Impossible positions

The Royal Gazette today reports that a company owned by Brian Duperreault, former CEO of ACE Limited, and his wife Nancy, are among the principals behind the proposed hotel development and razing of Southlands.

Although the article doesn't get into it, this new information shines the spotlight back on the problems with the Premier and his wife's unregistered charity, the T.H.E. Foundation.

Mr. and Mrs. Duperreault are listed as "Ruby Donors" on the T.H.E. invitation.

Therein lies the problem.

If you have millions invested in a piece of land, which you want to develop into a new hotel, and the Deputy (and aspiring) Premier/Tourism Minister or his proxy (aka his wife) calls looking for donations for their pet project, what do you do?

How can you say no?

And after you give $25,000 what might you hope for in return? A Special Development Order perhaps? And will the Premier ensure they get an SDO in exchange for supporting the T.H.E. event?

The conflicts of interest behind T.H.E. are rampant, and growing. They don't even have to exist to be a problem; the potential for conflicts is enough.

The perception of selling favours is there whether you want to deny it or not, or invoke technicalities or not. And that compromises the integrity of all sides.

When political fundraising targets people/business with specific needs from Government you put them in an impossible position.

Individuals/businesses working on projects which require Government approval will find it virtually impossible to say no when the Deputy Premier and head of a Ministry they need something from comes calling for a small donation (relative to their other investment).

And the Premier and his colleagues, when considering requests for an SDO for example, or allocation of Government contracts, will inevitably have in the backs of their minds who has been a financial supporter, either of T.H.E., or the Premier's Gala Weekend or another PR event.

This is precisely why the fund-raising engaged in by the Premier (and his wife) raises legitimate questions of selling favours, pay to play, or whatever you want to call it.

This is why we need proper campaign finance reform.

This is why we need proper disclosure in politics.

This is why we need charities to be registered.

This is why we need politicians who don't push the boundaries of ethical behaviour.

This is why the Bermudian public needs to shake off its apathy.

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