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Should Puerto Rico’s Taxpayers Finance Local Elections?

March 22, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 
Bribes! Kickbacks! Shakedowns! Laundered Contributions! Diverted Funds!

According to federal prosecutors and island investigators, such epithets have muddied the image of Puerto Rico’s most recent elections. Headlines have heralded the corrupt practices, "Funds Diverted to Campaign from Government Contracts," and "Local Campaign Funds Used to Run Governor’s Ads." For over six months, island public opinion about the validity of their election process has been shaped by dueling press conferences, public finger-pointing, grand jury deliberations, federal indictments, guilty pleas and criminal trials. Students of island politics say that these practices have been going on for a long time. Politicians are looking for solutions. Governor Sila Calderón says that she’s got the answer.

In a nutshell, the Governor intends to have the island government pay the costs of all political campaigns of all candidates for all offices throughout the island. The proposal’s price tag is estimated at 60 million dollars, a punishing hit to a budget already in deficit. Her legislation is now being considered by both houses of the legislature, both pitted in an unseemly sprint to be the first to organize public hearings on this high-profile issue.

One champion of the proposal is Puerto Rico Independence Party (PIP) Senator Fernando Martin who characterizes the reform measure as "fair," since all political parties would "compete equally" in island elections. His support, however, makes him appear to be "the cat that swallowed the canary," since his party rarely garners more than 5% of the vote while it would receive the same slice of the money pie as served up to the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) and New Progressive Party (NPP), entities that normally split the remaining votes among them.

Smart money says that the proposal will become law in some form. The odds are longer that all its current proponents will be left standing to enjoy it after the last prosecutorial grenade is tossed in San Juan.

This Week's Question:
Should Puerto Rico’s Taxpayers Finance Local Elections?



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