Money in Dominica's elections is now on steroids: Don't say you were not warned
"There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can't remember what the second one is"
Marcus Alonzo Hanna (September 24, 1837 – February 15, 1904), American businessman, Republican politician, United States Senator, Ohio
"We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob"
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945; 32nd President of the United States of America.
During the on-going 2020 election campaign there are stories, from reliable sources, of tables in backrooms covered with currency of various denominations waiting to be placed in envelopes and distributed to the faithful; there are anecdotes of hundreds of thousands of dollars used to charter boats taking dozens of supporters to a town hall meeting, in a foreign state; there are narratives of town hall meetings in many towns in North America; there are scenes of thousands, dressed in uni-colours, drunk on political ultra-partisanship, being bussed to carnival-like mega-events almost every other weekend to far-flung corners of the island; there are allegations of candidates being rewarded to run and paid not-to-run; then there are dozens of tales of "cool-outs", the new word for a small or large grant, solicited or unsolicited, paid only in cash, no receipts, no traces, no invoices, no names.
Then last week Lennox Linton, the leader of the opposition, detonated a nuclear missile in the House of Assembly when he alleged that the figures in the government's 2019-2020 budget did not add up, especially as it relates to the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme. Then, as Dominicans are great at doing, they created the term: "Way di Money".
But as we stated in an earlier editorial, money has always corrupted Dominican politics but in this current election campaign cash in the hands of politicians is on steroids- abnormal, blown out of proportions, nauseating.
An example of political money on steroids is the allegation that one political party here had budgeted EC$72 million for the 2019 campaign. The point is, if each political party was able to spend even fifty percent of that amount during the election campaign then we could argue that the playing field was somewhat level and not completely lop-sided towards the Dominica Labour Party (DLP). Remember, money buys everything- elections included.
As Bruno Wilhelm Speck states in an OECD background paper entitled: "Money in Politics: Sound Political Competition and Trust in Government" the "candidates that are well funded are likely to defeat opponents who have less money and that "the amount of money in a candidate's war chest can determine victory or defeat"; and it follows that money will buy the next government that will, inevitably, be at the beck and call of the supplier (or suppliers) of the millions of dollars spent in the political campaign.
Almost everyone who has witnessed political campaigns here will attest to the fact that it takes large amounts of money to run these events. Over the past two election campaigns, for instance, the two major political parties spent tens of millions of dollars on billboards, radio, television and newspaper advertising; the bussing of supporters to mass rallies (that now resemble massive fetes); paying air tickets for persons from the Diaspora to travel here to vote, and on campaigning from house to house and village to village.
In fact, the 2014 campaign was the most expensive election ever held in Dominica. And it looks like the 2020 campaign will exceed 2014; so when are we going to say enough is enough?
Unconfirmed reports indicated the Dominica Labour Party (DLP) alone spent more than EC$40 million on that 2014 campaign. No one knows who financed the DLP campaign; we make the same observation about the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) campaign as well. If one party spends $40 million and another just two or three millions on a campaign, is this a fair election? Can we say, honestly, that we have had free and fair elections in Dominica?
So, as we stated many times, we need to enact campaign finance laws, and then enforce them. Otherwise the political culture of corruption will continue to destroy citizens' faith and confidence in their elected officials. It is our view that the level of funds in parties' coffers will always determine who wins elections.
The view that money tends to corrupt the political process is described by Wellington Ramos of Belize who wrote in the Caribbean Net News that "Two of the most dangerous things that can happen to our democracy is to allow people with money to pay our citizens to vote for them to assume office and for people with money to use their funds to run for office even though they are not capable and competent to carry out the duties of the office they seek".
Undoubtedly, money and politics are inseparable twins. Money determines who runs, who wins and ultimately how political parties govern. Almost everyone who witnessed political campaigns here expects upcoming campaigns to be even costlier and yet few persons know the source of all that money: is it coming from drug dealers, rich businessmen, foreign governments, the Columbian drug cartels, the Chinese or the Russian mafia?
Who knows,who cares! God help us.