Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Nation: New Rules for Campaign Finance and a Puuyaaism

Bt50m limit put on contributions

Individuals and companies will be allowed to contribute no more than Bt50 million a year to any single political party, a National Legislative Assembly committee decided yesterday.

The Nation

Some committee members opposed the decision, claiming it was tantamount to allowing big corporations and rich individuals to have unfair influence over political parties and may even legalise favouritism through awarding these contributors with state concessions.

"With Bt50 million, they will definitely reap the benefits later," said committee member Narong Chokewattana. "It's tantamount to legalising money politics."

Narong said he favoured limiting contributions to Bt10 million at the most.

Panellist Wuthipong Priebjariawat said even in the US, the ceiling was a mere Bt3.4 million or US$100,000 and South Korea had a similar sum.

Well, here is the truth about US campaign financing.

The US and Thailand have very different systems for campaign financing, notably because the US is a republic with a federal system of government, so there are federal, state and local laws that govern campaign finance.

The most an individual can give to any one candidate for federal office is $2,300 during the primary and $2,300 during the general campaign.

The most a PAC, usually an interest group or a corporation, can give is $5,000.

However, contributions to the political parties can be limitless. But the national party committee can only seed back $5,000 to any candidate, and that is only after the primaries.

The reason the US system is in place is to force candidates to reach out to as many contributors as possible, and that broad base of contributors supposedly is a reflection of their popular appeal.

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.

Man, I can just hear the jokes in moo bahn all across the country if Thai politicians had to raise money from the voters to finance campaigns. I think they would see it as a double rip-off.

On the other hand, if the law was changed so that politicians could only accept 5,000 baht contributions from individuals and corporations, and that was the max, that would transform campaigning in Thailand


Anonymous said...

Campaign finance and political funding laws of Thailand should have been reviewed, straightened out, and amended long time ago.

I kind of like the USA laws on the matter Fonzi - - particularly the philosophy behind it of encouraging the politicians to campaign for election or party contributions with strict limits thereof.

It will look like a joke at the start . . particularly in poor villages but I think even in USA the candidates nor the parties were not expected to raise funds from the distressed or from the impoverished.

Jotman said...

I'm wondering if the new Thai law -- by placing a ceiling of one million dollars on donations to a single party -- amounts to an attempt to prevent deposed PM Thaksin from financing his political return, some new incarnation of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai party?

I jotted other reflections on this interesting post at my blog.