WASHINGTON, D.C. – Regardless of how weak or sophisticated their political financing regulations are, countries around the world are equally failing to effectively regulate the flow of money into politics, a new report finds. The Global Integrity Report: 2011, a major investigative study of 31 countries, was released today by Global Integrity, an award-winning international nonprofit organization that tracks governance and corruption trends globally.
Twenty-nine countries out of a 31-country sample scored less than 60 on a 100-point scale on questions assessing the effectiveness of laws regulating individual and corporate donations to political parties, as well as the auditing of those donations and campaign expenditures. Government monitoring agencies tasked with enforcing such laws typically lack investigative power and often have little to no authority to impose sanctions.
The United States scored just 29 out of 100 on the effectiveness of its party financing regulations and 25 out of 100 in its ability to effectively regulate contributions made to individual political candidates. Those scores represent a significant decrease from 2009, the last year Global Integrity covered the U.S., and reflect the negative impact of the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision in early-2010 that loosened the controls over private money flowing into U.S. elections. Despite that backsliding, the U.S. remains at the head of the pack when it comes to the disclosure of political finance information to the public (94 out of 100).
“We remain deeply concerned by the lack of progress globally on effectively regulating the flow of large sums of private money into the elections process in many countries,” said Global Integrity’s Executive Director, Nathaniel Heller. “Political financing remains the number one corruption risk around the world, and absent meaningful reforms will continue to hinder many other open government and transparency initiatives,” said Heller.
The Global Integrity Report: 2011, which seeks to assess the medicine applied against corruption rather than the actual disease of corruption at the national level, also assessed other areas of government transparency and accountability. These include conflicts of interest regulations, freedom of the press, and law enforcement accountability.
It covers developed countries such as the U.S., Ireland, and Germany as well as dozens of the world’s emerging markets and developing nations, from Algeria to Ukraine to China. Rather than measure perceptions of corruption, the report assesses the accountability mechanisms and transparency measures in place (or not) to prevent corruption through 320 “Integrity Indicators” as well as journalistic reporting of corruption. Gaps in those safeguards suggest where corruption is more likely to occur.
Other major findings of the report include the following:
Anti-corruption agencies often fail to fulfill expectations. Many anti-corruption agencies assessed in 2011 are heavily politicized and are not independent from the governments they are ostensibly tasked with monitoring. A lack of capacity and political independence is quite often accompanied by a lack of citizen complaints to the agencies, in large part because whistle-blower protections are weak or non-existent in many countries.
In 29 of the 31 countries assessed, government bureaucracy is considered an extension of the ruling party or is routinely utilized for partisan purposes. The boundaries between public resources and party activities remain blurry in most countries assessed, with the exceptions of the U.S. (100 score) and Ireland (75 score).
Several countries experienced noticeable improvements or declines in their overall scores on anti-corruption safeguards since they were last assessed in 2009. Liberia, Armenia and Tajikistan showed the biggest improvements, while Mongolia, Algeria, and Mexico saw decreases in performance.
“The country assessments that comprise the Report offer among the most detailed, evidence-based evaluations of anti-corruption mechanisms available anywhere in the world,” said Heller. “They provide policymakers, activists, and citizens alike with the information to understand the governance challenges unique to each country and to take action.”
The Global Integrity Report is the product of months of on-the-ground reporting and data gathering by a team of more than 100 in-country journalists and researchers who prepared close to a million words of text and more than 10,000 data points for their respective countries.
The 2011 report covers:
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