PNP-Jamaican Campaign Finance Debacle, & Regional Lessons to be Learnt by Dr Ian Jacobs
Posted on September 12, 2016
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:
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:
- All Campaign related funding and spending to come through a central Electoral Office
- No vouchers for purchase of items at local businesses
- No more drowning the country in party paraphernalia; make issuance and receipt of hats, shirts and the like illegal !
- 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.
- 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.
10 September, 2016