The most recent scandal involving money and politics hit Puerto Rico this last week. No, I don’t mean the accidental misreporting of two billion dollars in spending that no one noticed. I’m talking about the arrests of several top Popular Democratic Party (PDP) officials and operatives in a corruption scandal.
It should be noted that, once again, it was the FBI, not the Puerto Rico Justice Department, doing the job.
These latest arrests follow a previous round of captures a few months ago involving the misuse of federal education funds. The unfortunate truth is that Puerto Rico has a long history of “political donations for contracts” and vice versa. It is emblematic of Puerto Rico’s overall credibility problem in the financial and political markets.
Puerto Rico’s credibility is a far greater threat to the future of the island’s economy and security than its US$73 billion debt. I repeat, the greatest threat to Puerto Rico’s economy is a lack of integrity among far too many ruling class politicians.
This needs to stop, and now.
I’ve come up with a very simple way to curtail a large part of the government’s corruption problem. I propose an amendment to the island’s constitution that would prohibit this kind of wheeling and dealing between cronies and politicians. It would provide an automatic enforcement procedure across all political lines.
The first part of the amendment would forbid any person, group, or corporation (or its officers) who has donated to a political campaign from holding contracts under any administration during a specific time period.
Part two would cover future donations. Persons who have already been awarded government contracts or who are in the process of receiving a contract from the state will be barred from giving political donations to officeholders of any kind or to political campaigns. These must include so called PACs (Political Action Committees) or similar organizations. At the same time, labor unions would not be allowed to fund politicians’ campaigns.
Part three would make it a felony to breach any of the first two clauses.
Sections four, five, and six would set up two independent prosecutors’ offices with a set percentage of the total funds assigned to the Justice Department. This would mean that their budget could not be cut by the very people whom they are supposed to investigate. The independent investigators and prosecutors would be selected by each of the two largest political parties without the other’s input or approval.
In other words, the New Progressive Party (NPP) would select one of the prosecutors, whose sole task would be to investigate the activities of PDP operatives and donors. For its part, the PDP would pick one investigator in charge of investigating NPP donors. Each would be politically motivated to expose the other party’s corruption.
Political animosity would drive each prosecutor to do his job with the level of fierceness required to finally put an end to Puerto Rico’s public corruption. If you put the evil of partisanship to good use, you drive the political-money train back to where it belongs: in the hands of the people who don’t donate money to politicians in order to get a job.
Now, I realize that this entire idea flies in the face of my own libertarian principles of free speech. In a perfect world, any person or corporation should be able to donate any amount of money or time to any political effort. We do not, however, live in a perfect word. Sometimes you have to step out of the box in order to address a difficult issue.
I welcome comments and suggestions on how to improve this proposal. I also ask for the reader’s support, so that we can add this amendment to Puerto Rico’s Constitution. We could even try to amend the US Constitution in the same way. But do you really expect politicians to sign their own arrest papers? Nope, neither do I.