The vagrancy of political campaign finance

| 18/01/2021 | 28 Comments

Ezzard Miller writes: The current Elections Law in the Cayman Islands has very limited provisions for the control of political campaign finance. The law specifies the maximum that a candidate can spend in an election campaign, the period for which expenses must be accounted and reported, and who can incur these expenses.

In the Elections Law (2017 Revision), campaign finance is covered in Part V, Election Expenses, and consist of sections 64 (Appointment of agents), 65 (Candidate’s expenses), 66 (Unauthorised expenditure), 67 (Limitation of election expenses), 68 (Time for sending in and paying claims), 69 (Returns as to election expenses), 70 (Penalty for sitting or voting where no return and declaration transmitted), 71 (Disclosure by candidates), 72 )Prohibition of expenses not authorized by candidate), and 73 (Definition of “election expenses” for the purposes of this Part).

Now, to the casual observer these provisions may seem adequate and need not be changed to control the current corruptive practices and vote buying. I have tried repeatedly over the past decade to get better control of campaign financing and vote buying, without any success.

The main impediment to honest accounting of campaign finance is found in section 67 (Limitation of election expenses), where it states in sub-section (3): “ In determining the total expenditure incurred in relation to the candidature of any person at any election no account shall be taken of – (a) any deposit made by the candidate on his nomination in compliance with the law; and (b) any expenditure incurred before the date of nomination of the candidate with respect to services rendered or material supplied before such nomination.”

The practical application of section 67 (3) means that the candidate can spend all he/she wants before Nomination Day and not have to give any account of those expenses. This could be hundreds of thousands of dollars by an individual candidate or millions of dollars by a political party.

In addition, section 66 (2) says: “ No candidate shall be deemed to be guilty of an illegal practice by reason of any other person having incurred any expenditure in connection with the candidature of the candidate in contravention of this Part, unless it can be proven that such expenditure was incurred with his knowledge or consent or that he did not take all reasonable steps to prevent the incurrence of such expenditure.”

These sections need to change to include all expenses by a candidate, or anyone else, related to any election for a least a year leading up to the election for new candidates and sitting members of parliament for the whole term they are in office.

It is foolhardy to limit a candidate’s expenses to the period from Nomination Day to Polling Day, about six weeks, but give them free range on expenditures before Nomination Day, especially including the Christmas before elections.

This provision of the Elections Law (2017 Revision) turns every Christmas before an election into the best opportunity to buy votes under the guise of Christmas cheer.

Last Christmas (2020) in the North Side Electoral District there was the occurrence of a former leader of the Cayman Islands Government supplying envelopes for his party’s candidate to distribute to persons in this district that contained the following vouchers: $100 for Foster’s Food Fair, $100 for CUC and $100 for the Water Authority, in addition to the turkeys, chickens and hams that were distributed by the same party candidate.

 In North Side, with about one thousand houses, that could represent as much as $300,000, not including the turkeys, chickens and hams, as we have to assume they would give to most of the households, with a few exceptions like mine. This candidate is not required by the Elections Law to account for and report this money

It would also be a safe assumption that these funds did not originate with the candidate or the former leader of government business. So where did this money come from? Could it be from some multi-millionaire developer who wants some favours, like not take down an illegal wall or shift a prescriptive right of way to the beach, that bend our laws to their advantage over Caymanians, the very people whose vote they are attempting to influence?

It is truly disappointing to see these persons become couriers or bagmen for corruptive purposes by persons with cash to burn for corruptive purposes.

This type of activity during the Christmas before the election can only be to influence votes, as I don’t recall these same persons being so generous in their Christmas cheer over the previous Christmases since 2016.

This kind of corrosive corrupt political practices that disrespect the value of our electors is no different from the persons who went to the west coast of Africa and bought or captured persons for sale in the New World during the slave trade. Once you succumb to accepting these gifts to influence your vote in the 2021 May elections, whether overtly or covertly, you will have the same rights and expectations as the slaves had in the New World.

This kind of unholy generosity by those declared candidates and others who may declare that are currently negotiating their way through legal complications of non-compliance with existing laws, like pension and health insurance, to prevent likely convictions of dishonesty, is a very Trumpian form of diversion. These persons need to be exposed, charged and maybe convicted by the government authorities, who run the risk of maybe being complicit in the coverup.

