This report examines campaign finance laws, including those governing the length of the campaign period, funding sources and disclosure requirements, restrictions on contributions and expenditures, and free speech implications of such restrictions, in Australia, France, Germany, Israel, and the United Kingdom.
The comparative summary covers all of the country reports. All the reports focus on campaign finance relating to parliamentary elections, with the French report including some information on the President of the Republic who is elected by direct universal suffrage.
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Australia has compulsory voting. Federal election campaigns are traditionally six weeks. Australia has both public and private funding of political parties and political campaigns, and does not currently restrict the level or source of private political donations (other than via disclosure obligations). Legislation has been introduced into Parliament to reform election funding; however to date such legislation has not been passed. There is no limit on the amount of political advertising although commercial broadcasters are limited on the amount of advertising per se that may be shown.
Official electoral campaigns in France are very brief. Campaign finance is strictly regulated. All forms of paid commercial advertisements through the press or by any audiovisual means are prohibited during the three months preceding the election. Instead, political advertisements are aired free of charge on an equal basis for all of the candidates on national television channels and radio stations during the official campaign. Campaign donations and expenditures are capped. Candidates must appoint an independent financial representative to handle all their financial matters relating to the election. Campaign accounts are audited by a special commission. Candidates whose campaign accounts are certified may be reimbursed up to 50 percent of their expenses by the state if they meet certain conditions.
German election laws and campaign finance laws differ significantly from those of the United States. In Germany, the political parties are tightly run organizations that finance election campaigns, nominate candidates, exact membership dues from their members, and subject members in Parliament to strict caucus rules. The parties receive government funds and are subject to some not very onerous disclosure requirements. The individual candidates or members of Parliament are minor players in these systems.
Political candidates are included in the party groups and candidate lists competing in the general elections for the Knesset (Parliament). Their candidacy is supported by their party, which incurs expenses in promoting them. Candidates, however, also run independent campaigns in their party primaries. Israel’s campaign finance laws restrict the identity of donors and the amounts of both donations and expenses. Parties and candidate lists may receive funding from both public and private sources. The restrictions imposed by law are recognized as potentially infringing upon freedom of speech. Constitutional rights in Israel, however, are not considered absolute, and have to be balanced against competing constitutional rights, such as the right of equality.
Legislation to prevent excessive spending by electoral candidates in the United Kingdom has been in place since 1883. The UK’s system of regulating campaign financing focuses on limiting the expenditure of political parties and individual candidates, rather than limits on donations that can be received by these parties and individuals, combined with a transparent reporting system of donations received and election expenditure incurred.
Last Updated: 01/13/2015