PLP says billionaire feud signals need for campaign finance reform

PLP says billionaire feud signals need for campaign finance reform
Progressive Liberal Party Chairman, Senator Fred Mitchell.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell declared yesterday that the party is simply “collateral damage” in the feud between Lyford Cay neighbors and longtime rivals Louis Bacon and Peter Nygard.

Mitchell said the latest round of legal action has signaled the need for campaign finance reform.

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, Mitchell pointed to a recent New York Times exposé which revealed that the lawyers and investigators attached to the federal lawsuit were funded in part by Bacon.

“It is clear from that article that this is a fight in the nature of a vendetta between two billionaires in Lyford Cay,” he said.

“The Progressive Liberal Party and The Bahamas is simply collateral damage in this wider dispute.

“It is also clear that the lawsuit and the attempt to conflate political donations to the PLP is part of an orchestrated campaign by monies provided through companies associated with Louis Bacon, the Lyford Cay billionaire who dislikes Mr. Nygard.”

The Times article also made revelations about Bacon’s relationship with prominent human rights lawyer Fred Smith and alleges that Smith paid incentives to some accusers to build an abuse case against the Canadian mogul.

Bacon has defended his role, insisting that “he sought to help and empower the alleged victims by connecting them with appropriate law enforcement authorities”.

The class action complaint, obtained by Eyewitness News, claims Nygard bribed Bahamian police officers and further seeks to correlate the fashion designer’s financial contributions and engagement with the Progressive Liberal Party as evidence of his political influence.

It alleged Nygard provided PLP party members and corrupts police officers with “children and young women to engage in commercial sex acts with”.

Campaign Finance Reform

However, in his statement, Mitchell categorized that linked allegations as a signal for the need for campaign finance reform.

“The issue tied to the money is that this is how wealthy foreign money distorts information and manipulates vulnerable Bahamians during election campaigning,” he said.

“The FNM may have the means to compete with this level of funding but the PLP does not; and it is dangerous. It is a corrupting destructive influence on the Bahamian people and our democracy.”

The PLP chairman suggested that there needs to be a commitment to “safeguarding the Rule of Law in our campaign process.”

When asked by Eyewitness News whether the party is calling on the government for those regulations, Mitchell said “It seems to us that the outside influence of foreign monies, that has to be tacked in some way.”

He however noted that there is currently no consensus on how to move the matter forward regarding certain disclosure requirements.

In December 2018, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said legislation to regulate campaign finances will be implemented before the end of this term — a pledge he made on the campaign trail in the lead up to the 2017 general election

However, when he spoke to reporters as he rushed during the 2020 New Year’s Junkanoo parade, Minnis insisted he still had “seven more years” to do it.

Attorney General Carl Bethel has revealed that a draft campaign finance bill proposes that a campaign donation exceeding $1,000 must be declared; every individual campaign and political party campaign will be required to have a finance officer; and candidates would have to declare to a parliamentary commissioner and be audited by an independent auditor.

Ahead of the last general election, there were claims that Bacon indirectly funded the Free National Movement in an effort to destabilize the Christie administration.

Similarly, ahead of the 2012 election, there were allegations that Nygard gave millions of dollars to the Progressive Liberal Party to help the party win the election.