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PNP-Jamaican Campaign Finance Debacle, & Regional Lessons to be Learnt by Dr Ian Jacobs

via PNP-Jamaican Campaign Finance Debacle, & Regional Lessons to be Learnt — WimRat


PNP-Jamaican Campaign Finance Debacle, & Regional Lessons to be Learnt

Posted on September 12, 2016

by ianej5

If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed

We all are aware of the current blood letting within the PNP and its campaign finance reform issue implications. It is alleged that certain candidates of the PNP took campaign contributions from businesses etc and did not turn them in, but kept them for themselves. I am sure that if any of these allegations are true, had the PNP won the election they would have swept them under the carpet.

I would also be surprised if similar shenanigans were not also ocurring on the JLP side.

The Private Sector in Jamaica contributed vast amounts to both political parties in Jamaica:

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20160320/144m-and-counting-some-private-sector-entities-disclose-election

Whilst the Campaign Finance Reform legislation to the regulate the financing of elections in Jamaica is laudable, it does not address the root problem and probably wilfully so. Furthermore, in Jamaica as is usual, political parties once in power tend to kick the campaign finance reform ball down the road, until ‘after the next election’. If they lose they then make noise for it and if they win they give the ball another hearty kick. This happens in Jamaica, here in SKN and indeed throughout the Caribbean. But we had good teachers: Sanctimonious Tony Blair before an election pledged to do away with “ Peerages for Pounds”, and then refined the process to his advantage. And then there is Hillary with her friendly speeches for big money to the Big Money folk, but we have to hold our noses and hope she wins as the other option is unthinkable.

And I don’t know how it works, as businesses often contribute to opposing parties in the same election cycle, and both parties know. Take the case of the company Proven in Jamaica where they contributed 60% to the then ruling (what an ugly phrase, but it depicts the state of things) and 40% to the JLP. How does the JLP now that it won compute: if a matter arises, do they give 40% consideration to what Proven would wish and 60 % consideration to a company that bet on their horse more handsomely? And the figures are not small: Proven gave more than US 50,000 in total to the political parties, and there may well have been bigger private sector players.

Once there are Big Money Contributors to election Campaigns it becomes a self feeding frenzy:

Politicians ramp up the spending, much of it to outfits such as SCL (https://sclgroup.cc/elections/projects/st-kitts-nevis/ for our local reference). That it is self feeding is clear, as evidenced by:

http://celebritynetworths.org/jacob-zuma-net-worth/, but Jacob (without the ‘s’) would probably say that he made prudent investments.

The big contributors will usually find ways to beat any system put in place, so we need to find means of limiting the money that needs or indeed CAN to be spent on elections, and of having total transparency. Some offerings in our local context which I offer for your perusal are:

  1. All Campaign related funding and spending to come through a central Electoral Office
  2. No vouchers for purchase of items at local businesses
  3. No more drowning the country in party paraphernalia; make issuance and receipt of hats, shirts and the like illegal !
  4. Election Authority to put up a signboard at a central point in all villages, on which posters of the respective candidates are placed. Posters no where else.
  5. Each party to be given an equal time slot for advertisements notices and speeches which would be issued and paid for by the Election Authority

I know I dream, as the self feeding nature of the process

  • demands more and more spending which feeds outfits like the SCL
  • makes big donors (and repaying them in various ways) necessary
  • puts money into the system to corrupt voters
  • allows skimming by the politicians, who happened to be caught out this time in Jamaica.

But if we keep on doing things the same way, the circus will continue: Genuine Election Reform will be kicked doown the road, and in each election cycle the victors will accuse the losers of corruption and will change nothing … and vice versa.

Ian Jacobs

St. Peters

10 September, 2016

2 Comments »

  1. Ian Jacobs’s post is a good one. A good post is one that makes me think. It is also good to see balanced and forthright commentary on public affairs.

    During the campaign, all contenders promise “Good Governance” and “Servant Leadership”. However, campaign money can be raised without public accounting. On the contrary, money earned by the voter/citizen must be declared to the tax authority.

    Once elected to Parliament, the once unaccountable candidate becomes “Honourable” and can speak freely from behind a firewall called “Parliamentary Immunity”. The ordinary voter/citizen also has a right of free speech but breaching the rights of others risks judicial review and financial penalty.

    The playing field is not level perhaps symptomatic of oligarchic tendencies. The golden rule of politics has not expired: those with the gold, rule.

    To be unaccountable and have immunity spells demagogue which is anti-democratic. Add narcissism and megalomania to the mix and the politics becomes pyroclastic.

    I support Ian Jacobs. There should stricter regulation of campaign activities – financial and otherwise. The essential national discourse on the question should be organized by Civil Society. Associations of health and other professionals are best placed to arrange, singly or in coalition.

    In the next Constitution (of the SKN Republic), the structures that coordinate and manage voter registration, electioneering including campaign funding, the conduct of the poll, and boundaries, will be above politics (the fiat of the Head of State), autonomous but accountable to the people’s representatives for the execution of the activities prescribed in their governing legislation.

    Let’s ensure that the Constitution and legislation are written in plain English.

  2. The dream is admirable, but transforming it into reality is problematic, and unfortunately some problems have no solutions. One of the idiosyncrasies of political life in this region is that visionary people are not necessarily influential and vice versa. I hope however that part 2 will outline concrete suggestions as to how we can make the dream come true, otherwise I am afraid that we will remain condemned to the status quo.

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