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This book deals with questions of political party funding and campaign financing, issues which arouse controversy in many parts of the world. How are the central actors in the political arena supposed to gather the funds necessary to operate effectively on behalf of their chosen political ends? And, how may they spend money in furtherance of their political objectives?
The aim of this volume, the first in a new series of Columbia University/London University collaborative projects, is to explore these issues in the specific context of a number of national settings. The studies presented here show that financing questions cannot be addressed independent of the constitutional conventions of the country, the nature of the political parties in the country, and the means of access to publication and the media in any given nation.
It may be one matter in the US, where the political parties do not have a mass institutional base, to restrict contributions from any particular source to a few thousand dollars, or even to prohibit union contributions to political parties altogether. But in a country with a Labour Party built upon the union structure, that same rule would be an invitation to state assault upon a central political actor. Similarly, the high role of constitutional oversight in the United States and Canada yields surprisingly divergent results in terms of whether contributions or expenditures may be curtailed.
The national studies in this volume reveal a rich diversity in the approach to regulation in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand, Quebec, the United Kingdom and the United States. The topicality of the issues considered is reflected in the fact that since the book was first mooted there have been major decisions of the US Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as an investigation and report by the Electoral Commission in the United Kingdom, all of which have a direct bearing on the legal and policy issues discussed in this book.