Put a Cap on It! Establishing an Upper Limit on Election Campaign Expenses
Estonia has justified the need to establish an upper limit for election campaigns by arguing that campaign expenses have got out of hand as well as with the need to restore politics to the level of ideas and platforms, not a competition between ad agencies.
If one is to read the summary of the reports on expenses and resources in parties’ 2007 general election campaigns, published by the Riigikogu’s Select Committee on the Application of the Anti-Corruption Act, the share of advertising expenses is unprecedented great compared with other campaign expenses, ranging from 54 to 93 % in the case of different parties. Election campaigns have thus become extremely centred on money, and direct contact with electorate appearing to be taking a backseat. At the same time, it is important to understand that setting an upper limit on campaign funding is not an individual and isolated issue. As with all prohibitions and restrictions placed on financing of parties, this, too, is governed by a rule of thumb. A restriction descends into self-parody if it is applied only in a symbolic manner and there is no practical way to enforce the prohibition and it cannot be enforced neutrally and effectively and if violations cannot be sanctioned.