Party financing rules to be overhauled

Socialdemokraterne start negotiations to increase the transparency of political financing. Opposition join talks but want greater control of ‘indirect support’ from trade unions

There needs to be greater transparency about party funding, argues the ruling Socialdemokraterne (S), who have agreed to reveal how much support they receive from the trade unions.

Party secretary Lars Midtiby says that parliament needs to address a growing mistrust about the money that flows between organisations and political parties.

“We think there is a need to look at the rules for party funding,” Midtiby told Berlingske newspaper. “They were rather progressive 20 years ago but now is the time to reconsider them and ensure more transparency.”

According to party funding rules from 1995, parties and politicians do not have to reveal the size of donations from businesses, lobby groups or individuals. Donations under 20,000 kroner do not have to be publicised.

Midtiby added that he expected a new law for party funding to be agreed upon before the next parliamentary elections, and that S would try to ensure that the size of their donations are publicised.

“We are looking at the entire law to try and find more openness,” Midtiby said. “The Danish rules are not up to date. For example, it fosters mistrust that a party can set up an association to collect funds and thereby hide who donated in the first place.”

S wants to secure broad political support for the new funding law which will mean chief opposition party Venstre (V) will need to agree on the new law before it is passed.

Speaking to Berlingske, V's deputy chairman, Kristian Jensen, said his party would look at changing the rules if indirect support to left-wing parties from the trade unions were also included.

“If we have a system in which each individual member of a trade union has to declare their position individually with regards to party support, then we are prepared to make a change,” Jensen said.

Far-left party Enhedslisten (EL) supports the government’s proposal to change funding rules but argue that indirect support from trade unions should not be included.

EL is supported by the trade union 3F, whose independent advertising campaign before the election was highly critical of the former right-wing coalition government.

“I’m not sure whether Venstre would consider a campaign from [industry lobby group] Dansk Industri for lower corporation tax as indirect support,” EL's group chairman Per Clausen told Ritzau. “Indirect support is hard to classify for each individual party.”

“There also ought to be more openness about lobbying by organisations. But that’s a different issue," Clausen added. "Venstre is looking more and more desperately for excuses to prevent more transparency about party funding.”

A Gallup poll of around 1,000 Danes carried out for EL found that 78 percent agreed that there should be greater transparency into party funding and that all donations over 5,000 kroner should be made public. The current threshold for anonymous donations is 20,000 kroner.

The far-right Dansk Folkeparti expressed support for S's proposal, while libertarian party Liberal Alliance argues there is no need to increase transparency.

According to Berlingske, Denmark has been criticised by both the EU’s anti-corruption organisation Greco and by Transparency International for not ensuring a greater degree of transparency about the sources and sum of political funding.

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