Davis: PLP would support campaign finance legislation

Davis: PLP would support campaign finance legislation
Opposition Leader, Philip Davis.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said the opposition will support legislation to regulate campaign finance reform, but will review what the Minnis administration eventually introduces in Parliament before committing further.

Ahead of the last election, Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis pledged that if elected his government would introduce campaign finance reform legislation.

He did not commit to a timeframe, however.

Earlier this month, Minnis, now prime minister, said that legislation will come before the end of this term.

“Yes, we all talk about it, but the time has come,” he said.

“But again, that requires change and you know how we as a people are when change is discussed. We talk it, but we’re very slow to embrace it.

“…We support it in principle, but the question is how will it be drafted?”

Asked whether the legislation should require political organizations to disclose substantial donations, similarly to the proposed requirements of the Non-Profit Organizations bill, which would require those organizations to report donations over $50,000, Davis said, “I think all has to be taken in the mix and to consider.”

The issue of campaign finance reform legislation was raised during the recent debate in Parliament on a compendium of financial sector bills.

The bills seek to meet the requirements of international financial sector regulatory bodies to avoid sanctions, including blacklisting.

Among those bills was the NPO bill.

Parliament passed the bill last month.

However, debate on the legislation was delayed in the Senate.

The move was triggered by the outcry from civic society organizations, which said the bill, in its current form, would wipe out NPOs.

There was also concern about a lack of consultation.

The bill requires non-profit organizations to register; declare their source of contributions; identify the controllers and members; demonstrate how gross annual income was applied; and evidence know your customer procedures.

The bill also requires NPOs to report donations of $50,000 or more.

These organizations would also be required to report their 10 largest donations.

Citizens for a Better Bahamas suggested the legislation should cover political organizations and require them to publicly disclose their financial statements.

Davis disagreed.

“I don’t think political organizations are NPOs in the context of what is being achieved by the financial services industry,” he said.

The NPO bill is a Financial Action Task Force requirement.

“We are political organizations. Yes, there are aspects [of] campaign reform in there [but], at the end of the day we have supporters, and maybe not members.
“The NPOs have membership.

“…And so, there is a difference [and] it is a different creature when you are dealing with political organizations. I would expect that we ought to regulate it — and quite frankly the regulations is in hands of the people. At the end of the day, political organizations are formed with an objective to become the government.

“Once they are in government, they are regulated and chastised by the electorate to vote them out or vote them in.

“I think the time has come for us just to; that will require a different kind of legislation taking into consideration the nuances of our cultural experience as it relates to political organizations, their evolution and how they are to be sustained moving forward.”