Filling up a long list of high profile lawsuits, the Opposition is suing Najib for RM2.6 bil discovered in his personal account. They allege that if BN really did spend that amount for their GE13 campaigns, then they’ve gone waaay over the RM200,000 per candidate legal limit!
Exposed by Wall Street Journal, the RM2.6 bil trail allegedly led back to 1MDB. But MACC claims that it came from a “Middle Eastern donor”. Oooh, Najib has a super rich secret admirer! Just kidding, Umno Kuantan Chief Wan Adnan Wan Mamat revealed that it came from Saudi Arabia as a gift for fighting ISIS… yep, the same ISIS that Najib asked Umno flers to copy. So far, Najib has neither denied or confirmed this story. He’s barely said 2 words about it and hasn’t even publicly said thank you to his Saudi admirer. Tsk.
BUT WAIT! What’s this campaign spending limit?! We called the Election Commission (EC) and they explained that the limit for each candidate is RM200,000 for Parliamentary seats, and RM100,000 for State seats. According to the Election Offences Act, anyone caught spending over the limit is doing something…dun, dun dun…ILLEGAL. At least there are no specific breakdowns on what items can be spent on, so let’s say a candidate buys a Ferris Wheel and gives everyone in the constituency free rides, that’s cool with the rules.
So what is BN’s limit?
Which means if BN did spend RM2.6 bil over a RM94.7 mil limit, that’s SHOCKING! Could they have spent that much for a 15-day campaign period (from 20 April – 5 May)? We did the math on some of their campaign stuff, BUTTT we used the dirt-cheapest possible prices we could find to calculate. Here are 6 things we found…
1. Free flights
Let’s start with something simple. Did ugaiz hear stories or rumours that BN was flying voters out of rural areas to get them to polling stations during GE13? Turns out, the story is true. BN Secretary General Tengku Adnan admitted to it in The Star, calling it the ‘get out the vote’ campaign, though he said it was funded by BN’s friends.
What The Star didn’t report was how many voters the free flights benefited. We found TMI reporting that 40,000 dubious voters (aka foreigners) from Sabah and Sarawak were transported to strategic points in KL and Selangor, however this figure came from Anwar, not BN. Anwar told reporters he had credible sources from MAS and AirAsia staff and even knew they used a Boeing 747. The airlines of course officially denied it, though AirAsia did offer cheap flights for their “Fly Home To Vote” campaign.
Since Ku Nan admitted to half the story, let’s calculate how much BN would’ve forked out. First we looked on AirAsia’s site for the cheapest return flight from Tawau to KL as a rough estimate:
For the record, Malaysians who bought AirAsia tickets during the GE13 promo period only paid RM29 – RM59.
Assuming: They flew 40,000 people return at the CHEAPEST AirAsia rate we could find.
Estimated spending: RM6.76 mil
2. Duit minyak
But what about those that just kapchai over to vote? There are rumours that you can get ‘incentives’ just by attending a BN ceramah. We looked online to see if anyone has shared their experience and found a couple of mentions on Facebook, one from a comment on news site Malaysia Chronicle, and a blog post, but to be fair the blog writer seems to be a PAS supporter.
UMNO insider sources whom we won’t name, that told us attendees might be given RM50 each time IF they ask for it themselves. In Malaysiakini’s article, people were reporting that RM300 grocery vouchers were handed out in Sandakan and RM50 was given to people to attend an Umno meeting in Tanjong Malim.
Even the EC reportedly said duit minyak was not considered bribes, though they were talking about duit minyak to balik mengundi, rather than for attending ceramahs.
We thought for a long time about how to set a premise for this so we can calculate how much money was spent on duit minyak. The problem is, we cannot confirm that every BN member practices handing out duit minyak, or that everyone in the ceramah will get it, or that it will be the same amount every time. So while we know the culture exists, we can’t calculate an estimate for this… except, it might have cost a BOMB if we counted it to 66,600 ceramahs that Ahmad Maslan said they had planned.
