Money can have a corrupting influence on the political process, and opaque political finance threatens democracies around the globe. However, money is a necessary part of any political process. Democracy cannot function unless political parties and candidates have access to resources to explain their political program to the electorate, and to hear from the people how they want their community or country to be governed. For decades, IFES has supported organizations and institutions to strengthen their political finance systems, make them more transparent and accountable, reduce corruption and increase trust in the political process.
When campaigns are fueled by uncontrolled or undisclosed money, the outcome may not reflect the will of the voters. After winning, elected officials may feel bound to support their financiers – repeating the cycle of corruption, wasting public resources, and undermining democratic and economic competition. There are myriad ways in which elections can be threatened by corruption, both inside and outside the jurisdiction. Criminal groups may instrumentalize elections to launder illicit funds and to support politicians who will permit them to continue to operate with impunity. Foreign interests may funnel money across borders and into political campaigns. Malicious actors may fund sophisticated online disinformation campaigns and political advertising masquerading as genuine content. Finally, cryptocurrency political donations and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) may open new avenues for corruption in elections. Ultimately, when campaigns are fueled by uncontrolled or undisclosed money, the outcome may not reflect the will of the voters. After winning, elected officials may feel bound to support their financiers – repeating the cycle of corruption, wasting public resources, and undermining democratic and economic competition.
IFES supports organizations and institutions in creating more transparent and accountable political finance systems to enhance the integrity of the political process, reduce the abuse of state resources and ensure a level playing field. This includes more effective laws, better institutional oversight and enforcement, and robust citizen monitoring. IFES has provided frameworks for regulatory reform, approaches for building public support and political will, and tools for monitoring political finance. IFES grounds its innovative programs in research and examines the interconnectedness of political finance and corruption with other issues, such as electoral violence, electoral integrity and the political participation of women.
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