As long as the state doesn't finance political parties directly, their ordinary activities and competitive abilities during the election process fully depend on individual contributions made by wealthy donors. Such donations made by physical persons and legal entities are not controlled, and there are no efficient mechanisms securing financial accountability of political parties. As a result, these two factors facilitate political corruption and distort the democratic nature of election process. Campaign funds of parties are used only to legally administer finances received from doubtful sources, which are presented by parties as "their own funds". Nearly 80% of total election funds that parties have reported in 2014 parliamentary campaign (UAH 650 mln) are party's own contributions. However, the public doesn't have any information about sources of these vast amounts that parties spend officially during election campaigns. They usually use individual donations as an alternative way to transfer their own resources to the electoral fund. Although this way of filling in the election fund is more transparent, it's doesn't perform its main function – public fundraising. If we analyze individual donations made to electoral funds of parties, we'll see that most of them are made by party office holders and party activists.
The total expenditure of the election campaign is being constantly increased despite it's limited. More than 90% of party funds are used for campaigning in the media. Thus, it's probably better to establish expenditure limits for the certain types of campaigning, but not for the total campaign expenditure. However, parties continue using finances which are not included in their campaign funds. For example, they start campaigning before they are officially registered, use non-monetary donations which are not included in financial reports, misuse administrative resources. If strict limitations are introduced without any oversight mechanisms, shadow campaign financing will remain a topical issue.
As long as election funds are filled non-transparently, campaign expenses are excessive and uncontrolled. The Batkivshchyna and Opposition Block spent (under proportional system) 6.4 and 3.9 mln UAH in 2014 parliamentary elections.
The Central Election Commission, which is authorized to secure the state oversight of campaign financing, doesn't have enough powers and resources to efficiently control campaign funds of parties and counteract election law violations.
Financial reports that are published on website of the CEC contain only general information about the receipts and expenditures of campaign funds. Detailed information is not published. Analysis of financial reports is formalistic and doesn't show the real situation with campaign financing. There are still no precedents in Ukraine regarding sanctions against parties violating the procedures of party financing and campaign financing.
Formation of campaign funds
Campaign fund of a party consists of party's own contributions and contributions made by individuals, is created to cover campaign expenses of a party, and administered by a designated campaign fund administrator. According to the Article 45 (3) of the Law of Ukraine on Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine, all campaign events and materials shall be covered by a campaign fund only. Campaign fund administrator is responsible for accounting and submission of reports on the receipts and expenditures of campaign funds.
According to the Law of Ukraine on Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine, each party shall create a campaign fund to cover its campaign expenses. Campaign fund is considered formed after an accumulative or current account is opened in a bank to receive contributions and make transfers for campaign expenses (not more than one in a single-mandate district). However, two parties – Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (CUN) and Party of Greens of Ukraine – have failed to fill their campaign fund accounts. Thus, as long as they didn't have any funds on their campaign accounts, they didn't have any official campaign expenses. The CUN hadn't even open a campaign fund account. At the same time there's no responsibility for non-compliance with law requirements concerning mandatory creation of campaign fund.
Despite the Party of Greens of Ukraine didn't have any funds on its campaign fund, its had managed to nominate 137 representatives for membership of district election commissions, and was fully represented in DECs (on the same level the most active parties were). Besides that, with zero expenses from the campaign fund, the Party of Greens of Ukraine received almost 40 thousand votes in support (0.25%). Even the Liberal Party of Ukraine which had received 0.05% of votes had spent UAH 216 thousand on campaigning. At the same time, the National Democratic Party of Ukraine spent UAH 1 mln on campaigning, but didn't nominate any representative to the DEC, and received 0.07% of votes.
