PNP scandal could threaten political donations
Business mogul Joseph M. Matalon has declared that he would be "very disturbed" if it is proven that the millions of dollars his company donated to the People's National Party's (PNP) election campaign was misused.
Matalon, who is the chairman of the ICD Group of Companies, has also warned that his company could put the brakes on political donations if the allegations swirling around the PNP prove to be accurate.
"All things being equal, if it does turn out that in fact some of these funds have been misused, then that would give us pause, and we would need some level of guarantee," Matalon told The Gleaner yesterday.
"We think it is very important as a corporate citizen to support the democratic process, and we do that through donations, and we make sure that we contribute equally to both parties. But if the system is going to be capable of misuse in the manner being alleged then, of course, it would give us pause," he continued.
The Sunday Gleaner reported in March that the ICD Group was one of 10 private sector entities that acknowledged donating more than $144 million to the country's two major political parties in the lead-up to the February 25 general election.
Data provided by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) show that the ICD Group donated $10 million each to the PNP and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), while the GraceKennedy Group gave $6 million each to both parties. The investment house Proven also acknowledged giving $3.6 million and $2.4 million, respectively, to the PNP and the JLP.
Since the election, however, the PNP has been mired in a campaign-donation scandal triggered by allegations contained in a leaked report by treasurer Norman Horne that some senior members collected money from donors but failed to hand it over.
The allegations have not escaped Matalon, who has indicated that his company may ask party officials to provide a detailed account of how its donation was utilised.
"Maybe now there will be an intention [to get a detailed accounting from the PNP], this issue having raised its head, but up to now, we have not done so," he said.
"It may well be, depending on how this thing runs out and whether the campaign finance legislation is passed, that before we make contributions to either party, we would condition it on the receipt of an accounting of how the money was spent," the ICD boss continued.
Chief Executive Officer of Proven Christopher Williams said his company had no plans to ask PNP officials for a detailed account of how its donation was spent.
"We are satisfied that the money was utilised in the entity that we approved."
Williams said that his company made donations to the PNP's central treasury and to individual candidates.
"We are satisfied that our donation was intended for the [PNP's] central [treasury] and given to the central," Williams explained.
"In the cases where it was not intended for the central, it was not given to the central. It was given to the specific MP [parliamentary] candidates, and it was the same thing with the JLP," he added.
GraceKennedy boss Don Wehby said his company would withhold comment on the issue until there was a "common position" among the membership of the PSOJ.
Matalon suggested that the allegations swirling around the PNP point to the need for lawmakers to quickly enact proposed changes to the country's campaign finance legislation.
"I am hoping that particularly in light of what is happening now, that it will increase the Parliament's resolve to get that campaign finance bill passed and implemented so that there can be a level of regulation that would assure that nothing like that could go on," he argued.