for stupidity (like the police centre in Otahuhu) and who have a extremely limited understanding of what they are observing. They just get in the way of the political processes.

      Aaron Pascoe being a particularly good example of how to present yourself as a rather shallow idiot who managed to raise hysteria to action in Operation 8.

    • JK 2.2

      Papa – I thought Maori TV news said they were unsure if the story about the ongoing spying after the Tuhoe raids was correct or not, and that they’d update it when they got more details. That was last night. Maybe tonights Maori TV news will have some more on that matter.

      • Murray Olsen 2.3.1

        No surprises there, really. The question I’m interested in is how do we stop it? I can’t see any way except by getting rid of the police and the spooks, then starting again.

  3. Tracey 3

    I just dont get how many seasoned politicians dont seem to know the rules that govern their jobs. be it credit cards, House rules (Brownlee) or electioneering

    • Puckish Rogue 3.1

      Maybe both National and Labour should get fined an equal and massive amount for the next breach so as to set an example to everyone?

  4. Will@Welly 4

    Great analysis. This is what needs to happen, Cunliffe pleads guilty, slap on the wrist for a silly mistake, Key gets to shut up. But Marshall has to go down as one of the most backward thinking leaders of the Policeforce in living history. His quote, early on in his stewardship, it’s a business, summed up his approach to law and order.

  5. I agree.

    A prosecution will help to sort out any ‘grey areas’ regarding ‘tweeting’, and the ensuing fuss will help remind politicians, particularly those who want to be Prime Minister, that they are not above the law and they can be still held to account.

    For the record, I don’t support any call for David Cunliffe to resign if convicted.

    The penalty is a $20,000 fine, not resignation.

    Let any mitigating circumstances be argued in Court, and this ‘bad thing be turned into a good thing’.

    Namely, make sure you are more familiar with electoral law, because, in my considered opinion, it isn’t a ‘good look’ when you are not.

    Penny Bright

  6. Crunchtime 6

    It needs to be clarified whether Cunliffe actually broke the rules.

    Tweeting isn’t a public activity. You have to be following Cunliffe already.

    I understand Cunliffe pulling the tweet right away because it is a grey area – potentially his followers re-tweet it and it becomes more of a “public” thing. But personally I don’t think he is actually on the wrong side of the law. Especially since it was online mere seconds before it was taken down again.

    • Sacha 6.1

      “You have to be following Cunliffe already”

      Or someone you follow retweeted it. And you can look up anyone’s public timeline without even signing up for Twitter.

      • weka 6.1.1

        “You have to be following Cunliffe already”

        Or someone can say, anywhere at all, “Cunliffe tweeted x,y,z”, and anyone with a computer can go and look at it. Sounds public to me.

  7. Richard McGrath 7

    Agree Cunliffe should man up and pay the fine. But let’s not pretend he didn’t know his Tweet was electioneering. He was explicitly warned not to by the Electoral Commission and chose to breach the rules. I’m sure he’s sorry.. that he was caught.

    [lprent: If you want to make an assertion of fact, then on this site it is advisable to link to a source. In this case I have no knowledge of an “explicit warning”. In fact I suspect that you are simply lying or at the very least inflating something to a bullshit level.

    If I see you do it again, then I’ll probably simply ban you for stupid behaviour. I’d suggest you read the policy. This is your warning. In the meantime, since you don’t appear to be responding to replies, you’re getting moderated until I see an acknowledgement you have seen, read , and understand this note ]

    • Te Reo Putake 7.1

      “He was explicitly warned not to by the Electoral Commission and chose to breach the rules”

      Cite?

      “I’m sure he’s sorry.. that he was caught.”

      Er, caught by whom? He realised his own mistake and took the tweet down immediately. He then dobbed himself in. So, not ‘caught’ at all.

      • gobsmacked 7.1.1

        No, TRP.

        Cunliffe knew exactly what he was doing (because corrupt!) and didn’t know what he was doing (because stupid!) at exactly the same time. Also, he knew that heaps of votes would be won in just a few seconds, that’s why he done it, and deleted it, and reported it!

        • Te Reo Putake 7.1.1.1

          Cheers, gs, the scales have fallen from my eyes. Cunliffe must go! Free the Banks One!

          • Richard McGrath 7.1.1.1.1

            Nothing to do with Banksie, TRP, he is quite rightfully being prosecuted for his own alleged misdemeanours. But you’re right – Cunliffe must go (before a court).

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Try thinking for yourself for a change, Slater’s parrot.

              By reporting his tweet (having deleted it within seconds), Cunliffe put himself before the court. He was already there before you even read your lines.

              Please stop providing supporting evidence for Bright Minds And Dark Attitudes.

      • Richard McGrath 7.1.2

        Sorry, should have cited my comment, so here goes:

        Click to access Election-Day-Rules-for-Candidates.pdf

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 7.2

      Arrgghhh! The stupid! It burns!

