Encouraging Stakeholder Consultation in Political Finance Regulation
One of the cornerstones of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) approach to political finance is that consultation with all key stakeholders – including government institutions, political parties, candidates, civil society groups and media – is essential when determining the most appropriate system for political finance regulation. Constructive dialogue between these groups will help increase the effectiveness of the political finance regulation system, and stakeholder buy-in helps to increase overall compliance.
From September 3-5, 2015, IFES had the opportunity to share this perspective with academics and practitioners during a global conference on “Money in Politics” in Mexico City, organized by International IDEA and the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary (TEPJF). IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney moderated a panel focused on political finance disclosure and the use of disclosed data. During the panel, key topics of discussion included the challenges and obstacles faced by different stakeholders in compliance and how efforts by various stakeholders can complement each other to reach higher levels of transparency.
The three panelists represented different perspectives that should be taken into consideration when developing disclosure regulations:
- Philippines Commission on Elections Commissioner Luie Guia provided a political finance regulator’s perspective on the challenges he has faced in supporting compliance by political parties and candidates as well as in obtaining and publishing disclosure information.
- Joseph Birkenstock, whopreviously served as Chief Counsel of the Democratic National Committee and now works with Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, PC, examined the views of political parties and candidates regarding political finance disclosure, and what they need from the political finance regulator to support enhanced compliance.
- IFES’ Senior Political Finance Adviser Magnus Ohman represented the perspective of non-State actors, and examined how civil society organizations, media and the public can hold political parties, candidates and regulators accountable.
Through this interactive session, panelists and the audience deliberated over issues ranging from the need for appropriate legislation to whether more frequent disclosure requirements are helpful to both political finance regulators and the regulated community, to ways that interested civil society organizations and media have helped the respective political finance regulators monitor compliance.
It was clear from the panel discussion that disclosing campaign financing information to the public is a key element in improving transparency, and that stakeholders need to work together to achieve this goal. Together, resources can be leveraged, and the focus can be on increasing compliance through enhanced communication and education rather than resorting solely to sanctions. Additionally, disclosure information should be made available as soon as possible, with sufficient detail and in an accessible format. Moving forward, the use of technology should play an integral role in the development of solutions to increase the efficiency of reporting and publication.
IFES’ current programs supporting the strengthening of political finance regulation and oversight seek to increase the financial accountability of political actors to citizens. This conference enabled IFES to showcase how its holistic approach is essential to a healthy disclosure system more specifically and a robust political finance regulation system more broadly.