Pay your way
By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, October 10 2013
THE withdrawal of an Independent Liberal Party (ILP) candidate from the October 21 local government elections, over a funding row, has thrown the spotlight on the question of who must finance election campaigns in TT - the candidate or the party?
Arnott Daniel, ILP candidate for East Dry River in the Port-of-Spain City Corporation, has had his nomination withdrawn due to a clash with the party on campaign-funding, he told Newsday yesterday. Accompanied by his wife and campaign manager, Natasha, Daniel said he had spent $1,500 from his own pocket to start his campaign but had never been reimbursed by the ILP. He said he had submitted a request for reimbursement but it had fallen on deaf ears.
Asked if they had any receipts to submit to the ILP, Natasha said many of the costs were for items paid for locally for which receipts would not usually be issued, such as paying a driver or buying beverages/snacks for residents. ILP chairman Robin Montano told Newsday the party had made it very clear from the beginning that each candidate would have to fund his/her own campaign. “Every single person screened by the ILP was asked if they could do their own funding,” insisted Montano. “From the very beginning they were told in advance that no funding was available. That’s a fact.”
Newsday asked the PNM and UNC how their candidates are funded. PNM PRO, Faris Al-Rawi, said PNM candidates are funded by a two-pronged or bifurcated approach. “Firstly the central party raises campaign financing through donations, membership dues, rents and receipts, and transparent exercises such as car-raffles and other party events,” he said. “Secondly, the campaign manager of a candidate coordinates the raising of funds locally through constituency or electoral-seat events.” Al-Rawi said the PNM can easily point to the number of boat rides and other fund-raising events that each candidate has successfully promoted from April, when candidates were selected, to date.
“So we are very well-organised and accustomed to this process. We have a structure. We are in this 57 years.” He said if any individual candidate has his/her own access to funding, then that could ramp up the quality of his/her campaign. Al-Rawi scoffed that he has heard that many ILP candidates are complaining about having to pay their $2,500 election deposit.
UNC chairman, Khadijah Ameen, said each UNC candidate is told at his/her screening that he/she must fund their own campaign, but that in practice much help materialises from businesses and supporters within the local community. “At our screening committee we ask every person how much their campaign will cost and how they will fund it,” she said. “Some have savings, some have business backgrounds, or their family will assist.” She said the UNC then asks the area coordinator to produce a budget for the campaign, noting that many do produce very realistic projections based on the past experience of councillors. Newsday asked if the party helps with funding? “Sometimes we assist, but all candidates are expected to fund their own campaigns,” she replied. “This year we asked every single candidate how much their campaign will cost.”
Yet she recalled that the first time she ran as a councillor in 2003, the UNC had paid her $2,000 election deposit, which was then refunded to the party after her win. She did not get other help from the central party along the campaign but instead got help from local supporters.
“Our campaigns are very, very local,” she replied. “Often businessmen in the community will contribute. For example one businessman provides water for the walkabout. Then there are the banners. I had a guy with a music truck who said, ‘that’s my contribution to the campaign’.”
UNC deputy leader, Dr Roodal Moonilal, also confirmed to Newsday that the party’s candidacies are funded “by candidate and local fund-raising of members and activists”.