NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Executive Director Matthew Aubrey said yesterday that the need to enact campaign finance reform is “hard to ignore”, in light of recent accusations surrounding Lyford Cay residents Louis Bacon and Peter Nygard.
Aubrey’s comments following revelations contained in a federal class action lawsuit filed in Manhattan, accusing Nygard of using his wealth and political influence in The Bahamas to lure, rape and sodomize more than 10 women, most of whom were underage guests at his infamous Nygard Cay “pamper parties”.
However, a recent New York Times exposé revealed that the lawyers and investigators attached to the sex trafficking lawsuit were funded in part by Bacon.
The exposé released on Sunday details the allegations surrounding the federal lawsuit within the context of the longstanding feud between the pair.
There has been claims that Nygard gave millions of dollars to fund the 2012 Progressive Liberal Party election campaign, and similar claims that Bacon indirectly funded the Free National Movement’s last general election.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Aubrey said “I think it is critical that we address this issue of campaign finance here in The Bahamas.”
“This highlights something that’s has been talked about by our group, Citizen for a Better Bahamas, Bar Association, [and] the Chamber of Commerce.”
“The issue is really understanding that our campaigns are as free from big money influence as possible, so that we achieve that level of democracy that is necessary.”
Last month, during a town hall meeting, funded by the Free National Movement, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis launched the party’s 2022 election campaign.
The PLP launched its election campaign during a rally at Columbus Primary School earlier this month.
Aubrey said, “If we see this as the opening of silly season, then we know that the window is fast closing for different pieces of legislation – campaign finance, the Integrity Bill, the Ombudsman Bill, Freedom of Information.
“All of these really stand on deck as crucial things that need to happen before we get into the next election.
“Obviously, campaign finance has such direct implications, so we would want to move on something like that much quicker. I think the timing of something like this case brings it to attention in a way that’s it’s hard to ignore the impact.”
PLP party members were named in a federal class action lawsuit filed in a Manhattan Court detailing allegations of a decades-long sex-trafficking scheme that Nygard and his companies knowingly facilitated and benefitted from – and Bahamian officials were allegedly paid to ignore.
In a statement on the matter, PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell insisted that the party is simply “collateral damage” to the fued.
Mitchell said the latest round of legal action has signaled the need for campaign finance reform.
The matter was touted heavily during the FNM’s 2017 election campaign.
Minnis pledge to implement the police before the end of this term — but has recently said he still had “seven more years” to do it.
But Aubrey yesterday underscored that that prime minister must act now.
“I don’t think that’s a very realistic timeline,” he said.
“I think no one knows what will come from it. The people will determine what happens in the election.
“So what this government knows it has is the next few years. Within those few years there’s still great opportunity to have impact and follow up on some of these campaign promises – things that were in the manifesto that called for changes within this term”
He added “It’s important for the citizenry to continue to hold that expectation and push for passage
“All of these things are variables that we can’t control but we absolutely do have the potential to push forward these key pieces of legislation in a timeline that is more responsive to the interest and needs of the Bahamian people.
“That’s something that can be done now.”