Even the secret funders of the Leave campaign are subject to the law

by Good Law Project

Even the secret funders of the Leave campaign are subject to the law

by Good Law Project
Good Law Project
I am Jo Maugham, a Queen's Counsel and director of the Good Law Project, which brought the successful judicial review against the Electoral Commission's failure properly to investigate Vote Leave.
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I am Jo Maugham, a Queen's Counsel and director of the Good Law Project, which brought the successful judicial review against the Electoral Commission's failure properly to investigate Vote Leave.
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Latest: Nov. 21, 2018

Next steps

We apologise for the lengthy passage of time since our last update.

We have received a response from the Electoral Commission to our formal letter threatening legal proceedings for its failure (1) p...

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The Electoral Commission must investigate the CRC, the secretive group behind the £435,000 donation to the DUP.

The High Court ruled on Friday that the Electoral Commission got the law wrong around donations at the time of the EU Referendum and confirmed that a person donating a sum of money also incurs a referendum expenditure under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) 2000 if that person donates a sum of money and also controls how it is spent. You can read about it in the Guardian here

We know that during the EU Referendum campaign hundreds of thousands of pounds were donated by a secretive organisation called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC) to the DUP. We know this because the DUP confirmed that it had received a very large donation from the CRC, chaired by a Mr Richard Cook, a former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservatives. 

Some £282,000 of that donation was used in June 2016 by the DUP to take out a four-page advertisement in The Metro - a free newspaper for London commuters but not available in Northern Ireland where the DUP is based - which urged people to “Take back control” and “Vote to leave”. 

Very little is known about the CRC and those behind it. But a BBC investigation found that the persons who donated £435,000 to the DUP for it to spend on “Vote to Leave” ads in The Metro and on AIQ also controlled how that donation was spent. The BBC reported that the advertising in The Metro was arranged directly by Mr Cook of the CRC, rather than members of the DUP. 

We believe, following Friday's High Court ruling, that this means that the £282,000 is a qualifying expense by the CRC. The money was spent during the referendum period and was self-evidently spent in connection with promoting a ‘leave’ outcome. If this is right the CRC would have had an obligation to try and register with the Electoral Commission as a permitted participant. 

The Electoral Commission has repeatedly refused to investigate the donation. Just like it refused to investigate Vote Leave's relationship with Darren Grimes. We believe it must. So on Friday we sent it this letter threatening further judicial review proceedings. 

We believe the DUP was a willing patsy, used because of PPERA secrecy laws, used by persons unknown to channel unlawful, secret funds to Leave. Help us find out who funded Leave. Help us uncover the shadowy donors who helped buy our democracy. Help us, once again, force the Electoral Commission to do its job.

Please spare whatever you can to help us throw light on the dark money that engulfed the 2016 EU Referendum.





The initial target will enable us to apply for permission. The stretch target will enable us to proceed to the full hearing if we succeed in gaining permission.

Funds will be used to instruct the legal team - Jessica Simor QC, Tom Cleaver, Eleanor Mitchell and Deighton Pierce Glynn - and pursue judicial review proceedings against the Electoral Commission. In the event that there are surplus funds these will be used to support the other litigation brought or to be brought by the Good Law Project.




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Update 1

Good Law Project

Nov. 21, 2018

Next steps

We apologise for the lengthy passage of time since our last update.

We have received a response from the Electoral Commission to our formal letter threatening legal proceedings for its failure (1) properly to investigate the DUP for apparently accepting a donation without investigation its source and (2) to act against the shadowy Constitutional Research Council for incurring hundreds of thousands of pounds of referendum expenditure without registering. 

We would like to publish that response but the Electoral Commission has sought to impose an obligation on us to keep it confidential. We do not believe we have any such obligation and we will write to it imminently saying that we propose releasing their response and, in effect, inviting it to seek an injunction to prevent us doing so.

We are also not satisfied that the response answers the complaints made in our formal letter and so we have instructed leading electoral lawyer Gavin Millar QC to act for the Good Law Project, alongside  junior barristers Tom Cleaver and Eleanor Mitchell and Polly Glynn of Deighton Pierce Glynn, in an action against the Electoral Commission. We expect to issue formal proceedings in the High Court very shortly. We will, of course, keep you updated.

We are grateful for your ongoing support.

Jo Maugham QC
Director, Good Law Project




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