Saturday, September 15, 2007

Campaign Finance Reform in Thailand Vs USA

Blogger Fonzi compares a new campaign finance law in Thailand which introduces a $1,000,000 cap on individual contributions to a political party -- as reported by The Nation, with the US law. In the US individual campaign donations are capped at $2,300 but as for donations to a political party, there is no upper limit (chart). Fonzi writes:
In Thailand, on the other hand, the notion that politicians should have to solicit contributions from the "little people" is bizarre, because usually politicians are giving money, gifts and services to the voter in exchange for the vote. Then, the politician recoups his campaign investment by stealing as much from the state as possible in concessions and other forms of corruption.
Alarming to me is the extent to which Fonzi's description of Thailand describes the situation in the US in 2007. In the US, the $2,300 ceiling on contributions still effectively favors rich donors because this figure amounts to around 5% of the average American's yearly salary -- relatively few Americans will donate so much to a political party. In the US, a few wheeler-dealers have "rich lists." They sponsor parties for donors who can afford $1000-a-plate dinners. Having these hosts on your side can make or break your campaign; they have become powerful if largely unknown figures. Some US reformers have suggested that individual campaign contributions ought to be capped at $100.

Was this new Thai law aimed at Thaksin?

In the US, there is no limit to how much of your own personal fortune you can spend on your campaign. I wonder if this new Thai law -- which places a ceiling of one million dollars on donations to a single party -- is basically an attempt to prevent deposed PM Thaksin from financing his political resurrection, the next incarnation of his disbanded Thai Rak Thai party.