Guido’s investigation in late 2017 drew attention to the implausibility of Momentum having adhered to the laws on spending limits. The subsequent Electoral Commission electoral fraud investigation has borne this out, with Momentum today being fined £16,700 for multiple breaches of electoral law. The hard left campaign group has been found to have repeatedly filed inaccurate general election spending returns in 2017 despite being given a year to revise their return. They were also multiple failures to report donations accepted outside of an election period. The Electoral Commission says this is “the highest fine levied on a non-party campaigner for not submitting a complete and accurate spending return during the 2017 election.”
Momentum originally claimed they had only spent £38,743 across the whole of the 2017 election. Conveniently, just under the £39,000 spending limit for non-party campaigners…
Considering Momentum raised £120,000 from Crowdpac alone, they presumably expected the Electoral Commission would simply believe that they did not spend the vast majority of the money raised. But the Commission has concluded that Momentum’s spending report “was not accurate and Momentum subsequently delivered four further versions after the deadline, each of which reported different amounts of donations and spending.” Oh dear…
UPDATE: Despite the Electoral Commission stating bluntly that “Momentum did not cooperate fully during the investigation” they have responded with a lengthy statement essentially claiming it was all an innocent mistake. The make much of their small donations from volunteers, the Electoral Commission actually found they failed to declare big donations of tens of thousands from the TSSA union.
The first task facing Electoral Commission investigators probing Momentum will be to unravel the organisation’s complex structure. Guido has taken a look…
Momentum is an unincorporated association – it doesn’t own assets and doesn’t employ anyone, but has an estimated 30,000 paying supporters. It raised £580,000 in membership subs last year alone – and that’s not counting other donations. It’s this unincorporated association that was officially registered with the Electoral Commission as a non-party campaigner for the 2017 General Election (in electoral law these are called ‘third parties’). The address registered for Momentum with the Electoral Commission is the TSSA Union building in Euston. Despite having hundreds of thousands in income, this is the ‘Momentum’ that reported a total spend of just £38,742.54 across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland during the general election’s restricted spending period. That’s a tight £257.46 below the £39,000 limit for non-party campaigners, meaning an average spend of just £60 per constituency.
Momentum says it uses two limited companies to carry on its operations: Momentum Campaign (Services) Ltd (MCS) and Jeremy for Labour Ltd (JFL). JFL is controlled entirely by its sole director, Momentum supremo and founder Jon Lansman, and is registered to his luxury Shad Thames flat. JFL is where the asset value in Momentum really lies: it is the ‘data controller’ which legally owns a huge database of supporter contact details collected during “both of Jeremy’s leadership campaigns, through Momentum’s website and during its campaigns.” It also operates the Momentum website. It must control data used – and collected – during the General Election…
Meanwhile, MCS employs about 15 staff on behalf of the unincorporated association and is registered to yet another office in East London. These must be the paid staff who directly influenced and directed Momentum’s general election campaign activity.
During the election campaign, Momentum boasted about both how much money it was making and how much money it was spending. Check out this fundraising pitch from Paul Mason (“we need money, a lot of it”), attached to a tweet on May 13, claiming Momentum had nearly raised £40,000 in an online crowdfunder:
— Momentum (@PeoplesMomentum) May 13, 2017
Momentum raised £120,000 from the Crowdpac drive alone. Momentum is asking us to believe only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands it raised during the regulated period was spent on general election activities. Either it is lying to supporters about what they were going to do with their donations or it is lying to the Electoral Commission about how the donations were spent…
The Electoral Commission has today launched an investigation into Corbynista shock-troops Momentum to establish whether the group “breached campaign finance rules in relation to spending.” The questions the probe:
“Whether or not Momentum spent in excess of the spending limits for an unauthorised non-party campaigner in the UK Parliamentary general election;
whether or not Momentum submitted a return that did not include accurate donation information and/or the required declaration stating that the donation return was complete and accurate; whether or not Momentum submitted a return that was not a complete statement of payments made in respect of controlled expenditure; whether or not Momentum submitted a return that did not include all invoices for payments of more than £200.”
Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s Director of Political Finance and Regulation and Legal Counsel, said:
“Momentum are a high profile active campaigning body. Questions over their compliance with the campaign finance rules at June’s general election risks causing harm to voters’ confidence in elections. There is significant public interest in us investigating Momentum to establish the facts in this matter and whether there have been any offences. Once complete, the Commission will decide whether any breaches have occurred and, if so, what further action may be appropriate, in line with its enforcement policy.”
Momentum reported expenditure of £38,743. Guido said it back in November, that sounds impossibly low…
Appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court today:
Craig Mackinlay, 50, of St George’s Square, Pimlico, central London, charged with two counts of making a false election expenses declaration.
Marion Little, 62, of New Road, Ware, Hertfordshire, and Nathan Gray, 28, of Red Oak, Hawkhurst, Kent, each face three counts and one count respectively of making a false election expenses declaration.
UPDATE: Mackinlay pleads not guilty.
“On 18 April we received a file of evidence from Kent Police concerning allegations relating to Conservative Party expenditure during the 2015 General Election campaign. We then asked for additional enquiries to be made in advance of the 11 June statutory time limit by when any charges needed to be authorised.
“Those enquiries have now been completed and we have considered the evidence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
“We have concluded there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to authorise charges against three people.
“Craig Mackinlay, 50, Nathan Gray, 28, and Marion Little, 62, have each been charged with offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983 and are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 July 2017.
“Criminal proceedings have now commenced and it is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”
Trial after election…
UPDATE: CCHQ statement:
“The legal authorities have previously cleared Conservative candidates who faced numerous politically motivated and unfounded complaints over the Party’s national Battlebus campaigning.
“We continue to believe that this remaining allegation is unfounded. Our candidate has made clear that there was no intention by him or his campaigners to engage in any inappropriate activity. We believe that they have done nothing wrong, and we are confident that this will be proven as the matter progresses.
“The individuals remain innocent unless otherwise proven guilty in a court of law. The press, parties and those on social media should be aware of the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act and the strict liability rules against publishing anything which would prejudice the course of justice.
“There is a broad consensus that election law is fragmented, confused and unclear, with two different sets of legislation, and poor guidance from the Electoral Commission. Conservatives are committed to strengthening electoral law to tackle the real and proven cases of corruption that were exposed in Tower Hamlets in 2015.”
UPDATE: Farage reaction:
BREAKING: Nigel Farage responds to Craig Mackinlay being charged. Will be in South Thanet tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/t2rVQYDm4u
— Dan Jukes (@DanJukes17) June 2, 2017