ST 41 / Political Finance and Political Corruption IPSA RC 20 Meeting

The Research committee on Political Finance and Political Corruption (RC 20) chaired by Jonathan Mendilow conducted its mid‐conference meeting in Paris, July 9‐11. The meeting was held in partnership with the French Political Science Association, and its Research group Money and Politics (ArP), directed by Abel François and Eric Phélippeau.

The first effort to gather an international group of scholars to study the subject in an attempt to produce viable generalizations did not take place till the mid 1960’s, and at first was limited to political finance. Among the subjects that engaged the attention since then was the lack of agreement concerning what constitutes political finance. It is clear that the funding of parties and electoral campaigns should be studied, but not always what the term party itself denotes, nor what type of expenditures are political. In many countries one finds independent organizations that are, in practice, close to or linked to electoral competitors without being defined as such. Another difficulty relates to the effort to determine the impact of political spending under different circumstances. From the early 1980s on, additional questions have received growing attention: what are the possible mechanisms to fund political competition where there is a growing gap between costs and the readiness of the general public to finance them. In both established and emerging democracy the question turned on methods that would obviate plutocratic funding or corruption that would erode democracy. Again, the question regarded mechanisms, but also their impacts. By the time such questions came to the fore, fields of political finance and political corruption were reunited and in 1979 received recognition as a Research Council within IPSA. Not only do the two subfields relate intimately to each other (as noted above) but both encounter similar problems of definition (does corruption in one context constitute corruption in all ?) share the search for reform, and the need to analyze its impacts and consequences, and grapple with the need to come up with alternatives to investigative journalism in a sphere of inquiry that tends to produce scandals and be kept secret by the subjects of investigation. The aim of the RC is to serve as a meeting place for scholars interested in the pursuit of political funding and political corruption and encourage the sharing of ideas. The RC seeks thereby to encourage research that meets the highest academic standards on subjects that relate to the very viability of democracy in the turbulent current times. Finally, the committee seeks to contribute to the public debate and government deliberation of issues that are, or should be, at the top of the democratic agenda.