April 3, 2012

U.S. Flunks Corruption Index’s Money In Politics Test — We’re Tied With Tajikistan

U.S. Flunks Corruption Index’s Money In Politics Test -- We're Tied With Tajikistan

What do Germany, Colombia, Ireland, Mexico, Georgia, Indonesia, Macedonia, and Serbia have in common? According to the nonprofit global governance watchdog Global Integrity, they all beat out the United States on regulating money in politics. The United States tied with Tajikistan scoring 29 out of a 100-point scale measuring the effectiveness of legislation regulating individual and corporate donations to parties, as well as auditing of donations and campaign expenditures. Germany scored highest on the 31-country sample with 83 points, while Colombia came in second with 71.

The authors of the report attributed the United States’s weakness not only to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 constitutional law ruling in Citizens United, but also to lax enforcement and ineffective implementation of campaign finance regulations:

For all practical purposes, the ceiling on donations is routinely flouted in most countries. In the United States, the weak regulation on donating “soft” money to parties – i.e., contributing donations to so-called independent, third-party organizations that endorse or work against a particular campaign, aka “Super PACs” – allows individuals to financially support a party indirectly. The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling has also significantly changed the landscape of corporate donations by paving the way for corporations to provide unlimited, indirect financing to Super PACs. Additionally, “the ruling […] allows the corporations to pay out of their general treasury to support congressional campaigns and party committees.”

The report also blamed the Federal Election Commission for being “fairly passive in investigating and enforcing campaign finance violations,” and went so far as to call it “the most dysfunctional agency in the country,” pointing to problems arising from “ideological factions with the Commission.”

The United States isn’t alone in failing to effectively regulate money in politics. Campaign finance has “perennially been rated as the weakest component of countries’ anti-corruption framework since…2004.”