They are now paying lawyers thousands of dollars to defend themselves but refused to pay their employees. These employers should not be allowed to pay up the pension contributions and avoid the conviction of dishonesty. They broke the laws and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the laws as well as pay up the pensions, especially if they falsified documents submitted to government agencies to get certain licences.

Not complying with the pension and health insurance law and depriving long-term, multi-year employees of their protections and benefits of these laws is a serious moral, ethical and legal offence. Consider the tens of thousands of dollars they have deprived their employees access to during this COVID-19 pandemic pension withdrawal, when they surely needed the money.

All this should be seriously considered before voting for these candidates. If they deliberately and selfishly refuse to comply with these “safety net” legal obligations for their employees, what kind of dishonest representatives would they be in Parliament.

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Category: 2021 General Elections, Elections, Politics, Viewpoint

Comments (28)

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  1. J .A .Roy Bodden says:

    Patronage has always existed in Caymanian politics . The difference is that at present “big money ” ,”high stakes “and “special interests leads “the practice to become more common place and the activities more obscene than they were previously . The Elections Law and to an extent other laws are intended to guard against such corrupt practices but the fact that our system is “a winner takes all “system means smart players find loopholes to exploit all too often the rule books are jettisoned and the “Law of the Jungle supersedes all civil and practices. If past practices are any indication I am afraid not too many players can lay claim to being “innocent Abigail”.

    I have written at length about patronage and political corruption in Caymanian society in my work entitled “Patronage , Personalities and Parties :Caymanian Politics from 1950-2000.(Ian Randle 2010) I have revisited the phenomenon in my forthcoming work “From the Vestry to the Premier :The Evolution of Caymanian Politics”.

    Interestingly enough , patronage and corruption as political phenomena are not limited to the Cayman Islands and are part of that system which the British euphemistically describe as “honest opportunism”. For a fuller understanding of the deleterious effects of these practices I recommend reading Selwyn Douglas Ryan’s “Winner Takes All :The Westminster Experience in the Anglophone Caribbean.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Looks like the duty waiver on one highrise development is enough to fund a full slate of candidates. Coincidence?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m so tired of the dirty politics.

    Mr Miller didn’t you give out a hot turkey meal for Thanksgiving? Yes you did!!

    Now tell me whats the difference between you and the other people you speak of.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Politics should become obsolete and best candidates chosen by a panel base on their abilities to do the job.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Ezzard is just jealous because he has(and never will) none of this support.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Section 95 of the Elections Law already creates the offence of what the public would describe as “vote buying”. Whether e.g. politicians buying turkeys is simply non-criminal philanthropic largesse or is an offence under Section 95 of the Elections Law will be for a court of law to determine, not the court of public opinion. Step one is to get someone charged with an offence. That process starts with members of the public reporting specifics to the police so they can investigate, not people just making general statements in newspaper comments sections. If people truly want change they have the power to bring it about.

  7. Chris Matthews-Ebanks says:

    All the wealthy developers are already spending hundreds of thousands on their preferred candidates or the Progressives that they already control. Fundraising is key for all candidates. Look at all the vouchers and cash that will flood certain neighborhoods. The other payments are contracts in the public and private sector to their supporters. Vote buying takes various forms.

    The options for voters in 2021 will be candidates that want to do good for all Caymanians versus the incumbents in government that believe a 100,000 population is the solution and protect big business at all costs.

    • Kaya now says:

      Hullo all ona intelligentsia people. Every person has one an opinion that is a d most don’t understand what rhetpy day. There is a riddle in da statement go figure.

      Anywho this piece written by Missa Ezzard is shameful , shameful in dat de man who say he wants to stamp out corruption, is talking about what some X man did, but fe Lazarus sake he can’t eve have the balls to NAME the individual? Why de rats ass this farce is allowed to exist in these islands. Yeah we get that it has become a habit to spread joy to the people , politicians including ? Do it, developers do it, business people do it and they alll a dem want something in return nah true.

      We know it’s wrong Exxard, you know it , zHer amesty and the Guv know it, but you of all people know that hear so can’t go to court sah. So before ya open ya mouth to respond to i and I or to bring this subject up again, be damn well and prepared to NAME and shame the individual(s) involved. You aspire to lead then lead from the front foot Breda.

  8. JTB says:

    The offences of treating, undue influence etc under Part IX of the Elections Law are not subject to those time limits. If anyone had the political will to clamp down on Christmas bribery, the law is there to do it.