      Cunliffe’s actions are the equivalent of John Banks saying “Kim, if I help you in the future it’s better no one knows about your donation”, and then immediately dobbing himself in to the Serious Fraud Office.

      • gobsmacked 7.2.1

        It’s beautifully ironic that Richard McGrath criticises a guy who typed something and sent it without thinking … by himself typing something and sending it without thinking.

        Easily done, eh?

        • Dumrse 7.2.1.1

          You and your mate NRT are the ironic dickheads in this thread.

          • gobsmacked 7.2.1.1.1

            I’ll take it as a compliment, but how is NRT wrong?

            Which part of his post do you disagree with, and why?

        • Richard McGrath 7.2.1.2

          It *would* be ironic, if it wasn’t for Cunliffe having been warned not to post election-related comments on social media on election day.

          • gobsmacked 7.2.1.2.1

            Richard, your contention is that Cunliffe held these two opinions within seconds:

            1. “I am now going to deliberately break the rules. Heh Heh.”

            2. “I have just deliberately broken the rules, but have immediately changed my mind and wish I hadn’t.”

            That is absurd. What happened (just get out the razor and think it through) is that 1) Cunliffe acted without thinking about the rules, and then 2) thought about the rules – when it was too late. Some swearing may have been involved.

            Then you add – ignorantly, or dishonestly, I don’t know which – that he got “caught”. False.

            Of course his action was wrong, and he will have to face the consequences. But his right-wing critics – including Richard – are making it much easier for him, by implying his action was sinister, with malice aforethought.

            Which is stupid, like Cunliffe was (except he was stupid in seconds, you’re keeping it up over days). Hence the irony. Got it yet?

            • Colonial Viper 7.2.1.2.1.1

              Cunliffe knows the electoral rules around an E-Day very well (as he bloody well should having done it enough over the years).

              This was one of those basic *face palm* mistakes one makes early in the morning before you have your first coffee. Nothing more, nothing less.

      • Murray Olsen 7.2.2

        Banks fully intended to do that, but he forgot.

    • JK 7.3

      In my opinion, Its more likely a staffer or volunteer sent the tweet and DC himself is taking the blame for it.

      • alwyn 7.3.1

        Please don’t make remarks like that. I read it while I was sipping a cup of coffee and now I am going to have to clean the keyboard.
        It sounds as if you have never met a politician in your life. It is the staff members job to take the blame for the politician. Politicians never, ever, take the blame for something a staffer does. They may take the blame for something a more senior politician does but in politics taking responsibility for something only goes downward, it NEVER goes upward.

    • QoT 7.4

      I’m sure he’s sorry.. that he was caught.

      Another blissfully ridiculous line of argument. I’m pretty sure David Cunliffe knows he has 6,000-odd Twitter followers. This isn’t a private email to Matthew Hooton we’re talking about.

      • Lloyd 7.4.1

        How many of those 6,000 were eligible to vote in the Christchurch electorate? And how many of those were not already Labour supporters and were liable to be swayed by the message? I would suspect the message might have influenced one or two voters, somewhat less effective than voting material funded by those ‘anonymous’ voters.

        Has anyone looked at what the decision to prosecute Banks will do to funding of the next major election?

    • Dumrse 7.5

      There’s none so blind ……… Others managed to publish a copy of the commissions letter warning of Election Day infringements.

    • Lanthanide 7.6

      Someone said, I believe on this site, that the Electoral Commission had sent a reminder to all candidates and parties on the day before the election, reminding them of the rules.

    • Richard McGrath 7.7

      Dear lprent

      I suggest you read this pdf document which appeared in he public domain nearly 3 days ago:

      Click to access Election-Day-Rules-for-Candidates.pdf

      I think it is fairly explicit about what can and can’t be done. I gather it was sent from Natalie McNaught, Senior Legal Adviser at the Electoral Commission at 9.14 a.m. on November 29 to representatives of the parties entered in the by-election.

      To quote: “On election day you must: … not post any new material on websites, which includes … social media such as Facebook and Twitter.”

      Oh, and by the way I have seen, read and understood your note.

      Cheers

      [lprent: Good. It isn’t my job to read media or electoral bulletins. I very much prefer reading code or books.

      But if *you* state something as fact and then rely upon it for your argument on this site then *you* are expected to link to something in support so that other people can judge if you have made a reasonable interpretation. Or say why you cannot link to it – for instance an offline book. Otherwise it is merely a opinion given by an gibbering idiot playing dress-up as an authority.

      My concern is that I wind up spending far too much time having to read juvenile squabbling about respective assertions of fantasy masquerading as fact. While such flame wars are often fun for participants, they make for bloody awful reading for everyone else.

