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PRWOW News Service

Governor Announces Legislation To Reform Campaign Finance

by Proviana Colón Díaz

January 24, 2002
Copyright © 2002
PRWOW News Service. All Rights Reserved. 

Complying with one of her gubernatorial campaign promises and in light of the money laundering extortion scandal within the Education Department that led to kickbacks of $4.3 million, of which $1 million went to the New Progressive Party, Gov. Sila Calderon announced Thursday her intention to file legislation aimed at reforming the electoral campaign finance system.

The announcement came one day after both Acting U.S. District Attorney Guillermo Gil and Commonwealth Comptroller Manuel Diaz Saldaña urged Calderon to take action on the matter.

Although at present the bill is only in draft stage, it will be filed before the Legislature in the coming weeks and will be know as the "Clean Money in Electoral Campaign Law."

Once filed, the governor will ask both Senate President Antonio Fas Alzamora and House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo to include all parties interested, including the political parties, to participate in the final drafting of the bill.

"That way we will be able to present the people with a real electoral reform, product of dialogue and consensus. The people don't expect less of their leaders," Calderon said.

Still, Calderon announced her intentions to file the bill without having a clear picture of it as she was unable to explain how several crucial parts of it would be operating.

The new law will establish strict mechanisms for finance control, possibly including the creation of a committee to be know as the "Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Electoral Campaign Finance Integrity Committee."

Calderon, however, could not say how the new committee would be working with the State Elections Commission, which has the supervision of campaign finances under its duties.

The governor also failed to explain how a proposed Special Fund for the Finance of Electoral Campaigns will work, adding that all matters related to the law will be worked out prior to its signature.

"This is a complex and delicate legislation that has to be approved while safeguarding the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and association," Calderon said.

Calderon explained that one such concern that has surfaced during the process is the possibility of limiting one's right to use his or her own wealth to finance a campaign.

"What I would like, but it is still not clear if we can achieve it within the constitutional aspect, is that all campaigns be financed solely by public funds," said Calderon, adding that she would also like to limit, like in Spain and England, the time that TV campaigns can run to two or three months prior to the election.

In related matters and to avoid the possibility of kickbacks from private contractors to gubernatorial agencies, Calderon is proposing the creation of an Ethics Code for Contractors.

Contrary to Gil's statements that so long as the parties continue to request quotas from their heads of agencies, corruption will continue, Calderon identified privatization as the door that leads to all the acts of corruption in the previous administration.

In fact, Calderon said her party has never requested or imposed quotas to its heads of agencies.

"My administration has never imposed quotas to any head of agency," said Calderon, acknowledging however that a small amount of quotas is indeed imposed to mayors.

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