Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Is Family First breaching electoral law?

Family First's "Value Your Vote, Election 2011" logo1
The Electoral Commission has to keep track of who is intending to spend more than $12,000 (incl GST) on election advertising from 26th August to 25th November 2012.  Organisations or individuals intending to spend more than $12,000 have to register as promoters and follow certain rules.

This is from an email Family First sent to supporters last week (asking for donations to support their campaign):
...Our Value Your Vote website resource for families to inform them this Election has experienced phenomenal success with 100,000 copies of the pamphlet ordered and printed, and almost 20,000 views on our website in just the first month since it was launched - and our radio ads have only just started! This is more than double the demand of the resource when we produced it in 2008...
For 100,000 pamplets to break the $12,000 limit they'd need to cost more than 12c each, and they appear to be full colour and several pages long.  Plus there's the (soon to come) radio ads, the website costs, and the possibility (which seems high imho) that they will exceed 100,000 leaflets.  Surely all this would exceed $12,000?

So why aren't Family First a registered promoter?  They have an authorisation statement on their materials.  But they are absent from the register of promoters.  

Genuine question:  is this a breach of the law?



Idiot/Savant said...

Genuine answer: only if they admit to it. The spending limit for unregistered promoters basically works on the honour system. While there are stiff penalties for overspending, there's no real way of telling how much people spend, and the Electoral Commission isn't resourced to investigate. Instead, it has to respond to complaints.

I suggest acquiring one of these flyers, finding a printer, and asking for an estimate of how much it would cost to produce a hundred thousand of them. If its significantly higher than 12 cents, then lodge a complaint on that basis of FF's public pronouncements.

Captiver said...

Secondary question: is it a breach of the Charities Act? Family First is a registered charity and you can check out their rules, financials, office holders by doing a search at
But considering National Council of Women was going to lose its charitable status, FF's constant political advocacy is amazing. The Charities Commission has a sheet on what political activities re being a charity.
If anyone's mentioning FF's activities to the Electoral Commission, perhaps cc it to the Charities Commission, too.

Captiver said...

p.s. They can sure afford it. Latest audited accounts on the Charities Commission site show FF's income in the year to 31 March 2011 was $352,448. Around $74,000 up on the previous year. No recession there...

Brett Dale said...

I dont know about family first breaching the law, they do breach human decency though.

Katherine said...

I had a bit of a look around on the charities commission website, and under 'Activities unlikely to adversely affect an entity's charitable status' was "publishing the views of council members or members of Parliament, including how they have voted on particular issues where these are directly related to the entity's charitable purposes and where no particular representative or party is singled out", which is all I could find on their website, though the chart with the smiley faces on their main website seems like it might be in a grey area.

The brochure is available as a pdf on the family first website, so you don't even need to find a hard copy to show the electoral commission. How do you make a complaint by the way? I couldn't find anything at elections.org.nz about complaints, and that's the only sensible result for the electoral commission.

Captiver said...

@Katherine, Hmm. One could argue that the parties that get 90% FF rating (e.g. Conservative party; Winston Peters) is "singling them out", per the charities commission. FF has always pretended to be non-partisan in this kind of way, and as you say it's a gray area. But one that perhaps they need to be challenged on at some point.