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Rohan Chung: $15m campaign was all funded from my pocket - Losing Manchester Central candidate says previous statement on donations misinterpreted

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2020 | 12:12 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Rohan Chung.
Rohan Chung.

Mandeville, Manchester:

Losing Independent Manchester Central candidate Rohan Chung has said previous statements on funding for his campaign were misinterpreted, having told The Gleaner ahead of the September 3 polls that his run for office was being financed by himself as well as close associates.

Campaign finance laws require all candidates to submit the return of election expenses report within six weeks of an election. Contributions received during the campaign period are also to be disclosed if they are above $250,000, with no single contributor allowed to give more than $1.5 million to an individual candidate’s campaign.

Candidates, whether independent or representing a political party, are restricted to a maximum of $15 million.

But eyebrows have been raised since The Sunday Gleaner published a report this week based on a summary of declarations by the 139 candidates in the 2020 general election, as declared to the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ).

The summary shows that Chung, who went up against the incumbent Peter Bunting of the People’s National Party, and the eventual winner Rhoda Moy Crawford of the Jamaica Labour Party, outspent every other candidate.

He shelled out the maximum $15 million allowed by law while declaring that he had received no reportable contributions during the campaign period, which covers from August 11, when the date of the election was announced, to September 2,

But Chung, who operates the marketing firm Smartphone Over Worldwide Connection Marketing Limited, told The Gleaner that the donations he had previously referred to were not monetary and were given in a personal capacity and not made towards his campaign.

“It was all from pocket ... ,” he insisted of the $15-million spend.

“The factors in which I received yams and pumpkin and so forth were given to me in a personal magnitude ... . There was a little bit of confusion as it relates to that. There is a personal [side] different from the political campaign,” he said.

Together, the 139 candidates declared spending close to $500 million.

However, the total spend on the general election campaign will not be known until next year, as the political parties have six months post-election to file their expenses and declare contributions.

Those filings will play a role in corroborating information already submitted to the EOJ by candidates, who had six weeks to make their declarations.

“As part of the new campaign financing regulations, the party will also have to indicate their expenditure because some amount of the expenditure is normally undertaken by the party for the candidate,” said Director of Elections Glasspole Brown. “We investigate a number of things that would have taken place for the necessary reconciliation to be done.”

Brown said if during the investigations there are instances of under-reporting, falsity or a clear contravention of the Election Campaign Financing Act (2016), candidates will be penalised.

“The act allows for the ECJ (Electoral Commission of Jamaica) to request the opening of their (candidate’s) individual accounting book, so there is a process and it takes a time based on the timeline of the act,” added Brown.