The Liberty Party or LP has given a public notice that it will outspend rival parties here during the campaign leading to the Executive Mansion for the 2017 elections, raising questions as to where the party has gotten its sudden wealth.
“We owe no apology for this; we will…outspend the other political parties because we’re ready for this political battle,” LP’s youthful Chairman Benjamin Sanvee said Monday February 13. Some may think it’s just a bluff, but there are several mind-boggling questions arising from this statement.
The party has no previous history of huge campaign spending from the last two elections unlike the ruling Unity Party or UP, the Liberia Action Partythen headed by Cllr. Varney Sherman in 2005 or Rev. Kennedy Sandy in 2011.
The lack of spending over the past two elections does not necessarily mean the party has been careful in spending or it has followed the electoral rule which restricts a presidential candidate to US2million in campaign expense or its equivalent in Liberian Dollars, while the Vice President could spend no more than US1m. The truth is this political entity like dozen others here has been a broke political entity.
Secondly, political parties here are bankroll mainly by their political leaders or standard bearers, and come to think of this, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine himself is not a big spender nor does he personally have such wealth to make such a big campaign spending as being announced by the party.
So from where this sudden wealth, which has also witnessed the opening of a massive party headquarter, with a parade and fanfare?
The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Factor
Now some political commentators believe that the sudden wealth could be traced to outgoing President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. There are several conspiracy theories to this assertion.
What many may not know is that in 2005, President Sirleaf then candidate Sirleafadvanced an idea for collaboration to the Liberty Party strongman to be her running mate, just before the Joseph Boakai idea was birthed.
Cllr. Brumskine turned down that idea apparently thinking that Mrs. Sirleaf had more negatives compared to his positives or she was just a candidate hard to market as compared to him. Thus, during the run-off in 2005, Cllr. Brumskine was indecisive on whether to openly support Mrs. Sirleaf or Congress for Democratic Change George Weah-or one could say he was still licking his wounds from that crushing defeat. In the end, he urged supporters to queue behind candidates of their choice.
In 2011, after Cllr. Brumskine’sfailure to lure Weah, followed by his dismal performance in the Presidential race, he accompanied President Sirleaf into his stronghold of Grand Bassa County, where he introduced the President as the candidate of his choice.
President Sirleaf in response at the time told the Bassa people that Cllr. Brumskine would be President but that would have been after her tenure. This could be the source of this theory.
Will Mrs. Sirleaf live up to this promise?
Cllr. Brumskine’s stance on issues of governance under this regime has been very dismal compare to other opposition figures. Thus, the party has been branded in some quarters as regime collaborator.
This brand gained notoriety, when Liberty Party henchman, Cllr. FonatiKoffa resigned as chairman of the party to accept an appointment in government as Minister without Portfolio but with special assignments.
Days after his confirmation, Cllr. Koffa was given the task to head a special presidential task force to probe a bribery scandal that would soon gassed up disunity within an already cracked Unity Party.
The probe includes top officials of the governing UP and past and present officials in the government.The scandal based on a report by global environmental watchdog, Global Witness accuses several government officials here, past and present of taking bribe from a British company Sable Mining to alter mining laws here in its favor.
But the probe of UP officials in a bribery scandal aside, the President has been accused of being a key financier of the opposition LP, even though she has repeatedly and publicly endorsed her Vice PresidentBoakai as her successor.
With the saying that there is no smoke without fire, how this perceived love story between the LP and President Sirleaf will end, remains to be seen.
The Musa Bility Factor
Among the high profile officials jumping off the UP wagon is businessman Musa Bility, President Sirleaf’s former campaign manager.
Many observers believe that Bility is the new kingpin of the party. The renovation of the luxurious headquarters of the Liberty Party can be attributed to him.
But as the saying goes, he that calls the piper calls the tune; will Bility be allowed to call the shots at his new camp? Certainly not-and this could slow down his cash splash on the party.
But how much can Bility actually spend on the Liberty Party, if one were to take a cursory look at his liabilities.
Could the party be relying on foreign donations from strong foreign allies? But yet again,Chapter 7.2 of the revised elections law talks about foreign donations to political parties here. It says:“No person shall contribute funds or other assets to any political party or independent candidate from outside Liberia, unless they are the property of a Liberian citizen who has attained the age of eighteen (18) years.” But history has shown that there is no Liberian millionaire outside of this country willing to spend cash on a party he or she does not want to lead to an election.
So, the question to the Liberty Party is from where comes this sudden wealth?