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What power do we have?

by Colman Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 05:40:35 AM EST

One of the successes of dKos and our other colleagues in the US has been fund-raising for candidates, choosing and backing politicians running for office who would have been ignored by the official Democratic Party. The near-win of Paul Hackett in Ohio yesterday is perfect example.

This is possible because any US citizen is permitted to donate to campaigns. Due to the nature of the EU, it does not seem that we can do the same at the national or EU level. While the amounts of money involved in most European elections are smaller than in the US, fund-raising is still an important activity for parties in Ireland and the UK and I assume in other states.

I can only easily find detailed information on the rules for donations for two of the member states: the UK and Ireland. In both the following quote seems to apply to foreign donations:

A political party or an accounting unit must not accept a donation, of any value, from an individual (other than an Irish citizen) who resides outside of the island of Ireland.

Neither must a donation, of any value, be accepted from a body corporate or an unincorporated body of persons which does not keep an office in the island of Ireland from which at least one of its principal activities is directed.

Note the last paragraph. The best information I've found on the UK situation is these proposals, which allow any company with an office in the UK and registered in the EU to make donations. There seems to be a significant disparity between companies and EU citizens there. I'm not sure what constitutes a "principal activity" in the Irish case.

In Ireland, similar rules apply to "third parties", any individual or organisation involved in political action. Any direct funding seems out of the question.

Are hassling the media and harassing our representatives the only two levers of power available to us in Europe? Is this a good thing?


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It is difficult to buck the parties in those countries with proportional electoral systems, because it's the parties who nominate candidates to the slate, who manage  the financing and who receive the public funding.

In Germany, someone like Hackett would probably never have got the opportunity.

Even candidates who campaign for a direct mandate in personalized proportional systems must make nice to their party if they want to have a safe fallback slot on the slate.

Even where donations are allowed, they can't be sufficiently targeted.

Unless the recipient is one of the smaller parties...

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 07:22:27 AM EST
Actually, I'm more than a little happy that fundraising for most EU based parties is not modeled on the US system. From reading your post, it appears that at least Ireland and the UK still have openings for the abuses of the American system where big money guarantees access and more...something of a legalized and entrenched buying of votes even if it's not called that.

While the blogosphere has recently turned the tables, my concern is about donor fatigue. Look at some of the comments whenever a new thread goes up about giving to X or Y. You always have a few people who simply cannot give or have given this month or are doing without something rather basic because they are giving. How long can this go on?

Despite these concerns, fundraising in the US works because of the structure of its electoral system. This was figured out; something of a mass consumerism adopted to campaign finance. Get lots of small donations and you can outdo just a small number of larger donations. The analysis looked at the system and figured out how to make a difference.

So...

The EUlogosphere or EUblogosphere (or whatever, take your pick) needs to see how it can make a difference. I totally agree with Colman that we should think about this. Let's look at the current structures/processes and do an analysis to see the strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats.

We need to look at this as two different, yet connected networks.

The first is a networking of different national political systems. The political systems of all European states are much more connected than we realize. We have to find those links and use them. One way, for example, is simple information flows; the diffusion of good policy examples from one society to another. We can serve as a channel for this type of policy information diffusion. Another is to work on the national dailies in the ways that the dKosers do...letters to the editor and such.

The second is to look at the EU institutional network. In this one, Parliament is the first opportunity, but we need to find other ways of approaching the EU network as well. It's precisely because the EU has not been a system with great accessibility and permeability that we had the Non-neen (sp?) votes were so easy to come by. (I'm not saying that this was the only explanation; all complex phenomena are multi-determined.)

We're not going to figure this out today in one thread, particularly not in early August. But this is a good dialogue for us to be having. Jerome et al have provided the first step in creating this, now let's see what comes next.

by gradinski chai on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 08:20:23 AM EST
One side-effect of the system is to prevent any pan-European parties from forming. We can have the sort of alliances you see in the Parliament, but they can't share resources effectively.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 08:39:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely. And the parties themselves don't communicate much (at all?) about their EU-level alliances. Each wants to hang on to its home turf. (Possible exception for the Greens).

Let's say that the will to pan-European parties isn't in evidence among pols. Something that needs discussion here, no doubt.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 08:50:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If one means financial resources, then that's absolutely correct, but those resources may not be the ones that need sharing.

