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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

OECD: Political donation rules must be part of overall integrity framework

Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald writes about a new report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Financing Democracy: Funding of political parties and election campaigns and the risk of policy capture, and goes on to highlight weaknesses in Federal Government rules,
... our electoral commission..reported on political donations only last week. The donations it informed us of had been made up to 19 months earlier. Even so, the figures may not be complete. There is little penalty for late disclosure.
Parties are not required to disclose donations under $12,800, and buying a seat at a dinner table with a minister is not classed as a donation.
The OECD report says public reporting of donations should be timely, reliable, accessible and digitally searchable. Why? To make it easier for civil society groups and the media to be effective watchdogs.
Perhaps that's why we don't do it."
Main Findings of the report:

  • Finance is a necessary component of the democratic processes.
  • Money enables the expression of political support. 
  • It enables competition in elections.
  • However, money may be a means for powerful narrow interests to exercise undue influence e.g. newly elected officials maybe pressured to "return the favour" to corporations.
  • Infrastructure and urban planning are particularly vulnerable to the risk of policy capture.
  • Consequences include inadequate policies that go against the public interest.

Loopholes in existing regulations

  • Current funding rules need attention to ensure a level playing field for all democratic actors.
  • Loans, membership fees and third-party funding can 'go-around' current spending limits.
  • Countries are struggling to define and regulate third-party campaigning (charities, faith groups, individuals or private firms).
  • While many countries have adopted online technologies to support proactive disclosure.
  • There is a need for more efficient and independent oversight and enforcement.

Political finance regulation as part of an overall integrity framework

  • Political finance regulations are ineffective in isolation.
  • They need to be part of an overall integrity framework that includes the management of conflict of interest and lobbying.
  • Fewer than half of OECD countries have set or tightened lobbying standards

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