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ExxonMobil wouldn't contribute to campaign funding in Guyana — Brasington

 

 

By Kiana Wilburg

GEORGETOWN
Petroleumworld 06 25 2018

With billions of dollars in oil wealth underway, the question of free and fair elections has never been more important. In fact, anticorruption advocates have been calling for immediate changes to the nation's weak campaign financing laws for the last two years.

They believe that the archaic laws leave the door open for influential oil majors to enter; oil majors with pockets worth more than the GDPs of 100 countries combined.

In spite of this state of affairs, USA oil giant, ExxonMobil has made it clear that it has, and will not, be contributing to election campaigns here. This was recently confirmed with the company's head of Government Affairs, Kimberly Brasington.

The official said, “We do not and will not contribute to political campaigns in Guyana. ExxonMobil has a policy that prevents campaign financing. We are a commercial entity and we work in countries for decades, independent of any particular government.”

Brasington added, “Governments change over the course of the oil and gas industry's presence in a country and we work with the government as a partner for the country's development of natural resources.”

In its country of origin, ExxonMobil is a habitual contributor to the election cycle. In fact, Exxon is one of the largest energy company contributors to both Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress. In 2010, ExxonMobil spent $12.5 million on lobbying. It is also a staunch contributor in Canada.

Apart from USA and Canada, Exxon also reports on political and lobbying contributions in the (http://www.exxonmobil.eu/en-eu/policy/reporting/political-advocacy-and-contributions/political-advocacy-and-contributions-overview)

According to the company's website, it has a policy against election contributions outside of the USA and Canada, but would do so where laws are applicable. (http://cdn.exxonmobil.com/~/media/global/files/politcal-contributions/political_activities_guidelines.pdf)

EFFECTS ON AMERICA'S DEMOCRACY

Even though American's laws allow for oil money to be pumped into election campaigns, there have been heavy concerns about the effect this money has had on the democracy of the superpower.

A report called, “The Chilling Effect of Oil & Gas Money on Democracy” speaks extensively on this. It was prepared by an environmental company called Clear Water.

(https://www.cleanwaterfund.org/sites/default
/files/docs/publications/Money_in_Politics_05%2003%2016a_web%20-%20FINAL.pdf)

The report exposes how oil and gas companies continue to have a major advantage over the rights of the American people when it comes to regulatory policy, mainly due to the legacy impact of their early influence in certain rulemaking processes.

It states that the weaknesses of campaign finance laws allow the oil and gas industry to help elect candidates who support efforts to undermine environmental protections, drive pro-industry legislation and secure taxpayer subsidies to the industry.

The report adds, “The money flooding into Congress and fueling lobbying efforts of the oil and gas industry has a chilling effect on our democracy. Simply put, oil and gas interests overshadow the public's best interests. Balancing out the economics to incentivize positive behaviors over the business plans of a polluting industry should be at the top of the list for any political party.”

“Instead, policies are manipulated to benefit a sector of the economy that enjoys billions in taxpayer subsidies and has whole blocks of politicians willing to vote and introduce legislation in lockstep with industry priorities…”

GUYANA LAID BACK

Executive Member of the Working People's Alliance (WPA), Dr. David Hinds, has noted that there has been little, if any sense of urgency regarding reform to campaign finance laws. Even when the government indicates that it is willing to address its promise to beef up anti-corruption legislation, the political commentator asserted that they don't say much about campaign finance reform.

Dr. Hinds said, “Perhaps the last time the president frontally addressed the issue was more than a year ago, when he promised legislation before the next general election. Since then, we have not seen any movement.

“So, it's fair to conclude that there is no urgency. This is worrying– it makes the government look bad. These campaign promises which are in the manifesto represent the ingredients needed for an articulation of the hitherto elusive government's vision.”

The political activist believes that the sloth partly has to do with the contraction of decision-making within the coalition. Dr. Hinds pointed out that everything is decided at Cabinet. He noted, however, that the Cabinet is made up of ministers who are obviously primarily concerned with management of their individual ministries.

Hence, they are less interested and in many regards, less schooled in overall government policy direction, Hinds stated. With this in mind, Dr. Hinds said that the matter of campaign finance, which does not fall under the purview of any subject ministry, except maybe the Legal Affairs Ministry, does not get the treatment it deserves.

The columnist stated, “The sloth also has to do with the absence of a cohesive and intentional legislative agenda. Governments tend to pay little attention to the legislative branch, except when they want to use their majority to hurry something through the legislature.”

“And the parties in the coalition have not been doing their work as far as pressuring the coalition to advance an aggressive legislative agenda that speaks to the overall direction in which the coalition wants to take the country.

“You never hear from the People's National Congress, the Alliance For Change, the WPA and the others about their legislative priorities. These parties seem satisfied that they are ‘in government' and are not prepared to lift their voices beyond support for the government when it finds itself in trouble.”

“So, issues such as campaign finance reform for which they vigorously argued when in opposition gets pushed to the sidelines. I therefore repeat my call for the coalition to set up a committee made up of representatives of member parties to do a “mid-term audit” of campaign promises. The objective is to determine what promises have been addressed and others that need to be urgently addressed. Such work cannot be left to the Cabinet.”

A third reason Dr. Hinds posited for the sloth is the inability of the government and opposition to agree on anything. The political activist said that certainly, something as central and crucial as campaign finance reform should be done in a bi-partisan manner.

He noted however that the People's Progressive Party (PPP) has shown little interest in cooperating with the government, even when the latter has reached out to them.

The WPA Executive Member said that the issue of campaign finance is urgent, especially since oil money is coming. He said that businesses are always prepared to buy political access and decision-makers are always vulnerable.

He commented that experience in Guyana and other countries have taught many that they cannot depend on the integrity of politicians and parties. He said that that checks and balances are therefore necessary to safeguard against the potential for indiscretion.

________________________

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Story by Kiana Wilburg from Kaieter News

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06 24 2018

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