According to the Article 50(1) of the Law, campaign fund of a party shall be formed from the party’s own contributions, as well as voluntary donations from physical persons. The election law prohibits donations from any other sources like legal entities. However, parties can easily evade this restriction in the following way: legal entities make transfers to a party account (what is allowed under the Law on Political Parties of Ukraine), and then the party transfers these funds to its campaign fund as own contribution. Besides that, foreigners, persons without citizenship, and anonymous donors cannot make contributions to campaign funds under the Law. However, a citizen can make a transfer to a party account without documents which certify his/her citizenship. Later on, the party can transfer these funds to its campaign fund as own contribution and use for campaigning.
Contributions to campaign funds of political parties
Since 2002 parliamentary elections, contributions to campaign funds made by individuals were limited: not more than one thousand of untaxed salary minimums for 2002 parliamentary elections; not more than 400 minimal salaries in 2006, 2007, and 2012. In 2012, the maximum possible contribution from an individual was UAH 447,200. Some experts had emphasized that this sum is much larger than the same limit in Western Europe and USA. However, there were no limitations for individual contributions to campaign funds in 2014 parliamentary elections.
The contributions haven't increased, after all, neither in total amount from individuals, nor from the certain donors. The total amount of campaign funds reported by all parties which have received more than 1,5% of votes included 20.5% of individual contributions.
Officially reported amounts of donations usually don't show the real level of financial support the parties receive from citizens. In fact, most of such individual donations to electoral funds are made by party members themselves, as demanded by a party or on its own initiative. Campaign fund of the AUU Batkivshchyna is a bright example of such approach, where 98% of reported funds are donations from individuals. There were nearly seven hundreds of transfers in the same amount – UAH 149,900. It's hard to imagine that seven hundred citizens made a decision to donate the same amount to a campaign fund and, as a result, created the largest campaign fund for 2014 parliamentary elections. It should be also mentioned that the party didn't conduct any wide-scale fund raising campaign. Besides that, 98% of contributions from individuals is quite a contrast to amounts the other parties received. Only 2 of 12 the most popular parties (which have received more than 1.5% of votes) – ZASTUP and Right Sector have quite high, but still low if compared to the Batkivshchyna, percentage of individual donations made to campaign funds (36% and 35% respectively). As for the other 9 parties, percentage of individual donations made to their campaign funds doesn't exceed 13%. One of the leaders in electoral race – Petro Poroshenko Block – hasn't reported any individual donations in its campaign fund. Svoboda and CPU, which present themselves as anti-oligarch parties, also don't have any contributions from individuals.
Besides Batkivshchyna party, donations in amount of UAH 149 thousand were also received by other parties. For example, Samopomich has declared 17 (of more than 60) equal transfers on amount UAH 149 thousand. All the other transfers (except one) were smaller than this amount. All 11 individual donations to campaign fund of the People's Front don't exceed UAH 148 thousand. ZASTUP party received 33 donations in amount of UAH 100 thousand and 7 donations in amount of UAH 149 thousand.
However, such coincidence is not accidental, and can be explained by the Law on Prevention and Combating Legalization (Laundering) of Criminally Gained Income, Financing of Terrorism and Financing of WMD Proliferation. According to the Article 15(1) of the abovementioned Law, a financial transfer shall be monitored if it's equal to or above UAH 150,000. Thus, donors had to make contributions in amounts less than this sum in order to avoid financial monitoring. As we can see, even though there were no limits for individual contributions to campaign funds, anti-corruption law made donors avoid excessive transfers.
As a result, only some individual donors made large contributions to party campaign funds. For example, the future MP Vadym Novynskyi was the only individual who donated to the electoral fund of the Opposition Block, and the amount of transfer was 12,925,000 UAH. Oleksandr Abdullin, candidate #7 in the list of Batkivshchyna party, made the largest contribution to its campaign fund – 4,000,000 UAH. Campaign fund of the Radical Party of Oleh Liashko received a single transfer of 3,390,000 UAH from its future MP Olksii Kyrychenko. The largest amount officially reported by the Samoponich was 500,000 UAH, donated by Taras Sitenk, the party's candidate in SMD #168 (Kharkiv city).
