By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
LONG Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner revealed yesterday that the Free National Movement’s finance committee requested that she and Leader Dr Hubert Minnis each raise $100,000 to fund the party’s upcoming convention because the organisation had not inspired supporters to donate money over the past few years.
However, the MP, who is challenging Dr Minnis for the FNM’s top post, insisted that to ask a leadership contender to raise mass sums of money to cover convention costs was “unheard of” in the party’s history.
She told The Tribune this was “troubling” as it spoke to the more serious issue of whether the FNM will be able to launch a successful general election campaign with money issues gripping the party.
These issues, she said, are in part due to the fact that the FNM is still struggling to settle $1m in “legacy debt” left behind from the last general election in 2012 and the North Abaco bye-election, which followed four months later.
The convention is estimated to cost the party $350,000, FNM Chairman Sidney Collie confirmed yesterday.
While he did not speak directly to the party’s financial problems, he said both the leader and the Long Island MP were asked to raise $100,000. He said the finance committee is also responsible for raising $150,000 to cover the cost of the highly anticipated July 27 to 29 event.
So far, Mr Collie said Dr Minnis had submitted all of his convention contribution, while Mrs Butler-Turner turned in half of what was requested.
Regarding this, Mrs Butler-Turner explained that although she was in possession of the remainder of her convention funds and had been for sometime, she decided to delay surrendering the money as she felt excluded from some aspects of the convention planning. The former FNM deputy leader added that she and her “Forward-Together” campaign had been waiting for transparency and clarity on some aspects of the event.
The finance committee, Mr Collie told The Tribune, has also raised and submitted $50,000 with $100,000 outstanding.
Asked whether he was confident that the FNM could meet its financial obligations, Mr Collie said he would not comment other than to say that an agreement was made and he was waiting for the commitment to be fulfilled.
Mrs Butler-Turner said: “Each of us has to pay $100,000 but it is the responsibility of the leader and the finance committee to raise money. The party has been in stagnation for the last two years in being able to meet its debts and raise funds.
“Given that the date was set and a place was selected but it couldn’t be confirmed. So when the Meliá (Nassau Beach Hotel) started to give pressure, an emergency meeting was called to see how we would raise the funds. It was agreed in my absence that both persons would have to raise and contribute $100,000.
“That defrays the convention cost, the voting delegates transportation and rooms.”
She continued: “I feel like I am a contender and having to raise this money is something that I have never experienced. Never in the history of this party has a contender had to raise money for the convention.
“That speaks to the bigger issue of whether we will be able to launch a successful election 2017 campaign.”
In June, The Tribune reported that the party was struggling to find the hundreds of thousands of dollars required to host the convention. It came as debate was sparked over who was responsible for finding the funds.
Former FNM Cabinet minister Tennyson Wells was among those who sided with Dr Minnis, saying the people who fought for an early convention should find the funds to host it.
Others, like former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette, said that the responsibility lies with the party’s leader.
The Tribune has been told by sources that the party’s payment of utility bills such as light and cable, as well as real property taxes and staff salaries has been inconsistent in recent years as the party struggles to raise money.
Sources told this newspaper that the FNM’s big financial backers refrained from providing money because of discontent with Dr Minnis.
It is not unusual for opposition parties to have financial problems.
After the Progressive Liberal Party lost the 2007 election, it owed the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
In late 2011, the government-run broadcaster secured a Supreme Court judgment against the PLP, then leader of the opposition Perry Christie, and PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts for the payment of $247,974.16.
Earlier this month, former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette said the party had got over the financial hurdle in relation to the convention, as supporters were amenable to donating money to the party.