Thu | May 23, 2019

Campbell, Meadows hunt election funding online

Published:Tuesday | January 19, 2016 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton

At least two candidates who will be contesting the parliamentary election due this year have turned to crowdfunding as a source of raising money for their campaign.

Dr Dayton Campbell, the member of parliament for North West St Ann, and Dennis Meadows, who is the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) standard-bearer for North Trelawny, have both set up web-based accounts begging for contributions to run their campaigns.

Campbell, a medical doctor who was first elected in 2011 and is seeking a second term, and is targeting US$50,000 (J$6 million) via the GoFundMe platform.

Meadows, a two-time loser in North Trelawny, is seeking to raise US$10,000 (J$1.2 million) through his website.

"When you seek to get funding in the traditional way, what tends to come with it are conditions, whether written or unspoken," Meadows said.

"My objective is to relieve myself of any possible obligation to anyone," he added.

Small contributions

For Campbell, the old saying that he who pays the piper calls the tune is real. He said that if is to be dependent on a few large financiers he would be beholden to them.

"There are a lot of persons who have said that they are appreciative of the work that I have been doing and I am asking them that if they want to see that sort of work continue undistributed, to make a small contribution towards the cause," Campbell told The Gleaner.

Thus far, only US$60 (J$7,200) has been raised since the Dr Dayton Campbell - Election Fund was launched on November 18, 2015. One donor, Anika Mitchell, contributed US$50 (J$6,000) and an anonymous donor contributed US$10 ($1,200). The MP told The Gleaner yesterday that the low donations thus far are a result of a glitch in the system, which is now being addressed, and opined that once the country goes into full election mode, more funds would flow.

Persons running in parliamentary elections are allowed to spend a maximum of J$10 million in a campaign, and Phillip Paulwell, the minister with responsibility for electoral matters, said the amount is to be increased to J$15 million.

The Senate is currently considering a campaign-finance reform bill which, among other things, outlines persons and entities from which donations may not be received, and makes it illegal for one person to give a candidate more than 10 per cent of the maximum campaign spend that is allowed.

Campbell, a member of the governing People's National Party (PNP), said that it is not his intention to spend anywhere near the $15 million that may be allowed.

"I am not trying to run a campaign that is awash with cash,"

He conceded that there was no way to determine whether the donors are persons who, under the law, would be barred from contributing.

"There is no way [to know]. Just as if I kept a fish fry, anybody could buy a fish-fry ticket ... . The thing is, though, it is small contributions that we are asking for. We are not expecting any large contribution. We are asking the average Jamaican, whether at home or in the diaspora, to contribute $5 or $10," Campbell said.

Meadows says he has gone about raising funds by way of a fish fry, dinners and by approaching individual donors. Those routes, he said, have been challenging.

Since going the avenue of crowdfunding, by way of his campaign website three weeks ago, the JLP member said he has raised more than US$2,000 (J$240,000) and expects more by the time the elections are announced.

In requesting contributions, Meadows told donors that the money they give will help to spread the message of hope and prosperity to residents of North Trelawny and the wider Jamaica. He told The Gleaner that he does not expect to earn all of his campaign budget through crowdfunding, but said that the US$10,000 (J$1.2 million) being targeted could "stop a gap".