Monitoring Campaign Finance During The 1996 Elections For President Of The Russian Federation
18 April 1996
by Robert Dahl
One of the essential elements of a system of political finance regulation is public disclosure. This element is based on the principle that voters have a right to know the nature of financial activity of political candidates and organizations, especially the private sources of their political funding.
Disclosure refers to requirements in the election law for reporting information to election authorities about campaign funding by political candidates and political organizations. Disclosure rules specify certain information must be disclosed about receiving and spending funds for election purposes, and when and how such information must be reported.
Campaign finance disclosure begins with reporting requirements. But disclosure is more of a market solution to the problem of the influence of money on politics and politicians, rather than depending upon strict legal enforcement of rules. Disclosure permits self-policing of the political system by the public. The public is helped by the news media and civic associations, who monitor, scrutinize and publicize the information that is reported by candidates and organizations.
Disclosure provides information to assist voters in choosing which candidate to support. Information about private sources of support for candidates is particularly useful for voters to assess the character, beliefs and true intentions of candidates.
An effective campaign finance disclosure process depends upon three components:
· Reporting: Laws and regulations (and an election authority to enforce them) that require full accounting of receipts and disbursements of funds raised and spent to influence elections by candidates and political organizations, through reporting requirements both during the pre-election campaign and after the election.
· Access: Availability of the reported campaign funding information on a reasonable and ongoing basis to news media, civic associations, candidates and political organizations (including opponents) and other interested persons, both during the pre-election campaign and after the election.
· Publicity: Monitoring, scrutinizing and publicizing of the reported campaign finance information by the news media, to inform the public and to discourage improper funding activity or false reporting by candidates and political organizations.
The process of political finance disclosure of information that is reported and accessible is not complete unless the information is examined and brought to the attention of the voting public. To assess opportunities for monitoring campaign finance activities during the June Presidential pre-election campaigns, journalists need to answer the following questions:
· How will the Central Election Commission make campaign finance information available to the public and news media prior to and after the Presidential election?
· How should representatives of the news media direct their requests for information about campaign finance reports to the CEC? What information and documentation will be available for examination by the news media, and on what basis?
· How often and when will the CEC periodically publish information received from state banks regarding receipts of funds in the Presidential candidate's special temporary accounts?
· Will the CEC exercise its right under the law to request information from state banks about the spending of funds from candidates' accounts and if so, when and how often? Will the CEC publish such information or otherwise make it available for examination by the public and news media prior to the election? Will information about expenditures by candidates that is made public include documentation required under the law for contracts between campaigns and providers of goods and services?
· What methods can be used by the news media to monitor potential spending to influence the elections apart from and outside the official bank accounts of candidates by persons or organizations?
The Russian election laws provide for the most complete campaign finance reporting after the elections. This information should be carefully examined, even though the voting is over. Candidates and their supporters should know they will be held legally accountable for obeying the reporting laws and politically accountable for the nature of their funding and expenditures.
It will require time for democratic practices to take hold in Russia. Future elections will be more open and fair only if disclosure is implemented as fully as possible during and immediately following this Presidential election. Monitoring of campaign finance information through the entire process is essential.
In addition to campaign finance laws, the term disclosure also applies to political ethics laws. In the context of ethics, disclosure involves requirements for officeholders to report information about their personal finances - after they are elected and throughout their service in office. This type of disclosure, particularly as to the sources of income, is intended to monitor and prevent improper payments or subsidies to officeholders by persons or groups attempting to influence official action. Thus, the concept of public disclosure is intended to apply to the entire process of seeking and holding public office.