Guest Post: C4I’s New Index Illuminates the Need for Reform of State-Level Campaign Finance Rules in the U.S.

Today’s guest post comes from Shruti Shah, President and CEO of the Coalition for Integrity (C41), together with Laurie Sherman, C4I’s Policy Advisor, and Stephanie Camhi, a C4I external consultant.

Anticorruption and good governance advocates, in the United States and elsewhere, have long been concerned with the potentially corrupting influence of campaign donations and other political spending on public policy. (Indeed, although the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed political spending to be a form of “speech” protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Court has also recognized the prevention of corruption, or its appearance, as one of the few interests sufficiently compelling to justify campaign finance laws that limit such spending.) Much of the discussion of the campaign finance issue in the United States focuses on federal elections, yet concerns about the corrupting effect of campaign donations are just as important in state-level elections. State elected officials—legislators, governors, and other elected executive branch officials—play a vital role in creating and implementing public policy, and these officials decide how to spend trillions of dollars on roads, health, education, welfare, and other programs. And money continues to flow into state races in record-breaking amounts. Yet the potential for corruption—both illegal corruption and the “softer” corruption associated with undue access and influence for large donors—does not receive as much attention at the state level as at the federal level.

State-level political candidates must follow campaign finance laws written and enforced by the state, and states vary greatly in terms of the content and quality of their campaign finance systems. To highlight the variance across states in campaign finance laws, and to provide more information to voters and reformers, the Coalition for Integrity (C4I) created the first State Campaign Finance Index analyzing the campaign finance laws and regulations in all fifty states and District of Columbia. The Index assigns states scores based on several factors that, in C4I’s judgment, constitute best practices. The most important factors are as follows: Continue reading

Kleptocracy and Neoliberal Shock Therapy – Talented Researchers Wanted

Professor Kristian Lasslett of the University of Ulster in Belfast, Northern Ireland, posts this announcement about funding opportunities for doctoral candidates.

A kleptocracy is a state where government institutions have been captured and then employed to rig the national political-economy. Rigging the national economy allows the benefits from the revenues generated by the state’s many estuaries of activity to be politically choreographed, leading to a centralisation of wealth and an increase in inequality. It also allows revenues to be channelled from one sector of the economy to another through various rackets. It could be that public revenues are systematically pilfered, or profits from those sectors in the economy not controlled by members of the kleptocratic regime are squeezed so that those sectors under the command of kleptocrats can earn artificially inflated revenues. Kleptocratic regimes also see public and private assets alienated through means that allow kleptocrats to obtain fixed and circulating capital at a discounted price or permit the kleptocrats to offload the assets at an artificial premium.

What happens to a kleptocratic regime when it is subjected to neoliberal shock therapy? Does it allow state-organised criminal rackets to become legitimate?  Does it lead to a steady erosion of kleptocracy? Does it produce a new elite that sits alongside an old kleptocratic guard? Or does it intensify the kleptocratic dynamic thus creating a worst of all possible situations scenario?

Ulster University is currently advertising a generously funded doctoral research post to test a series of hypotheses emerging from regions where kleptocracy and shock therapy overlap.  Continue reading

A Global Stocktaking on This First International Right to Know Day

GAB is pleased to welcome this guest post by the Centre for Law and Democracy:

Today marks the first of what will be an annual recognition and celebration of citizens’ right to access information held by their governments.  Making September 28 International Day for Universal Access to Information will, as the UNESCO resolution establishing it explains, help make governments and citizens alike aware that an “open and transparent government is a fundamental component of a democratic and developed state,” that all natural and legal persons have a “right to seek, access and receive information from public bodies and private bodies performing a public function,” and that it is “the duty of the state to prove such information.”

For the past five years the Centre for Law and Democracy and Access Info Europe have been tracking nations’ efforts in fulfilling this duty, and we are pleased to note that substantial progress has been made.  There are now 112 countries with some form of right to information or freedom of information legislation on the books with six nations enacting a new law this year alone.  Not all RTI laws meet the minimum criteria for granting citizens the right to information, and even those laws that do are not always enforced effectively.  To keep watch over developments, our two organizations annually produce an RTI Rating reporting legal changes and assessing their compliance with international norms.  This year’s report has a number of surprising findings.    Continue reading

Citizens Against Corruption: Report from the Front Line

Pierre Landell Mills, a long-time and tireless advocate for putting governance at the center of development and a founder and board member of The Partnership for Transparency,  contributes the following guest post:

Everyone professes to hate corruption, but until recently few citizens believed they could stop it. Too often citizens accepted corruption, assuming it was a permanent societal disability to be borne with resignation. But people are increasingly intolerant of being squeezed for bribes and are ever more incensed at predatory officials growing fat on extortion and crooked deals. They want to do something about it.

And they are.  From the Philippines to Azerbaijan to Latvia to India to Mongolia and everywhere in between groups of courageous and dedicated citizens are taking direct action to root out corruption. Citizens Against Corruption: Report from the Front Line recounts the heroic struggle of local civil society organizations in more than 50 countries across four continents supported by The Partnership for Transparency Fund.  Among the examples the book details —   Continue reading

Guest Post: Connecting Health and the Fight Against Corruption

Taryn Vian, Associate Professor of Global Health at the Boston University School of Public Health, contributes the following guest post:

The recent endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has prompted greater discussion and debate about the most important aspects of, and the most effective means for achieving, sustainable development. Most of the discussion of corruption in the context of the SDGs has focused on SDG 16 (“Promote just, peaceful, and inclusive societies”), which specifically includes anticorruption and related objectives among its targets (and which has prompted some debate on this blog – see here, here, here, and here.) But the fight against corruption is also closely linked to the achievement of another one of the SDGs: SDG 3 (“Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”).

On its face, SDG 3 is about health, not corruption. But the fight against corruption is in fact closely connected to SDG 3, and health professionals need to open their eyes to this connection. Corruption worsens health outcomes in many ways: siphoning off resources that are supposed to be devoted to health care (for example, through embezzlement and absenteeism), increasing the cost and decreasing the availability of medicines and medical equipment (or enabling the spread of fake medicines), creating barriers to use of health services (particularly by poor and uneducated people who are especially vulnerable to bribery) and reducing the overall availability and quality of health services. Thus the fight for increased health ought to be—perhaps must be—seen as inextricably connected to the fight against corruption.

Though measuring the impact of corruption on health is challenging, at this point we have a sufficiently large (and growing) body of evidence that corruption threatens health. Consider the following: Continue reading

How to Corrupt an Anticorruption Commission: The Case of Nepal

Narayan Manandhar, an international consultant on anticorruption, contributes the following guest post:

Nepalese lawmakers recently promulgated a draft constitution that envisages new roles and responsibilities for its anticorruption agency, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority.  The proposed changes to the commission’s mandate shows how, if policymakers don’t have the guts to abolish an anticorruption agency, they can defang it by eroding its power and responsibilities.  This recent effort is the latest attempt by Nepal’s elite to ensure the commission cannot do what it is supposed to do: fight corruption.    Continue reading