We don't have to model the next form of poltical activity on past activity. We don't need 20th century modeled political parties on a European scale. We need networks of parties, but networks that really work. This allows flexibility and coordination. The EP's political groups work on this model. It has drawbacks, but it also has strengths. We may not have seen them all yet if we're looking at them with the expectation that they can only be effective if they look like traditional political parties that we're accustomed to on a national level.

by gradinski chai on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 08:51:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
networks of parties, but networks that really work sounds fine to me. And I was thinking of EP groups when I wrote about EU-level alliances.

But my point was that, for most citizens, these groups are practically invisible. And not because people are looking for something they shouldn't be (ie old-fashioned type political parties). It's because there's no communication, no doubt because the democratic link, the voter link, is too indirect to push the pols to feel the need to communicate.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 09:00:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hands up anyone who can name any of the groupings? Not me.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 09:08:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
unless you watch Euronews. But if we analyze the current construction, we can figure out where the access points for citizens are. These may be underdeveloped now, and if so, then we need to develop them more. If they are noniexistent, then we create them. But we don't need to go about looking only at the EU level center of the political group. We could go through existing political parties and demand responses to EU level questions. Force the parties to become more knowledgable about and see the need to coordinate more effectively. Our knowledge of what other states are doing to address problems (knowledge that we can get through our own network here) can be used to provide possible solutions and to shame national political leaders into closer coordination.

I'm still thinking a lot of this out right now, so my apologies is some points are not clear. I do hope we can keep up this topic in several different threads if need be over the next several weeks.

by gradinski chai on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 09:33:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are limits of €6400 or so a year on donations, but I'm not sure if that applies party-wide or to each candidate. I also don't know how the rules on donations coming from a group of entities controlled by one person would apply.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 08:43:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And as to working it out in August, I'm hoping to start raising the issue now and then have another go later on when people come back to the real world.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 08:45:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the only way to give the European project a new start is to create political movements/structures at European level. These movements/structures must be able to propose a common project for Europe. These movements/structures cannot be built on the model of national parties: so far, the attempts to do so (like the European Socialist Party or as far as I know, the Greens) have failed. On the other hand, they cannot be just loose networks (there are already numbers of them) because they should be able to promote a European political framework.  

It is an important issue to be discussed on European Tribune, as well as Whataboutbob's
Creating A New Left Economic Manifesto.

We should make these issues (and some others) permanent threads. Is it possible to create permanent threads?  

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 05:43:04 PM EST
I'm working on putting together a wiki for the site as well as a "live issues" box like the recommended diaries one (maybe).
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 06:06:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it's a good idea. Scoop is a very powerful tool, but the way it is used makes us mix diaries which have not the same timescale: some are focused on news, some are (often very nice) chats, but some require a more sustained reflection. I am sure creating live issues will allow us to have exciting and fruitful exchanges.

We will probably need to make regular synthesis when the list of posts becomes too long but, so far, on Eurotrib, the rhythm is steady enough for us not to worry about that...  

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 06:28:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with this, it's something I wanted to bring up: how to keep the important discussions alive? Especially since we've seen recently that searching past diaries isn't necessarily easy...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Aug 4th, 2005 at 01:59:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've added a google site search to the right-hand bar. I find it easier to find things that way.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 4th, 2005 at 08:43:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First of all, good diary, it's prompted me to join the site and comment.

I'll no doubt end up doing some introductions of myself later, but for now I guess I should stick to the topic, except to say, UK born and currently resident, have lived in the US, Australia, NL and DE over the years.

  1. It is possible, with trust, to circumvent these rules, for example, send the money to $citizen who then donates it.

  2. The first big issue is of course that (IMHO) the UK (and other EU electoral systems I am familiar with) money donations are just not as important as they are in the US. For better or worse, our systems have evolved in different directions. This is good because pure money is not so dominant, but it also can mean it is very difficult to lend useful support a candidate from outside her constituency.

  3. Do you/we (since I am a newcomer, found the place via dKos just recently) actually have as coherent a general thrust of policy as the US Democratic party does? (Not that they are that coherent of course, but that's another issue, just that that is the backdrop to Kossack influence.)

  4. I second all the posts suggesting that we do need to build a pan-European structure of power, but in the absence of a single party to adopt (the way dKos follows the Dems) is there a set of principles existing (that I am, as a newcomer, not aware of?) to guide our efforts?
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Aug 3rd, 2005 at 06:54:58 PM EST
Welcome aboard!

On your points:

  1. We don't want to do that. Stay within the law.
  2. Correct.
  3. One of the things we want to work on.
  4. Ditto.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Aug 4th, 2005 at 02:03:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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