If we don't count UAH 100 mln declared by the AUU Batkivshchyna as individual donations, there are only 4% of individual donations in campaign funds reported for 2014 parliamentary campaign. This percentage is similar to those of the previous years (2007 – 4.28%; 2006 – 13.23%; 2012 – 5.1%) and shows us that so-called "own funds" of the parties remain the dominant resource for campaign funds.
With no direct state financing, no public fund raising campaigns and no right to conduct business activities, parties continue accumulating tens of millions UAH on their accounts, which are transferred to their campaign funds later. Parties do not reveal sources of such "own funds" and, apparently, this shows their dependence on financing provided by big business. Besides that, there is no information about income, expenses, and property status in yearly financial reports of parties. The citizen have limited access to such reports, which are usually published by parties in their own printed editions instead of publishing them on their official websites. Thus, parties which received seats in the Parliament haven't published the relevant financial reports for 2014 yet.
The amounts yearly reported by parties are different from those declared in reports on the receipts and expenditures of election funds. For example, according to the report of AUU Batkivshchyna for 2013, the party had a little more than UAH 10 mln income (including UAH 9.6 mln of member fees and donations), and in 2014 parliamentary elections, the party had UAH 2.5 mln of it's own funds plus UAH 107.5 mln of individual contributions on campaign account. To compare, Batkivshchyna has declared far larger income some years earlier: UAH 165 mln in 2010 and UAH 114.5 mln in 2012. Svoboda reported UAH 6 million income in 2013, and the amount of party's own funds transferred to the campaign fund in 2013 was UAH 39 mln.
Expenditures of campaign funds
The last time campaign fund expenses were limited by the Law in 2002 parliamentary elections. Parties were allowed to spent maximum one hundred fifty thousands of untaxed minimums from a campaign fund (UAH 2.55 mln). There were no account limits, only expense limit. As a result, the Yednist Block had the largest campaign fund in 2002 – UAH 2.7 mln. However, as long as there were no limits, campaign funds of parties were growing in the future parliamentary elections – from UAH 112 mln in 2006 to UAH 218 mln in 2012 (Party of Regions had the largest funds at all times), showing the real price of campaigns.
In 2013, the Law of Ukraine on Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine was amended, establishing the limit for campaign fund account – ninety thousand of minimum wages (almost 110 mln UAH). Thus, AUU Batkivshchyna had the largest campaign fund in 2014 parliamentary elections – UAH 109.5 mln. As long as the legislation is far from being perfect, these limitations of campaign fund result in shadow campaign financing, but don't decrease campaign expenses. Parties formally declare the maximum possible amounts in their campaign funds, and use additional indirect (in kind) contributions, finance events through third persons or long before the election campaign starts.
For example, according to the results of long-term observation conducted by Civil Network OPORA during 2014 Presidential election in Ukraine, leading political parties (Petro Poroshenko Block, AUU Svoboda, AUU Batkivshchyna, Civic Position, Radical Party, People's Front, Opposition Block, and Samopomich) had used outdoor, street, and media advertising at least some weeks before their official registration in the CEC.
Another example are dates when parties started paying for advertising in the media from their campaign fund. We remind that the campaign had officially started on 28 August 2014. First expenses on election campaign were made by the Radical Party on 1 October, Opposition Block – 30 September, Petro Poroshenko Block – 29 September.
The expenses on the media (air time on TV and radio, materials in printed media) took over 90% of all funds the parties spent on campaigning. Opposition Block and AUU Batkivshchyna had the largest expenses – over UAH 100 mln and around UAH 99 mln respectively. Expenses on other types of campaigning (outdoor advertising, printed campaign materials) are exceedingly smaller. Thus, the People's Frond spent the largest amount on outdoor advertising – UAH 7.3 mln according to official reports. The Radical Party, to compare also conducted a wide-scale outdoor advertising campaign, but it costed only UAH 280 thousand. It should be taken into consideration that expenses on advertising in the media are the largest, if any limits on the certain types of campaign expenses are going to be established by the law.
