The last 48hrs has been one of those moments in our political history when so much is condensed in so short of time that it’s quite hard to really comprehend it all.
And certainly the revelations of today, particularly in the Bermuda Sun, have been nothing short of explosive.
It’s all really quite a lot to take in.
I’ll try and summarise some of the key points about the ‘underground election campaign’:
- The OBA hired people to post on blogs, on media articles, on Facebook and to call radio talk-shows (and likely LTTEs too), presumably to (a) spread disinformation about the PLP; and (b) big-up the OBA.
- The OBA exploited unemployed, ex-con, Blacks in order to: (a) see above; (b) provide cheap labour to hand out campaign material and erect OBA signs around the island.
- The $350k donations wasn’t enough, so the OBA proper, with the OBA receiving invoices.
- The funds were transferred in large amounts out of the BPAC account to Mr DeCosta’s private business to give him more flexibility in paying himself and his workers.
- Mr DeCosta made a profit out of this underground election campaign.
Some key quotes from the article:
“But we were in full swing blogging, Facebook, Bernews, the RG and radio talk shows.”
“At this time we probably had six people blogging 24 hours a day.”
“There are pseudonyms when you are in the social media – there was an element of the unknown that was deliberate with that process.”
On selecting his workers…
The ‘stealth team’ were recruited from jobless Bermudians and paid between $20 and $25 per hour, often in cash.
“What I did was I went to people who did not have jobs and I went to the Black community. I employed them and I paid them by the hour around $25 maybe $20 an hour dropping flyers.”
“Some of them have police records but they are good people.”
On paying himself…
“There were bonuses paid to practically everyone in the whole team [after the OBA won the election] and we deserved it too.”
Asked if he made a profit from the operation Mr DeCosta said “Yes, I did well.”
Some quick points:
- It’s not ‘grassroots’ if you pay people to spread disinformation or pretend to be supporters. That’s Astroturfing.
- From now on, any pro-OBA commentators anywhere will be regarded with suspicion and considered hired help.
- The image of the OBA, and the UBP before it, cynically exploiting Blacks, partly as a way to gain access to Black communities or otherwise manufacture the appearance of Black support, is reinforced.
- Rumours which had been going around for some time now about some sort of unholy alliance between the OBA and the Parkside gang will be reinforced (including allegations that the OBA’s opposition to decriminalisation/legalisation of cannabis directly benefits criminal elements in our society…).
- The OBA cannot reasonably deny having no knowledge of the BPAC account, it’s funding and purpose, if it was receiving invoices from them and paying them on top of it. “The OBA still paid us more on top of that [the $350k] to do what we were doing. We were submitting invoices to them as well.”
- That Mr DeCosta (and presumably key OBAers and OBA supporters) still see no problem with all of this speaks to their lacking a moral compass and are not fit to govern.
In the 2012 Election I was the only candidate to call for campaign finance reform, with my election platform calling for:
“Commission a Green Paper on campaign financing to investigate the pros and cons of placing caps on campaign financing or the abolition of private campaign financing, replacing it with set and equitable public financing for all candidates.”
At the time I was somewhat ridiculed for such a position (I was also ridiculed for pushing for sewage treatment plants before crap-balls began washing up on our beaches…), however I feel somewhat vindicated now.
I’m just sorry that, like my call for sewage treatment, it’s only quite literally when the crap washes up into our faces that finally people begin to adopt these things.
We’ve needed campaign finance laws for decades now, and it’s my hope that from this sorry state of affairs we may actually see a real push for it now. If we don’t then we’re simply legitimising this, and worse, for the future (and mind you, there’s no reason not to suspect there weren’t other BPACs…).
The Fake Party?
The OBA is increasingly being seen as a fake party, with fake supporters and fake promises.
And it’s impossible to separate this ongoing Jet Gate scandal from the ditching of the referendum on casino gambling and the RFP for the Club Med site.
The stench is real, and it is growing.
And we’re all collateral damage – we’re all falling down due to the lies and lack of ethics by those involved in the OBA today.
- Can the OBA survive this?
- Is the OBA even a viable party to contest the next election? Or the election after that even?
- If the OBA isn’t a viable party anymore, is the PLP?
- If neither are, then what? A new party, or general apathy?
- Will this lead to campaign finance reform?
- Will Jet Gate claim more scalps?
- How damaged is Bermuda by this scandal?
- Can anyone trust the OBA on anything anymore?
- Can anyone trust any pro-OBAers to be genuine?
- Is the OBA now a toxic brand?