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NTUCB President Calls for Campaign Finance Laws Amid Senate Revelations

"Revelations such as those raised at this week's Senate Select Committee session, whether substantiated or not, is a constant reminder that Belize needs to move to establish proper laws and regulations as it pertains to Campaign Financing," declared Luke Martinez, the president of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB).


Speaking with The Reporter in a recent interview, Martinez, underscored that Belizeans need to continue the push for good-governance reform.


As it specifically relates to campaign finance reform, this matter has returned to the forefront in the wake of the testimony by Portico developer David Gegg before the Senate Special Select Committee on Wednesday, May 8th, 2024. Gegg claimed he was solicited for campaign financing by unnamed political figures within the last administration.


“I received a message, and I interpreted that message as saying to me that the environmental documentation approved on August 28 would not be concluded in the absence of a significant campaign contribution,” he told the committee. Despite probing by Senator Bevington Cal, Gegg did not disclose the identities of the individuals involved or the exact amount of money requested, though he confirmed it was a seven-figure sum.


Last July, Martinez, speaking on the Senate Motion to trigger the Senate Enquiry into the much-talked-about Definitive Agreement, and more generally on the call for good governance, said, “Run the campaign finance legislation, leader of government business…run the campaign finance legislation, because when we start with this inquiry, we find out indeed who has set up their retirement plan and who is setting up their retirement plan.”


For their part, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) had also raised this matter. Last January, BCCI had met with the media to present their proposed bill to regulate campaign financing, an amendment to the Representation of the Peoples Act.

 

A Longstanding Matter

 

Campaign Financing is a matter that The Reporter has been covering for some time. In December 2022, for instance, we also interviewed Collet Area Representative Hon. Patrick Faber on the subject. Faber expressed support, stressing that pivotal areas include setting a ceiling on campaign spending and demanding transparency regarding the source of campaign funds.


Faber intimated that the ceiling does not have to be very high. He explained to The Reporter that throughout his approximately two decades of being the representative for the Collet Division, he has never spent more than $300,000.


“In my first campaign, I spent about $15,000 in 2003. The highest is possibly $250,000, and for sure below $300,000,” Faber explained, as he made the point that there is no need for the ceiling—which is designed to level the playing field between political candidates—to be extremely high.


He also underscored the point that it is really up to politicians to build relationships with their constituents instead of relying on large sums of campaign spending to court votes.


Draft Bill

For his part, former Senate President Darrell Bradley had circulated a draft Campaign Finance Bill in 2020. The Bill, which Bradley dubbed the Political Parties (Registration and Financial Reporting) [draft] Act 2020, called for the disclosure of contributors as well as set limits on spending. For example, section 23(2) read:


“No person shall make a campaign finance contribution in excess of the limit of $5,000 to any one candidate in any month.”


It had also called for limits for Political Parties, saying, “No political party shall receive in excess of $100,000 from one campaign finance contribution in any month.”


In terms of accountability, Faber did warn, however, that while it is needed for increased transparency, the concern may come from contributors who would likely prefer that their financing of candidates or political parties remain confidential.


At present, Belize lacks any political party registration or campaign financing laws.

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