Despite the fact that parties had smaller campaign funds for 2014 parliamentary elections, the total expenditure has increased in 11% compared to the previous year and amounted to UAH 674.5 mln. As for per voter cost for parties which have won parliamentary race in 2014, the AUU Batkivshchyna has spent the largest amount – 122 UAH on each person who supported it in the elections. The Samopomich has spent the least – 16 UAH per voter. To compare, the highest per voter cost in 2012 was paid by the Party of Regions – 36 UAH, and the lowest by the AUU Svoboda – 11 UAH. As for per voter cost for parties which didn't manage to get into the Parliament, the Strong Ukraine had spent the most – 124 UAH per vote in 2014, and the Our Ukraine spent 280 per voter in 2012.
The calculation of per seat cost showed that the AUU Batkivshchyna has also paid the highest price per seat in the Parliament – UAH 6.7. The Samopomich, to compare, has spent UAH 0.9 mln per each seat in the Parliament.
Reporting on receipts and expenditures of a campaign fund
According to the amendments to the Law of Ukraine on Elections of People's Deputies of Ukraine, parties and candidates were obliged in 2013 to submit interim and final reports on receipts and expenditures of their campaign funds. The CEC and district election commissions were obliged to publish on their websites an analysis of financial reports received from the parties.
However, a lot of candidates haven't submitted interim and final reports to DECs and, therefore, they are not available on website of the CEC. Nevertheless, such situation was expected, as long as there is no legal responsibility for the delay of report submission.
Forms of financial reports and the analysis procedure were established by the corresponding resolutions of the CEC. On 25 November, the CEC has published final financial reports on receipts and expenditures of a campaign funds of political parties and analysis results. The analysis conducted by the CEC was quite formalistic, checking whether the parties submitted information in time and whether it's complete or not. The CEC didn't conduct any audit of financial expenses, and didn't verify their accurateness and objectivity. Besides that, in spite of the drawbacks in campaign financing (for example, campaign expenses before opening of election fund account), the CEC didn't initiate any verification or public investigation of manipulations and misuses committed by parties. Thus, we can state that the CEC cannot secure proper oversight of campaign financing due to the lack of authority, personnel, and financing.
Besides that, the CEC has published only consolidated reports on receipts and expenditures of a campaign funds, without any detailed interpretations. CEC's approach to the publishing of information about campaign funds is not in line with the recommendations that the DRECO gave after the Third Evaluation Round, indicating that it's not enough to include only total receipts and expenses in financial reports, as long as they don't provide any meaningful information.
Another drawback of financial report form is that they don't include information about indirect (in kind) contributions to campaign funds. Besides that, they don't include any information about operational expenses for the election period like functioning of headquarters, activities of campaigners. These two issues should be regulated by the law in detail.
- It's necessary to secure on the legislative level that parties and candidates shall not conduct any campaigning before the election process starts and electoral funds are created.
- Full reports on the receipts and expenditures of election funds should be published on website of the CEC in a form easy to access and a format convenient for comparison.
- The parties should voluntarily publish information about their campaign funds as well as reports on their filling and use in a convenient format.
- Activities of election headquarters should be legalized and regulated by the legislation. Information about expenses on election headquarters should be transparent and included in financial reports on the receipts and expenditures of election funds.
- Parties must be obliged to publish full financial reports before an election campaign. They should also publish all financial reports on their websites.
- Reports on the receipts and expenditures of election funds must undergo an independent audit. Audit reports must be published together with financial reports.
- Oversight and monitoring of campaign financing should be conducted by an independent and specialized body having the authority to detect and prevent law violations. Anti-Corruption Bureau could implement such functions if it's authorized to investigate violations of party and campaign financing and apply sanctions.