    • Anonymous says:

      If we want to know how bad it is: not one person has filed a complaint about McKeeva Bush’s unabashed treating event on 26th. Media did not attend, even knowing the date. Not even his parole officers noticed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Voters are just bad at keeping promises. Every election they say “Eat them out! Drink them out! and Vote them out!” but rarely do they ever get 1 out of 3 correct.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Why won’t you name the candidate? Providing handouts with a view to obtaining votes is corruption, and failing to name names makes you complicit.

    • Anonymous says:

      How are you so sure the candidate and the other parties have not bee reported to the proper authorities.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “I have tried repeatedly over the past decade to get BETTER CONTROL of campaign financing and vote buying, without any success.”

    How and when more recently have you tried Mr Miller? Anytime in the last four previous years? Rooster FM, and Op Eds on CNS, are not the correct forums to credibly sound your grievances, and we have paid you handsomely as a Legislator to know that. While we’re at it, why wouldn’t an ethical crusader seek the full eradication of gifting and vote buying? You would stop short of the finish line and settle for just a level illicit playing field seeking “better control” over the season and scale of corrupt and forbidden gifting activity?

    The last newsworthy peep on this topic was a light objection to a PPM Ritz dinner in May 2016, but with no Legislative follow-through since:

    In the last ten years we don’t recall any Amendments being tabled by the Member from Northside to the House to reform the Elections Law. As a veteran legislator, surely Mr Miller would be familiar with the correct mechanisms to compel this change. It would have been front page news. On the contrary, the record shows Mr Miller sat contently and given the opportunity, was vocally all-in for the Legislative Assembly Management Law (2020) in Oct/Nov, which gifted self-autonomy, self-remuneration, waiver from SIPL, and deeper cloaks of non-compliance to the Parliamentary gilded membership. Hurrah, they exclaimed in unison!

    Mr Miller has presided over a decade of stinking methane-filled PAC reviews, yet always stops short of gathering appropriate evidence, filing appropriate House/Business non-compliance reports, and failing to get convincing traction on important ethical matters.

    So, in a nutshell: why ought the Cayman public vote for a party who’s leader is so morally confused and action-less? Mr Miller doesn’t seem to grasp the ethical confusion he portrays to the public by framing his disgust only in terms of comparative fairness – and always it seems, in the wrong forum. That he’s read and adjudicated so much corrupt governance behavior (perhaps more than anyone else in LA/Parliament), and has never taken anyone down for their corruption, speaks to the calibration problems with his own compass.

    • A. Voter says:

      Mr. 10:53 am: Just because no action has been taken to punish thieves doesn’t mean thieves are O.K. Let’s try this: VOTE THEM OUT!

      • Anonymous says:

        Please stop saying “Vote them out”. There is no mechanism to vote out, or the House would be empty. We can only vote in, and then suffer whatever is dealt for 4 years. The public needs 19 new district options/candidates, and an entirely new party-affiliated dogma that aligns with public sentiment. The Elections Law needs to be changed to open up the field and deepen the pond of candidates. I don’t see it happening organically in the days we have left before the next decision date, when we are likely doomed to return a PPM-led government.

    • Corruption gotta go says:

      To 10:53am: you sound like Austin. 🤨 Well, pompous writing does not make your statements right.

  12. anon says:

    However bad it is in North cannot compare to the decades old system in West Bay.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Those that have gifted and greased their constituents, to the extent described (and there seem to be a few), should be reported and jailed. Electee oath and conduct is not a light switch that can be switched on and off – it’s supposed to be valid from the first oath and for life. Why do these criminals deserve this anonymity? Report them, detail the misconduct, and publish ALL their names!

    • Anonymous says:

      Jailed for which crime? The people distributing the generous gifts not elected officials. The campaign financing laws need to change and go back 12 months before an election.

      • Anonymous says:

        Treating and gifting, is prohibited behavior by all members past and present that took the oath at any time. That includes at all times outside of the nomination season.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Just name names, its the same nonsense you will be doing with hushed whispers about Jay during the next election and his source of income.

    If you have proof of wrong doing just say it outside of the house where you get legal protection!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Give it a rest. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Or, you know, take the items and play gifts but still mark an X next to a different candidate if you feel like it. They can’t confirm if you voted.

    Make them waste their money.. this practice obviously na going away too soon.

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