July 23, 2014 at 10:58 a.m.

JetGate: Campaign finance reform is needed

JetGate: Campaign finance reform is needed
JetGate: Campaign finance reform is needed

By Larry Burchall- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

In the end the whole affair is fizzling out.  One Premier lost, one Attorney General resigned, two or three lawsuits initialled, and $348,000 not accounted for.

Clean politics is full of twists and turns and side deals but is conducted, mostly, in the open. 

Dirty politics simply has more twists, turns, and side deals and is conducted, mostly, in the shadows.

Let’s face it, there is a lot wrong with our political mechanisms. 

The chief ill is that campaign and political party funding is completely unregulated. That leaves the political funding process wide open to abuse if everybody involved is sleazy, shadowy, and easily suckered. On the other hand, if people are generally high-principled, they may hold onto most — but usually not all — of their principles despite financial offers. OBA Chairman Thad Hollis, who offered his resignation yesterday, issued a statement saying that $350,000 had been received and that $348,000 had been expended. It also said that he hadn’t the foggiest idea where that $348,000 went.

So $348,000 either went “Poof!” into thin air, or it went into somebody’s pocket or pockets. Since Derrick Green was working for the OBA as their in-house political consultant, he must have been paid something. As an American, Green will have to declare any earnings to the IRS. If other monies went to Bermudian entities, then, under Bermuda law, those Bermudians entities won’t have to declare their earnings. They can hide. It’s Bermuda law. It’s been that way for all time. Hiding isn’t illegal. It’s just unethical and immoral for politicians to stand in public and promise ‘squeaky clean’ but, in the shadows, be handling money in a way that many would find unethical and immoral. 

You may recall that the actions of a few politicians of the recent past have been publicly reported as unethical, but not illegal.

In all, this display of sleaze, the attempted cover-ups, the unaccounted for $348,000, and the fact that there is evidence of ‘pay-to-play’ backroom deals, means that this Government, certainly when it was headed by the now-resigned Premier, was an administration that actually did engage in what looks like sleaze and cover-ups.  

As such, and until it has established a clear and new track record of proven openness and honesty, this replacement administration ought not be trusted.  After all, many of the players are still in the same game. Looking wider, Bermuda needs campaign and political financing laws that will be administered by an independent regulatory body that probably is answerable only to the Governor, as are the Chief Justice, Commissioner of Police, Public Service Commission, etc….

From 1996-1998 I co-chaired the PLP campaign that brought the PLP to power in November 1998. During that time and before, as a columnist, I was privy to much inside information about goings-on in the UBP — which was the party that we were fighting.

I was aware, and verified, that the biggest chunk of UBP financing came in the form of two $250,000 annual grants from Bermuda’s two largest banks. The allocation of these funds never showed up in their annual financials but all the directors knew of them, and, year after year, approved them.

I was also aware, and verified, of the existence of the ‘500 Club’. This was a fundraising mechanism which required that certain groups of practising Bermudian business professionals should pay an annual amount of $500 into a fund which was then paid over to the UBP. This operation had been initiated and was run by a well-known Hamilton businessman. Neither of these two broad mechanisms funded the PLP to the same extent.

There was nothing in Bermuda law that prevents that kind of cash support. There is nothing that prevents an American from dropping a cool million into a Bermuda political party’s bank account. Nothing, that is, except American laws that bar Americans from doing that kind of thing in a foreign country.

Jetgate showed what can happen when neophyte political aspirants with low moral thresholds enter the crazy world of politics where Up can be Down, Left can be Right, and Forward can mean Reverse.

In a time when Bermuda desperately needs strong national leadership, all we’ve seen is weakness, sleaze, and some elements of downright stupidity.

Right now, I think that Voltaire’s 18th century observation about the English method of handling their Admirals has some strong merit. 

Larry Burchall may be contacted at [email protected]

JetGate Exclusive:

JetGate: 'Here's how the $350k was spent'

JetGate: ‘Wouldn’t do it again’

JetGate: Hollis offers to resign — is another OBA man set to fall on his sword?

Police probe JetGate scandal

JetGate: ‘I did it because I believe in Craig’

JetGate: DeCosta reflects on fallout

JetGate: Landow responds to OBA probe


Following the OBA Jetgate bread crumbs

Pity the OBA investigation was the result of spin control


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