After EB fiasco, new party funding norms needed

Gun Rights

Western democracies

There is nothing wrong with political parties receiving donations as long as it is public who the donors are. After all political parties are large institutions with complex networks and incur big expenses. In the U.S., it works the other way – the strength of a candidate is gauged by the campaign funds the person can muster.

According to US’ Federal Election Commission (FEC), till last month all the 2024 presidential candidates together had raised $381 million.President Joe Biden was in the lead with $90 million, followed by his Republican challenger Donald Trump at $80 million.

Nikki Haley, who was the last to pull out for the Republican nomination race, didn’t do too badly raising USD 36 mn.

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The US has good transparency rules but its not the epitome of democracy where ‘dark’ funding is concerned. Private fund-raising is built into the system. Candidates are allowed to raise upto $3,300 from individuals, while party committees can raise up to $41,300, as long as the name and occupation of the donor is conveyed to the FEC.

Though corporations and lobby groups are restricted from directly funding candidates, a series of US Supreme Court judgments has now made it possible for them to spend ‘soft money’ almost limitlessly through political action committees or ‘Super PACs’ through advertising campaigns, etc.

For instance the rightwing pro-gun group, the National Rifle Association (NRA), spent $50 million backing Trump and his other Senate candidates in 2016. The NRA is such a powerful voice in US politics that it is virtually impossible to bring in any serious gun control laws.

It is estimated $14 billion was spent in the US presidential campaign in 2020, the most expensive election so far. Commenting on money power undermining democracy, the Brennen Centre of Justice said “big money dominates U.S. political campaigns to a degree not seen in decades” and is “drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans.”

Germany on the other hand has a sophisticated system that allocates taxpayer funds to political parties that have polled at least 0.5% of the vote to the European Parliament or the Bundestag. Allocation of funds are based on the strength of the party: 0.83 euro for each valid vote ; and 0.45 euro for each euro received from other sources like membership dues, or legal donations.Parties must account for their assets and for the sources and use of their funds.

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