‘Letting things happen’
PDP accuses NPP of using public funds for political campaigns
By Richard Gutiérrez
The beginning of another election year is closer than it seems. This weekend Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia of the New Progressive Party (NPP) kicked off his reelection bid for 2024, and while the reception was positive and many attended the event, it was inevitably going to draw the attention of rival parties, the most obvious one of course being the Popular Democratic Party (PDP).
It is not uncommon for the PDP to denounce the NPP for things they consider unethical or impractical, but the timing for this one is quite ironic. According to the PDP, the government is taking advantage of public campaigns that are funded primarily by the commonwealth government to advertise NPP campaigns.
Government messages have been commonplace since modern government systems in the West have existed. However, PDP President Jesús Manuel Ortiz González, alongside mayors and other party members, announced Tuesday that they believe that since these campaigns are paid for with public funds, the government is illegally using public funds for political party campaigns. The reason for saying this, according to the PDP, is because the current administration is using a political phrase for government messages which should have nothing to do with political campaigns, as government messages are separate from political campaigns. The alleged illegality was denounced on Tuesday via a press conference at PDP headquarters in San Juan.
“During the 2020 election the NPP presented a commercial showing governor Pedro Pierluisi and the resident commissioner, Jennifer González, where the governor uses the slogan: ‘Making things happen’” Ortiz González said. “Over the past few months, we have seen an entire publicity campaign in all sorts of media ]outlets and social media, in which the government uses the slogan. This is evidently a clear violation of Article 13 of the Political Campaign Financing Law, because this can be considered a political message, which is in turn covered by public funds.”
According to the PDP, the political slogan is being used by numerous agencies and used all over government announcements, including in the written press, TV commercials and billboards. Two of the agencies mentioned by the PDP president were the Administration for the Care and Integrated Development of Children and The Department of Transportation and Public Works. During the press conference a plethora of written press government announcements were shown where the slogan was positioned right alongside the Puerto Rico government logo.
“It’s not just the fact that they are tricking the island, it’s about crossing the thin line between political campaigns and being a civil servant,” Ortiz González said.
In short, the PDP believes that the current administration has been taking advantage of public funds to run a political campaign. If there is substance behind the accusation, then killing two birds with one stone might not have been the best choice for the NPP, especially after the powerful presence of the NPP in the governor’s announcement to run again, as the opposing party has filed an application for both a complaint and an investigation against the governor and the administration’s communications office. The complaint is being sent to the Office of the Electoral Comptroller.
On top of this, the PDP is sending a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of Puerto Rico asking it to intervene in the disbursement of public funds used in the referenced campaigns. The party is also asking the administration to return all funds used for campaigns where the phrase “Making Things Happen” appeared, and via this complaint they are also asking all agency managers to stop the usage of the phrase in government announcements or agencies.
“What we are denouncing in this specific case is how a campaign slogan used in two different political campaigns, Pedro Pierluisi’s run for governor and Jenniffer González’s run for resident commissioner, two years later they integrate that phrase into a state government message, and how that message is also used in governor’s social media as of recently where he not only uses the slogan, but also places the NPP logo, which is the palm tree, right there,” said PDP Secretary General Gerardo “Toñito” Cruz. “There is no doubt. They are using public funds to speed up the governor’s political campaign.”
“The country is not dumb,” Ortiz González said. “If they think they’re going to trick people with their slogan, then they are gravely mistaken. The people know that instead of making things happen the government is LETTING things happen, letting things happen in education with plenty of schools in the south not being repaired, letting things happen in families, where there is a low employment rate, … and the Office of the Women’s Advocate, with a great lack of resources to combat the increase in gender violence.”
Another problem cited by the PDP president was that the “constant presence of agency leaders at political events only sends a negative message to the people of the island,”
“The NPP has never learned that the government is one thing, and the political party is another,” Ortiz González said. “The constant presence of agency leaders at political events is something else we need to denounce at a later date. This government is not just for NPP followers, it’s for everyone, for independence party followers, PDP followers and anyone who has a political belief or doesn’t.”
Pierluisi said later on Tuesday that the complaint by the PDP leadership about the use of the phrase “Making Things Happen” is ridiculous.
“These people are desperate; how ridiculous they are,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “Making things happen comes from my own State Message. And my campaign motto was ‘Be Part of It.’ They didn’t even investigate my campaign motto, which was that we all be part of what I proposed, what we are doing. And making things happen, it is my own expression in the State Message that is being repeated by everyone in my administration and on the street.”
“This has nothing to do with my political campaign,” Pierluisi added. “In due course I will have announcements that have not even started and I will have another motto that will not be the same as the one they mentioned. So that complaint is ridiculous and it makes me feel sorry for them.”