26 Jan 2012

Campaign Finance Remains Key for Political Influence in Several Countries

An article published by CNN compares main characteristics of campaign finance in selected countries and shows the different ways in which private money manages to maintain its influence in politics in most of those nations.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the next elections in the Unites States are expected to cost a total of $6 billion in campaign resources, by far the most expensive elections in comparison to countries like Russia, Japan, India, United Kingdom and Brazil.

The last elections in Brazil, for instance, raised $2 billion in campaign funds. Similarly to the US, resources spent in political campaigns come almost entirely from corporations. Although there are politicians who support a reform to introduce exclusively public campaign funding, corruption watchdog organizations fear that this won’t solve the problem, as companies would be expected to continue financing campaigns illegally.

Illegal campaign finance is already a problem in India, where there is a large share of “black money” contributions above the legal limits to donations by corporations, which makes the system very intransparent. In addition to that, campaign resources are still massively used in vote-buying. In the last elections in Tamil Nade, for example, one third of voters declared in a poll that they had received money in exchange for their vote.

In the United Kingdom, a positive signal in the last elections was a reduction in the total amount spent by candidates. Nevertheless, a weakness that remains is the lack of limits to the amount that individuals and corporations are allowed to contribute to the campaigns. A recommendation by a government advisory board to increase public funding to political campaigns, with the objective of reducing the influence of interest groups and companies, was rejected by the main political parties.

A different picture can be seen in Russia, where a major distortion comes not from the influence of private donors, but through the abuse of government resources by the party in power. According to Elena Panfilova, from TI Russia, the governing party has a clear advantage by the official media and state-funded trips and events to promote its candidates.

Monitoring of campaign finance is most difficult in Nigeria, where there is no reliable record of amounts spent by candidates in elections. Moreover, there are virtually no limits to what campaign committees can spend.

Read the full article “International campaign finance: How do countries compare?” on edition.cnn.com. The pictured featured above is from blog.transparency.org.