Estimated spending: RM0
3. Political ads
During GE13, BN became the TOP spender in advertising for the first half of the year, spending RM531 mil. Oredy this amount exceeds their RM94.7 mil limit larrr. Heck, BN pumped in the SAME amount of cash as all top 4 advertising categories combined… they beat advertisers for beauty products ok!
This data was published by media-buying agency Vizeum Media, which also noted that the PM’s Office (PMO) spent the MOST out of all the departments, at RM264 mil! WAH this one alone kowtim adi. We have advertising insider sources who told us how it works. Contract rates would have been cheaper and BN would have gotten as much as 30% discount. Even if we minused 30%, they still overshot the limit:
Another source Nielsen Media Research published monthly breakdowns of ad spending, but get this, it doesn’t include billboards or digital ads. And GE13 saw A LOT of these billboards were sprouting up all along major highways in the country.
Aaaand, this isn’t even counting social media advertising. BN learned its lesson from the previous elections to never underestimate social media, especially reaching out to urban and young voters. The @barisanasional account started tweeting from May 2012. According to TMI’s report, a promoted account costs at least US$15,000 (RM45,900) for a 3-month campaign. Additionally, the account pushed its hashtag #BetterNation and a promoted trend costs US$200,000 (RM612,000) per day.
So can you imagine how massive the spending would be if it’s all added up?
Assuming: They got 30% discount AND not including social media or billboards.
Estimated spending: RM372 mil
4. T-shirts and pin badges
BN also roped in Malaysian celebrities to help them campaign. Sazzy Falak and Aznil Nawawi were giving out customised 10,000 free t-shirts and caps and 100,000 pin badges. Then they had Altimet, Awi Rafael and Narmi put on performances on the same day. We don’t know if these guys charged to make an appearance or they did it purely out of support. For Aznil’s part, he professed his support for Najib.
That aside, let’s count in how much they spent on the merchandise. We looked for the cheapest source to customise t-shirts, caps and pin badges… better yet, we found this site that actually prints BN logo merchandise and used their prices. They charge RM7.50 per t-shirt and RM2.95 for caps. Then we found another site that prints badges for as low as 60 sen.
Assuming: They only had 1 event where they gave T-shirts and badges out, NOT including artist fees.
Estimated spending: RM164,500
BN reeeally wanted to win Penang back in GE13 so almost every night during campaign time, the 1Malaysia Welfare Club hosted dinner after dinner. Sometimes it would be a hawker fest, sometimes 8-course dinners. So let’s set the premise first – TMI’s report stated in 1 dinner, “thousands thronged the place” and this paper would have no reason to exaggerate numbers for BN dinners lah, so let’s take 2,000 people (thousands means at least 2,000 right?) as the lowest estimate every Fridays and weekends until the end of the campaign period (that’s 8 days).
Then we looked for the cheapest 8-course dinner price and found a foodie’s blog recommendation Foong Wei Heong Restaurant for RM318. They would need 200 tables for 2,000 people (10 heads to a table). Just for 8-course dinners, they woulda paid:
Now let’s add that to the hawker dinners, which they served char koay teow (RM4.50), ice kacang (RM2.50), hokkien mee (RM3.50) and free flow of beer (RM5 a can of Tiger). We checked with a Penangite (our intern) how much each item would cost in 2013, then times that to 1,000 people for the same 8 days.
So for the whole dinner thingy, that’s RM508,800 + RM248,000 = RM756,800. Ehh, we sudah kasichan ok, we didn’t even count in the other stuff they gave during the dinners – lottery tickets, lucky draw, t-shirts la.
But you know what, those dinners ain’t nothing compared to the.largest.ever.dinner for BN in Port Klang. Seriously, that one made it into the Malaysia Book of Records for having the most number of people at a sit-down dinner… 5,500 tables, 60,000 people. Even Michelle Yeoh and Chong Wei were there! OK so they did say that it was sponsored by a “group of Selangor Chinese businessmen”. WAH SO MANY FRIENDS. No wonder Friends of BN Homepage got 1.3 million people!
