Mr Field returned expenditure of $14,996, accounting for his spending on posters, pamphlets, hoardings and signwriting. He did not declare the costs of advertising two campaign fundraising socials and a campaign rally, or the costs of the food, drink and entertainment which were offered at these events. He made no allowance for the running costs of his campaign van, or for its purchase price or its depreciation. On the other side of the ledger, he returned a donation of $5000 from the Otara Labour Party Trust, but did not disclose another sum of $15,000 given to him by the same trust. These matters were referred to the Electoral Office, which referred them to Mr Field. After considering his reply, the Electoral Office decided that it would not refer Mr Field’s return to the police, because it was not satisfied that any offence against the Electoral Act had been committed. The act broadly has it that campaign spending need be returned if it relates exclusively to the campaign for the return of the candidate (spending which relates to the return of two or more candidates is to be apportioned). Mr Field told the Electoral Office that the advertising left out of his return did not relate exclusively to his campaign. "The fund-raising social," he declared, "was held to raise funds which were used for a variety of purposes including for the Labour Party as a whole. Proceeds also went towards funding the Mangere Labour Party organisation, including its local committee activities, meetings and levies payable to the party’s head office." According to the Electoral Office, the undeclared advertising for the campaign rally promoted not only Mr Field’s candidacy but also the launch of Labour’s Pacific Island policy, noting that in respect of the campaign social, the member had stated that this "was also not a function exclusively related to the campaign for my return as the candidate for Mangere". The costs of the vehicle, Mr Field advised, were not declared because it was purchased while he was not only candidate for Mangere but MP for Otara, and needed the van for his electoral work as well as his election campaign (David Lange, ‘Law Made in an Age When MPs Did Not Behave like Tax Laywers’, Press, p.11, 29 July 1997).
In this, Lange alerted us to the potentially corrupt nature of Field, but also to the difficulties in policing New Zealand’s political finance regulations. The Electoral Commission has very few powers to investigate discrepancies or to check that the parties are following the rules. The system essentially relies on the honesty of the parties and politicians. Lange showed that the Electoral Commission must take the parties at their word on any regulation inconsistencies and problems.
(I see that Poneke has also drawn attention to Lange's disputes with Field).