John Banks' supporters are doing their best to implant the notion that he has done nothing too wrong. They want people to believe that being found guilty in the High Court of filing a false electoral return does not represent serious offence.
They are wrong in two substantial ways. Campaign finance declarations, whether for mayoral elections, as in the case of Mr Banks, or parliamentary elections, are an extremely important check on political corruption.
And the trouble Mr Banks went to in handling a $50,000 donation from Kim Dotcom so it could be anonymous in the statutory declaration of donors is extremely telling.
Justice Edwin Wylie found it "reasonable to infer that Mr Banks requested that the donation be split so they did not stand out and so that the donations would be consistent with other donations of $25,000 that his campaign team was endeavouring to solicit".
The situation was, said Justice Wylie, "engineered" by Mr Banks. The Epsom MP had either known the return was false or had chosen not to check it because he wanted to remain in ignorance.
Because of the lengths Mr Banks went to, and the importance of the breached provisions of the Local Electoral Act, it is impossible to play down the degree of wrongdoing. Mr Banks' lawyer, David Jones, QC, has indicated an application will be made for a discharge without conviction at sentencing on August 1.
His client has paid a heavy political price, but escaping conviction should be the longest of long shots.
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