Tons of donations to parties: “The donor becomes a bit of a politician’s boss.”

Tons of donations to parties: "The donor becomes a bit of a politician's boss."

So Crowell advocates for more transparency and more control. “In some countries, for example Germany and Sweden, there is an independent committee of political scientists and lawyers who scrutinizes everything. The parties also have to account for all expenditures. There has to be full transparency.”

This committee not only checks the income but also the expenses. Because that’s also the point: Where does the money go? “One million and 350,000 euros is a lot of money in the relatively cheap election campaigns in our country. If this money helps in winning the elections or if the politicians themselves end up, then the donor is more of an employer for that politician than we are voters. The lenders are given a lot of influence.”

No roof

Incidentally, there is an independent commission in the Netherlands that oversees party financing, but it only checks parties’ compliance with the law. Politician Sarah de Lange (University of Amsterdam) says this does not make it a paper tiger, because the committee intervenes from time to time. It happened, for example, last year at the Democracy Forum due to uncertainty about party membership.

And it is not the case that the stricter rules are not taken into account at all. De Lange himself was a member of the evaluation committee that made recommendations on the rules regarding party donations two years ago. Among other things, the need for a maximum amount of donation was examined. “We said afterwards that at that time there was no doubt about such high donations that such a ceiling was necessary. In most other countries there is no such ceiling either. If these amounts increase.”

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Mailbox address

The evaluation committee came up with other recommendations: Parties should disclose all donations over 2,500 euros (instead of 4,500) and donors should not be able to hide behind a mailbox address.

These recommendations were not adopted by Minister Olungren. Since the House of Representatives called for it in 2016, a law has been drafted to prohibit donations from abroad.

Incidentally, De Lange agrees with Krouwel on the importance of transparent financing. “But the rules should not become so strict that they make it impossible, for example, for some politicians to make money transfers to their party.”

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