Campaign finance bill a ‘priority’

Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that a draft campaign finance bill proposes the declaration of any campaign donation exceeding $1,000.

“Any donation over $1,000 will have to be declared and it will have to be audited,” Bethel told The Nassau Guardian.

“Every individual campaign and political party campaign will have to have a finance officer who keeps and maintains financial records.”

Bethel said the declarations would not be “publicly available”.

He said candidates would have to declare to a parliamentary commissioner and be audited by an independent auditor.

“And so, at the end of the campaign, a clear statement of who gave what to that campaign will be available,” Bethel said.

“[I]t must be given to the commissioner and if required for the purpose of any legal proceeding to see whether or not money is paid or given to a politician in campaign donations or otherwise. We’ll have a clear record of what that candidate declared within a campaign donation.”

Bethel said that he “personally” reviewed and revised a draft bill from 2010 and “cut it down” before sending it to draftspersons.

“I removed provisions in the previous draft, which called for the public financing of election campaigns, restricted it to political parties registered under the Parliamentary Elections Act and candidates to be registered under that act,” he said.

“And its operations will be strictly limiting the amount of cash or kind donations. When I say cash or kind, one may donate to a campaign by rendering services, lending a campaign bus or truck, whatever. [S]o, cash or kind donations may be made to any individual candidate or to any party registered under the Parliamentary Elections Act.”

Bethel said that campaign finance legislation is a “priority” for the Office of the Attorney General.

He said the Minnis administration hopes to enact the legislation ahead of the next election.

On the 2017 election campaign trail, Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis promised that, if elected, his government would bring legislation to regulate campaign financing.

Minnis said the legislation will be implemented before the end of this term.

The matter has been a longstanding issue.

Ahead of the last election, there were allegations that Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard provided millions of dollars to help the Progressive Liberal Party win the election in 2012 and claims that Nygard’s Lyford Cay neighbor, Louis Bacon, indirectly funded the Free National Movement in an effort to destabilize the Christie administration.

Following the 2012 election, the Organization of American States (OAS) recommended that the government implement a framework for financing political parties.

The OAS team also recommended that the government prohibit anonymous donations or international donors from giving money to campaigns and create a mechanism to oversee the flow of money within campaigns.

Despite repeated pronouncements that his administration would address the issue of money in elections, former Prime Minister Perry Christie never did.

In 1980, the then-Pindling administration drafted a bill to govern money in politics.

The bill, however, never made it off the shelf.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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