Setting standards concerning limits on campaign finance contributions
By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
On setting standards concerning limits on campaign finance related contributions and expenditure, appropriate and reasonable limitations must be established on their amounts, sources and types, on both an individual or aggregate basis, Democracy Reporting International, a Germany based non-Governmental organisation noted in a paper on Sri Lanka.
Expenditure ceilings should be established based on appropriate and reasonable limitations while ensuring that the freedom of choice of the voters is not undermined and so that the democratic process is not distorted by disproportionate expenditure on behalf of any candidate or party.
These recommendations were made by them in a briefing paper published on campaign finance in Sri Lanka and recommendations for its effective implementation.
Sources of contributions include among others, anonymous donations, foreign donors and State owned entities while types of expenditure, among others, include paid political advertising.
‘Restricted, available sources of funding for political parties and candidates must be explicit. Usually, limits are determined either as a fixed sum of money or as a multiple of the national minimum salary. Other alternatives include tying the limit to an average salary amount or as a percentage of the total amount that parties can receive or spend. It is through a combination of political consensus and the country’s social and economic specificities that the standards on what denotes reasonable and appropriate can be reached. Campaign contributions and expenditures should be clearly defined to ensure the certainty of what counts towards the contribution and expenditure ceilings. Campaign finance limitations should not omit to regulate the use of candidates’ and parties’ own resources and the use of loans and debts, they further added.