It was described as a multi-course dinner, but we estimate a minimum of 7 courses and we found this caterer Partyplan Catering, serving 11 items for RM28 per pax from their Muslim Menu (seriously dem cheap adi). When we looked through their gallery, we even found pics of Najib dining at events they’ve catered for. OK so 60,000 x RM28 = RM1.68 mil. Add these Penang and Port Klang dinners, they’ve spent:
Assuming: Only cost is food, not venue or staff. AND the food is dem kao cheap.
Estimated spending: RM2.44 mil
6. Psy’s concert
Remember when Psy performed a CNY concert in Penang, courtesy of BN? People were calling out the show as being used as political leverage for GE13, and even begging him on Facebook not to come here and promote BN:
Psy’s was reportedly paid RM1.5 mil to perform, but that’s not even counting in the food they prepared for a crowd of 50,000! Penang BN Youth Chief Oh Tong Keong told The Malaysian Insider that the concert was paid for by private event organiser Mega Ultimate. This was later confirmed by Psy’s managers. He added that the food too was fully sponsored by friends of BN.
So we checked out Mega Ultimate to find out what they do. First we went to their website and Facebook and found out they’ve organised a couple of concerts since their foundation in 2012. But there was no mention of the Psy concert or even photos anywhere. Malaysiakini reported that the company was being very tight-lipped about their role in sponsoring the concert.
“No comment, I will only talk about technical matters.” – Anthony Chow, Mega Ultimate’s Systems Engineer on Malaysiakini
Assuming: They just paid Psy, not the stage management, or the food to feed the 50,000 people
Estimated spending: RM1.5 mil
And the GRAND TOTAL…?
Now we have to add all the 6 things together and see if BN’s campaign expenditure reached RM2.6 bil!
OK, so it only reached RM541.86 mil – that’s not anywhere near RM2.6 bil. BUUUT, they did overshoot their RM94.7 mil limit. Heck what BN spent on ads alone is way over that limit. So that means the Opposition does have a case against them? Win liao lar??
Not so fast, that’s a catch! We spoke to other experts and you notice how BN mentions “Friends” who sponsored them? Well, third party spending is apparently legal. But it’s a bit silly la, cos then how would the EC determine if it’s illegal or not if BN spent over RM94.7 mil?
“You can’t, unless the spending is actually proven to be done by the candidate. Ask someone else or the party to spend for you lor.” – Tony Pua told CILISOS
In fact, Pakatan back in 2013 demanded that MACC look into BN’s spending on advertising. When we asked Tony what happened with that he told us, “The limitation is on candidate only. Not on party.” If that’s the case, what’s to stop ANYONE from circumventing the rules, right?
Well, it looks like holes in the system is gonna make it difficult for them to prove this case. But hey, maybe they’re using this lawsuit to highlight… the holes in the system! Then we can begin to improve on that system, starting by telling the rakyat a breakdown of how the money was spent.
In the UK, they have a full database listing all political donations above a certain amount (as little as 500 pounds)
“In Great Britain, we publish these donation and loan reports on our online database to ensure there is transparency about the funding of parties.” – The UK Electoral Commission
Of course, you might have also heard that Paul Low, Idris Jala and Najib are working on some laws to show political funding, particularly from foreign donations, but having said that, Najib STILL hasn’t revealed his own source for the RM2.6 billion into his personal account!
The rakyat want more than vague answers like, BN need to spend more because they lost key states, as Rahman Dahlan said on national TV. Above all, we need transparency and accountability in this country. As Bersih also said, political parties should move towards declaring the sources of funds for their campaigns.
“That’s the only thing that can put a stop to money politics – corruption and money politics.” – Datuk Ambiga, Bersih co-chairman, in The Malay Mail Online
EVEN if BN stuck to the RM94.7 million limit, that still makes a MINIMUM of RM441.7 million ringgit in donations. And do you know anyone who would give you almost half a BILLION ringgit in donations without even expecting a public thank you or making their contribution known?
Well, if not acknowledgement, then they might want something else in return.