Committee Formed To Study Proposed Electoral Reform
By Proviana Colon Diaz
March 22, 2002
The Civil Society Organized Committee, formed by people from all political points of view, began working Friday on an effort to explain the reality of Gov. Sila Calderons proposed electoral reform.
Led by Ateneo Puertorriqueño President Eduardo Morales Coll, the group convoked itself after reading Calderons administration bill, known as "Clean Money in the Electoral Campaigns," and realizing that it contains "numerous serious contradictions."
The alleged contradictions range from the language of the bill to the lack of proper financial limits, which is what the bill seeks.
Morales Coll said the subject of campaign financing from a moral point of view will also be evaluated and a sort of quality control should be established in the law.
"One has to wonder whether it will be morally correct to ask someone to pay for someone whos campaign is of him dancing," said Morales Coll, adding that someone who does not believe in any of the political parties in question should not be forced to pay for the campaign.
The bill in question was filed by Calderon following the indictment of former Education Secretary Victor Fajardo when it became known that $1 million of federal funds was used to pay for campaign activities of the New Progressive Party.
As filed, the proposed bill lacks proper rules to effectively eliminate "bad practices" of fundraising, as it only sets limits to donations. For example, according to Morales Coll, the bill sets a $1,000 limit for donations from a single person, which could be easily avoided if someone donates $10,000, in say, 10 envelopes, without the need to identify each donation as the law does not enforce it.
The committee agreed that perhaps a more effective way to attend the current needs of the society, in light of so many violations to the Electoral Law, is a proper revision to the current law and correct amendments, rather than the drafting of a new bill, should take place.
Aside from Morales Coll, members of the committee include former State Elections Commission Vice President Ramon Bauza, former Puerto Rican Independence Party Electoral Commissioner Luis Rivera Lacourt, former State Elections Commission President Cesar Vazquez, former Bar Association President Noel Colon Martinez, historian Fernando Pico, and former resident commissioner candidate, attorney, and aspiring politician Jose Alfredo Hernandez Mayoral.
Rivera Lacourt said he is most worried with the "elevated" estimate of the cost for publicly financing a campaign, including in the primaries.
For his part, Bauza said the bill does assign funds for the party and prohibits their ability to raise funds but does not include a limit for the government in turn to promote its achievements, giving them most certainly an advantage.
While Hernandez Mayoral added that the proposed bill fails to include a limit as to how those public funds will be spent by the candidate.
Hernandez Mayoral, who has already expressed his desire to aspire for a yet-to-be-determined political post in the upcoming election, was asked if such goal would not have an effect in his determinations within the committee. He said he believed it wouldnt, but if it did occur, he would let the chairman decide what should happen.
"I dont expect any conflict. I think both the Legislature and governor should take the findings of this committee very seriously, regardless of who worked on it," Hernandez Mayoral said.
Although House Speaker Carlos Vizcarrondo has said it could take up to a year for the bill to be approved, the committee said they will conclude their evaluation within three months, giving the Legislature enough time to consider their findings.