Corruption and Election Finance: Spend, spend, spend

In America, getting elected has become big business – this year’s campaigns will rival the annual income of many poorer countries. In Germany, it has been a bad business, as doubtful money arrives in secret accounts. While the British Parliament debates strict new spending limits, Ken Livingstone – the independent candidate to be London’s first elected Mayor – sets out to raise half a million pounds for his campaign. Who will cut the cost of politics?

The World Today Updated 27 October 2020 Published 1 April 2000 5 minute READ

Keith Ewing

Professor, Public Law, King's College London

Sleaze takes many forms and stalks in different guises. Those with favours to seek have found easy prey: government ministers; parliamentarians; and political parties. The current Kohlgate crisis in Germany – secret slush funds allegedly laced with money from France – is a devastating reminder that no one is immune and no country has the means to prevent it.

But in some respects Kohlgate is of a qualitatively different order: it goes to the very heart of the new Europe, and crosses frontiers in an unparalleled manner. It gives a new, unpleasant meaning to the Franco–German axis.

But it is not only sleaze: there is also its close cousin – the blatant buying of elections even in mature ‘democracies’ – that now effectively limits access and participation to a smaller and smaller number of well-financed citizens.

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