Friday, April 29, 2011

Where’s the Cash Trail?

In an article  titled “Moderate u-turn on political party donations”, the Local reports on a seeming about-face by Moderates on donation disclosure.  Yesterday the Moderate party secretary announced in a Dagens Nyheter op-ed that the party would release a list of donors. The move comes after public debate and criticism from the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). GRECO first complained of lack of transparency and oversight in Swedish party financing two years ago.
While it is certainly admirable for the party to put out a list of donors who gave over 20,000 SEK ($3,300 USD), this is a non-substantive gesture. The fact is that the Moderates and other Swedish parties oppose party funding legislation. The Moderates’ stance goes against the majority in the Swedish legislature.
The Moderates want only informal “transparency”—voluntary disclosure with no legislative reform. It makes you question the reliability of Arkelsten’s statement that: “her party doesn't accept money from companies or organisations, and in 2009 received an average donation of 770 kronor from 2,500 individuals.” If disclosure is informal and voluntary, it leaves the door open to abuse.

Arkelsten blames the Social Democrats—who also oppose reform—for support from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen) which is apparently not on the record. Christian Democrats have now come around to supporting the 20,000 SEK donor benchmark for disclosure, but also balk at reform legislation.

Rejection of legislation is suspect.  When Moderates blame Social Democrats for not disclosing the details of known union support, one wonders what foreign, organizational or corporate support the Moderates—or any of Sweden’s parties—may have received.

When Moderate Foreign Minister Carl Bildt advocates for Turkish admission to the EU, and runs to the airport to welcome Ship to Gaza activists, we wonder if this is simply his ideological support for Turkey and its policies, or if there is some other motivation.

There is also a Swedish practice of funding terror-related organizations through groups which operate with minimal transparency. But that doesn’t mean this is smart or ethical.

The Swedish government should mandate disclosure of party donors. Lack of transparency is an indicator that democracy is secondary to insider influence. 

By Chanah Shapira

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