Gov't to push campaign financing legislation

Saturday, March 31, 2012

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PHILLIP Paulwell, the minister with responsibility for electoral matters, has indicated that the Government will be working with the recommendations of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) on developing political campaign financing legislation.

"The Government is in full support of the report, and we will be drafting laws soon to bring to Parliament," Paulwell said Tuesday during a parliamentary debate on the report of the ECJ, tabled in the House last week.

The ECJ, while conceding that no law exists that cannot be flouted, made a raft of recommendations to Parliament on political campaign financing legislation. The proposals were developed following wide-ranging public consultation on the issue.

The recommendations include proposals dealing with sources of contribution and donations, impermissible donors, limits on contributions to candidates and political parties, limits on election expenditure by candidates and political parties, as well as disclosure by candidates and political parties.

It has also made recommendations relating to state funding of election campaigns, a national campaign fund, campaign advertising and political broadcasts, monitoring and enforcement, and additional capacity for the commission -- all part of efforts to prevent the use of tainted funds in election campaigns.

Paulwell, in opening the debate on the report Tuesday, called on the House to uphold the convention which sees all recommendations of the ECJ being rubber-stamped.

Government member Dr Peter Phillips emphasised that the content of the report should be translated into legislation, going further than upholding the convention by accepting the recommendations of the ECJ. He, however, questioned some of the proposed provisions, including the suggested cap on donations to candidates per donor.

"I suspect we are already in breach; I urge that when the legislation is prepared it takes in consideration our reality," Phillips said.

As it relates to its proposal to place limits on contributions or donations to political parties, the ECJ has proposed that "the total amount of contribution given by a donor should not exceed, in a single campaign period, $1 million to a single candidate, or $1 million multiplied by the number of constituencies being contested by a political party, provided that the total amount given to all candidates and political parties does not exceed $10 million".

In addition, the ECJ is recommending that every political party and candidate must submit separately to the commission, during a campaign period, monthly reports of contributions or donations received, giving details in respect of each donor.

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