Dotcom pulls plug on Good Times party after Electoral Commission warning

UPDATED with RAW DATA: Electoral Commission email to Kim Dotcom.

Kim Dotcom has cancelled his album release and birthday party after being advised by the Electoral Commission that it could break electoral laws - which forbid free food, drink or entertainment being offered to potential voters, on pain of losing your seat if elected and/or a $40,000 fine (see the Commission's email to Dotcom below).

The internet entrepreneur unveiled his new Internet Party yesterday, and planned to hold a "Party Party" at Vector Arena on Monday.

In a statement he says:

I apologize, my friends.  Sadly we must cancel my birthday party after we received advice that the event could risk breaching electoral laws.

Because the tickets were free, we were advised that the purpose of the event could be misunderstood. 

I would like to thank the 25,000 people who registered for my birthday party. You are all amazing!

I was looking forward to an awesome event with great live music and other surprises – but the future of New Zealand is more important to me than one night of fun. 

I hope you agree. So we are moving forward with the Internet Party!!


RAW DATA: Electoral Commission email to Kim Dotcom

The Electoral Commission supplied NBR with a copy of the email it sent one of Kim Dotcom's lawyers about 6.00pm, Wednesday January 15. It reads:

Further to our telephone conversations this afternoon, from various tweets on Twitter and information available via the media, we understand that your client, Mr Kim Dotcom, intended to hold an event to launch the Internet Party, celebrate his 40th birthday and celebrate the launch of his new music album. This event is called “The Party Party” and was intended to be held on 20 January 2014.

You have advised that your client, Mr Kim Dotcom, has now published two tweets on Twitter. The first tweet states: “To clarify -  #ThePartyParty is all about the release of my album and does not have anything to do with the Internet Party. Come celebrate!”. The second tweet states: “The Internet Party will be launched at a separate event at a separate time”.

You have advised that there will be no mention of any political party at the event, in no way will the event relate to the Internet Party at all and that the Internet Party will be launched at a later date.

Section 217(2) of the Electoral Act states that

(1) Every person is guilty of a corrupt practice who commits the offence of treating.
(2) Every person commits the offence of treating who corruptly, by himself or herself or by any other person on his or her behalf, either before, during, or after an election, directly or indirectly gives or provides, or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing, any food, drink, entertainment, or provision to or for any person—
(a) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting; or
(b) for the purpose of procuring himself or herself to be elected; or
(c) on account of that person or any other person having voted or refrained from voting, or being about to vote or refrain from voting.
(3) Every person commits the offence of treating who, being the holder of a licence for the sale by retail of alcohol (within the meaning of section 5(1) of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012), knowingly supplies any food, drink, entertainment, or provision—
(a) to any person where the supply thereof is demanded for the purpose of treating, or for any corrupt or illegal practice; or
(b) to any persons, whether electors or not, for the purpose of procuring the return of a candidate or candidates at an election, and without receiving payment for it at the time when it is supplied.
(4) Every elector who corruptly accepts or takes any such food, drink, entertainment, or provision also commits the offence of treating.

The consequences of being convicted of treating are in ss80(1)(e) and 224 and can include:
• the loss of a seat if you have been elected, • you are not eligible to register as an elector for 3 years, and • you may be sentenced to two years in prison and a $40,000 fine.

You will note that Section 217 applies even though (a) the treating may be direct or indirect, (b) at any time, not just during an election period, and (c) apply to every elector and not just the promoter of an event such the Party Party. The Commission remains concerned that the action Kim Dotcom intends to take (limiting the event to his 40th birthday and the --launch of his music album) may not be sufficient to eliminate the risk of the activity falling within the scope of the treating provisions. This is because the event was originally intended to include the Internet Party launch, we understand that the event will be called the Party Party and Kim Dotcom is the leader of the Internet Party. In addition, we understand that the Internet Party’s soft launch was to be scheduled for the same day as the event.

The Courts have previously held that the offence of “treating” requires an intention on the part of the person treating to influence the votes of the persons treated.

The question of intention is an inference of fact which the Court has to draw.  If in any case, looking at all the circumstances, the reasonable and probable effect of the alleged treating would be to influence the result of the election, or to influence the votes of individual voters, it might well be inferred that it was the intention of the persons treating that this effect would follow.

The Commission is concerned that the Party Party may expose both those promoting an attending it to risk of prosecution for treating.

Regards

Richard Thornton
Communications and Education Advisor
Electoral Commission 

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