      Consequently I view comments that assert facts without support as being those from trolls trying to incite flame wars and act accordingly. ]

    • SHG (not Colonial Viper) 7.8

      Explicit warning from the Electoral Commission to all parties before the byelection:

      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-o3HJoS0sFnQ/Up0LQnFvueI/AAAAAAAANYI/9dQ_A9t4H8I/s640/Electoral+Commission+29112013.png

    • Richard Down South 7.9

      What fine? until hes found guilty, there is no fine… thats like someone saying you stole money and you deserve to pay the fines for doing so… there is a prima facie case here for him to be prosecuted, but only the courts can decide if he broke the law, or the police (if they decide theres not enough evidence)

  8. Whatever next 8

    Seems odd to me that we do not involve police when a secret document is released to media(Kitteridge report), yet we involve police when it is bl***dy obvious to the whole country what and by whom a breach was committed.
    What are the police supposed to investigate?
    Whereas I would like to have the police check we have secure government thanks very much

    • Ron 8.1

      It is obvious what the police will do. First they will ask their good friends in the GCSB to search metadata for everything that Cunliffe has ever sent or received.
      Then the NSA can also be asked to do likewise because some of Cunliffe’s tweets may have gone outside NZ
      Then they will use their new powers to secretly tap all the computers/mobile phones even remotely connected to Labour (just in case) people that tweet such dangerous tweets could well be secretly working for some terrorist organisation.
      They will then wait until next year and publicly warn Cunliffe that he has committed a dreadful offence.
      Then all the information will be sent to Minister of Police and Crown Solicitor for comment.
      By then we will be up to election.

      Yup that seems to be the way that such offences are handled when committed by anyone that is not right wing

  9. Thomas 9

    It’s a stupid law, but it’s the law. If we want our electoral law to be respected, then it must have teeth.

    Repeal the silly parts of the law and create a body that can and will prosecute violations.

    • Lanthanide 9.1

      It’s not a stupid law at all.

      In Australia, you are allowed to electioneer on election day, but there’s a distance limit on how close you can do it to a polling place – I believe 50 metres or something like that. So around every polling place there’s a perimeter of party supporters campaigning for people to vote on their way to the booths.

      Seems very unseemly, to me.

      • alwyn 9.1.1

        When I lived in Australia, in the 1990s it was slightly different to that. Party people, wearing rosettes and so on, were not allowed to electioneer in the sense of telling you how to vote. They were allowed to offer you cards listing their party’s preferred method of voting but they weren’t allowed to speak about it.
        With the ridiculous length of some of the Australian ballot papers the might actually might have been useful.
        I always refused them, telling the people that I never voted because it just encouraged the bastards. This would set them off in stutters because, as they would point out, it was illegal not to vote. I would suggest that I didn’t care, let them prosecute me. Of course I never bothered to tell them that, not being a citizen of Australia, I wasn’t allowed to vote anyway.
        That is actually a very good idea. Why should we let non-citizens vote? Australians have another good rule. Their MPs must only be Australian citizens. Dual nationality is not allowed. (I know there is a slight exception for people born in a country that doesn’t allow you to renounce citizenship but the MP has to show they made every possible attempt to do so)

      • Tracey 9.1.2

        at least it reflects the reality, that it’s about backing the winning team… hence the supporters groups, do they sing cool songs like at the football?

  10. North 10

    Now we’re discussing how it should be handled. That’s OK.

    But mayoral, sorry, moral equivalency ? Banks and Cunliffe ? Get real…….

    To conflate the behaviours affirms deep emotional trauma or deep intellectual dysfunction. Or, in the absence of mutual exclusivity to wit the case of the Actoid, both.

    Oh let’s get down to tin-tacks – anti-social, selfish, entitled wankers do not like it up ’em.

  11. adam 11

    Storm in a tea cup. I lived in Aussie for years and they electioneer on election day – and it makes bugger all difference. I never noticed it making anybody change there mind.

  12. Tracey 12

    Have the names of all those who did similar things in 2011 been released? Lets put them with cunliffe in a room, live streaming while they get taught reading comprehension

    • alwyn 12.1

      For a fair number of them I suspect we would first have to teach them HOW to read, THEN we could teach them how to comprehend what they had read.

  13. Delia 13

    I bet if Key did this, some anti Labour posters here would say. “Whining left wing, leave our John alone he is such a cutie on the cat walk, he is New Zealand’s saviour and all the tripe you starry eyed guys come out with.

    • RedRobin 13.1

      “I bet if Key did this, some anti Labour posters here would say. “Whining left wing, leave our John alone he is such a cutie on the cat walk, he is New Zealand’s saviour and all the tripe you starry eyed guys come out with.”- cite?

      More likely scenario is there would be “Democracy Under Attack” headlines.

      • Crunchtime 13.1.1

        My observation is that anything that Key does wrong results a headline saying what Key thinks about accusations against him. “Key not phased by whatever blah blah”

    • karol 13.2

      Does John key tweet directly with the public, or does he leave that up to his minions?

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