Should we know who gives contributions to political parties? *Illustration by Gary Foster Skelton
Should we know who gives contributions to political parties? *Illustration by Gary Foster Skelton

Bermuda’s political divide could not be wider at the moment but the parties do seem to agree on one thing: the need to address the prickly issue of whether party donations should be made public.

PLP leader Marc Bean told the Bermuda Sun that his party was currently discussing the issue with a view to improving transparency.

He said donated campaign funds should be disclosed to the public in the best interests of transparency.

An OBA source said the issue needed to be looked at and that Bermuda could learn from countries like the US and UK to add extra accountability.

Mr Bean added: “In politics around the world, politics is fed on a diet of special interests and special interest groups.

“In the United States it’s termed lobbying and it is legal but in the Westminster system, although not illegal it is frowned upon.

“Because of that special interest it does create a wedge between the voters and the politicians who are receiving those votes.

“It is a concern and it should be to any right-thinking individual under the principle of transparency.”

At present in Bermuda there is no law that requires political parties to divulge their campaign donations.

Mr Bean said: “We know that political parties require financing to run campaigns and so you are going to receive donations from members and sometimes non-members and that contribution can be considered and should be considered in the perspective of privacy and discretion.

“Quite frankly, all political parties require some type of financing and it’s a balance that’s going to have to be struck.

“On the principle of transparency, then it’s something that we should all look at.”

An OBA source said that much could be learned from the US and the UK rules on campaign donations.

“There’s a reason why they have the rules baked into the process — just for transparency,” said the source.

Accountability

“It adds layers of accountability and should prevent a lot of the corrupt practices. The big money backers can only give a certain amount.”

In the US, the Federal Election Commission Contribution Limits website for 2014 shows that an individual may give a maximum of $32,400 to a national party committee in one year and up to $2,600 to any one individual political candidate.

Our source added: “Those donations are made public and there’s a lot of merit in that. Are we there in Bermuda yet? We’re not. Should we be? Perhaps.

“The tricky thing in Bermuda is there are some people who supported the OBA this last election, that I believe traditionally supported the PLP.

“So if they’re giving their emotional support, but their financial support as well, they’re doing so because it’s not public record.

“Who knows what the knock-on effect would be if that were public?”

“This is something we need to sit down, look at and chew over.” 


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