Do Barbadians Care About Political Campaign Reform?
In a document titled ‘Getting there on time:notes on the regulation of campaign finance in Latin America the author in great detail outlines issues of campaign finance our region continues to be challenged. The BU household hardly expects the BU family to read the 122 page document although we highly recommend it.
The unexpected annoucement recently by Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite that the government has de-prioritized the implementation of anti corruption legislation should be of concern to civic minded Barbadians. By sharing a few excerpts from the document we hope to explain why the problem just got even bigger.
The opening paragraph of the document:
The relation between money and politics has come to be one of the great problems of democratic government’. It is with this sentence that James Kerr Pollock began his pioneer volume on practices of political financing in the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, published in 1932. This assertion, as well as his appeal to public opinion to understand that ‘[h]ealthy political life is not possible as long as the use of money is unrestrained’, are truer today than in Pollock’s own time (1932: 328). The spread of democracy, the growing complexity of electoral processes, and the awareness of the risks posed by corruption to the viability of democracies have placed the financing of political activity at the center of the public debate worldwide. The issue has become global and urgent.
Private financing is a legitimate and necessary tool for political parties and their candidates, with both its virtues and its dangers. Among the former, it allows political parties to engage more with society. Nonetheless, the possibility of raising private funds to finance political activities opens up an array of considerable risks to democracy. The first and most serious of these is the possibility of using money from criminal or illegal activities for political ends.
The effects of faulty campaign finance regulation can be as negative as the absence of regulation, because any effort to regulate tends to raise expectations that new rules will at least be capable of moderating the worst abuses. Failed reforms leave behind a sense of disillusion and cynicism and become a barrier to new regulatory efforts.
This category includes those instruments that regulate the flow of economic resources to political activities, both by controlling and prohibiting the use of certain sources of financing (‘negative’ or ‘passive’ regulations) and by stimulating the use of other sources (‘positive’ or ‘active’ regulations). The more widespread controls apply, as one would expect, to private political donations. Almost all democracies restrict the use of at least some types of private donations, albeit with very uneven levels of intensity. While some countries (Greece, for example) simply impose a cap on contributions, most modern democracies place an absolute prohibition on the use of certain sources of financing. The limits on individual contributions range from very low amounts in some countries to approximately USD 200,000 per year in Japan. The prohibitions, for their part, generally pertain to foreign donations—prohibited in dozens of countries—and certain types of corporate donations, typically those from state enterprises or firms that benefit from contracts or licenses granted by the state.