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No intention of dealing with campaign financing

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
TONY FRASER [email protected]

The political parties, aided and abetted by the business community, legitimate and that segment which operates behind a web of intrigue, illegitimacy and violence, have conspired to delude the national electorate into believing there was an intention to have legislation in place to govern the financing of the 2015 general election campaign. For 25 years and more, it has been clear that parties have been inviting business corporations to purchase influence in the award of contracts through the funding of their election campaigns.

A People’s Partnership government won office in 2010 on the basis of having vigorously campaigned against allegations of deep corruption (undoubtedly involving campaign financiers) in the PNM government to the level of hundreds of millions.

“We will enhance democracy by strengthening existing institutions and by establishing new institutions or appropriate infrastructure to support accountability, transparency, consultation, participation and consensus-building and more meaningful representation.” PP Manifesto. 

However, the Parliament waits four years and more before it established in December last a Joint Select Committee to engage this vital subject of investors bribing political parties through the financing of campaigns. Incidentally, four elections were held during the period all amidst allegations of investor corruption, yet no hope of legislation and regulations being put in place for the 2015 poll. 

But that should not be surprising. More than a year ago Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said campaign finance legislation would come in January 2016. 

That was clear indication that there was never an intention on the part of the Government to have the legislation passed in time for it to be put into effect before the poll. 

The position of the opposition People’s National Movement has been to the effect that it would not “tie its hands behind its back” and engage in anything that would deny investors an opportunity to fund its election campaign while the other parties receive investment dollars. 

The parties, judging from the very expensive and expansive campaigning that has already begun, have begun to receive millions in gifts from different segments of the business community; the investors intent on securing for themselves contracts and protection as in the instance of Section 34. 

Just in case you think this to be journalistic hyperbole, there is a case now in the court system in which an entrepreneur/political investor is attempting to retrieve what he says was a loan/gift ($60 million) to a particular campaign manager of a party. 

Corporate executives do not throw around that kind of money without the possibility of a return on investment. 

Even the then political leader of the party had consistently required the individual, who is said to have received the donation/loan, to account for the funds. Investing in political parties by the legitimate and illegitimate business community is a blue chip investment that returns contracts worth billions for the investment of a few million dollars. 

During election campaigns the parties charge each other for receiving funding for their campaigns from drug dealers. 

Against such a background, member of the Joint Select Committee Prakash Ramadhar last week sought to find an excuse for why campaign finance legislation has not been brought to the Parliament in time for the poll said. “It would be wrong really to weigh this issue as if it was delayed for any reason other than the fact that we had a priority listing, procurement being on the highest….” 

Who determines priority and for what reasons? But even the procurement legislation which he says was given high priority, although passed in last December is unlikely to be implemented before the election while billion-dollar contracts are being given out free sheet. They cannot fool little children with their acts of hypocrisy and blatant dishonesty. 

Incidentally, Ramadhar is the political leader of the Congress of the People, the party which contested on the basis of being the conscience of the politics and had divined for itself to be the moral conscience of the government in “New Politics.” 

What of the business community. Elements of it have stayed far from saying anything about campaign finance legislation; they will do nothing to be without influence along the corridors of power. These are some of the “good citizens” who become self righteous and critical of governments and others when commenting on some form of perceived wrong-doing in government, including the award of contracts. 

They were amongst those who developed a Code of Ethics (notably missing a statement on campaign finance) for the parties to follow in their campaigns, yet they do not hold themselves to any code with regard to ethical considerations when it comes to investing in the Treasury. 

Significantly, multi-million dollar campaign financing is gradually eroding the franchise hard-won by ordinary workers and peoples organisations during the 1930s and 1940s. 

The power of the average elector is being undone by the glitzy campaigns concerned more with fluff than substance. 

Campaign funds are devoted to purchasing doubly expensive time on television, radio and ads in the newspapers. Tee shirts, paraphernalia, sound systems and razzle dazzle that take over the stage while the content of the platform is focused around distortion, dishonesty and matters which cannot transform the society. 


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