M Electoral Commission 2010, limit of 30.3 million per
party, free TV only for political parties not for candidates
6 billion up from
--- thanks to the Supreme
Court’s removal of limits. Source Center
for Responsive Politics
2009 $780 source Communications Ministry, no limit for
party, free TV limit for candidates
2011 70 Million Source Transparency International
no limits, no limit
on election funding, free TV proportionate to results in last election
No data, no limits
on elections, Political ads are banned from TV and radio
CNN) -- The world economy may be bracing for another grim
year, but political donors in the United States are breaking out their
checkbooks to finance what is expected to be the most expensive presidential
election in American history.
for Responsive Politics estimates $6 billion will be spent in the U.S.
elections by campaigns, political parties and corporations hoping to propel their candidates into the
White House and what writer Mark Twain once called the "best Congress money
The projected price tag of the 2012 U.S. election
dwarfs that of other nations, but corruption monitors from Transparency
International (TI) say it's not just how much will be spent but where the money
is coming from that threatens the integrity of politics around the world.
While the trajectory for spending in U.S. elections is soaring, total party
spending in the 2010 general election in the United Kingdom was actually 26% less than in 2005.
But despite the fact party spending dropped to $49 million, the absence of
limits on the amount individuals or corporations can donate has contributed to
the ongoing erosion of public confidence in the political process in the UK,
according to one watchdog organization.
"When donors are making contributions exceeding £20,000 ($31,000) --
and some are making donations well over £250,000 ($390,000) -- it's perfectly
understandable you don't give away that kind of money without expecting
something in return," Chandu Krishnan, executive director of TI UK.
In November 2011, a UK advisory body recommended increased public funding as
one way to avoid future scandals and limit the influence of big donors in
elections, but the three main political parties rejected the proposal.
Krishnan, citing Scandinavia as a model, believes increased public funding
would cut down party dependence on large donations and give the election system
In Norway, government funding accounted for 74% of political parties' income
in 2010, according to Statistics
Norway. And unlike in the U.S., where candidates and their supporters can
buy as much television time as they can afford, political ads are banned from
television and radio.
Corruption monitors say the lack of public funding in India, the world's
largest democracy, has contributed to a staggering influx of under the table
corporate contributions to candidates that has undercut the integrity of recent
Intelligence reports received by India's Electoral Commission suggested that
upwards of $2 billion in so-called "black money" will be spent to
influence the Uttar Pradesh state elections this year, according to Anupama
Jha, executive director of TI India.
"Everybody knows about black money," Jha told CNN.
"Corporations are expected to donate no more than 5 percent of their
profits, but they pay more than that under the table. Those who donate funds
also control the politicians, and the politicians (become) more accountable to
their sponsors than to their constituents."
There's also a presidential election
this year in Russia, where corruption monitors say the issue of big money in
politics pales in comparison to the abuse of government resources by the United
Russia party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is again running for
While there are no limitations on
the amount U.S. political parties can spend on televison ads, broadcast time in
Russia is doled out on a limited basis, and is proportionate to the results of
the last election.
But as opposition parties prepare
ads to maximize a limited amount of television time, nightly news broadcasts on
state-run channels are filled with stories of United Russia politicians
repairing hospitals, or opening new underground rail stations -- officials
benefitting politically from initiatives paid for with taxpayer money.
"There are two sets of rules in
Russia -- one set for parties who are paying out of their own pockets, and
another for the party and candidates with access to public resources,"
says Elena Panfilova, head of TI Russia.
While opposition parties must
finance campaign trips around the country during election season, incumbent
politicians can campaign during official state-funded trips, according to
Abuse of media and Russia's public
resources may be time-tested tools of incumbents here, but that hasn't stopped
United Russia from trying other ways to get a leg up on the competition.
In November a crowd at a concert in
Siberia rained down boos on veteran rock band Mashina Vremeni -- Time Machine
in English -- when they were introduced by an emcee who announced that the
concert was backed by United Russia and awarded them medals from the local
"The parties try to hijack
whatever they can hijack in Russia," Panfilova told CNN.
Another country where big money and
elections go hand in hand is Brazil, Latin America's largest country and one of
the world's fastest growing economies.
Roughly $2 billion was spent by
parties and candidates in the 2010 presidential election, according to Claudio
Weber Abramo, executive director of TI Brazil.
Nearly 98% of winner Dilma Rouseff's
campaign donations -- and 95.5% of her main opponent's -- came from
corporations, says Abramo.
Abramo says corporations donated
99.04% of all money spent in Sao Paulo, Brazil's most populous state, during
the 2010 election -- a reflection mainly of voters' apathy and politicians'
failure to form relationships with their constituents.
"This is an enormous problem,"
Abramo told CNN. "The distribution of money reveals something deeper in
the Brazilian political landscape, which is that citizens are not very much
concerned about supporting parties and having a political life."
While some observers want to ban
corporate spending outright, Abramo says that will only make it harder to track
corporate influence on politics in the country.
"The interests are still there
even if you prohibit corporations from donating to candidates above the
board," he told CNN. "They will do it in a hidden way, and they will
While political finance watchdogs
such as the Center for Responsive Politics monitor the amount of money spent
during U.S. elections, a financial adviser for the International Foundation for
Electoral Systems says no reliable information exists for how much money was
spent during the 2011 presidential election in Nigeria.
While Nigerian law gives the
country's election commission the right to set a maximum spending limit for
parties, the commission neglected to do so before the 2011 election, according
to Magnus Ohman.
"Parties can do whatever they
want, there's no limit to the amount they can spend," Ohman told CNN.
"Candidates do have limits, but the money they get from their parties is
excluded from that limit."
While the 2011 elections were hailed
as a step forward in Nigeria's evolution as a young democracy, the lack of
restraint on political spending is a worrying development for election
"It really was an expensive
election not only at a presidential level but also at the gubernatorial level,
especially down in the south," said Ohman. "It's an electoral system
where you need to spend."
UK corruption monitor Chandu
Krishnan says an ever-increasing amount of money in elections is a global
"In many countries across the
world, the cost of elections is increasing," he told CNN. "If parties
and politicians can't find the resources from the state, there is an increasing
desperation to seek them from private sources -- and that is where the
corruption comes in."
CNN's Claudia Maiko Brunner
contributed to this report.