Councils hiding party donors

Political parties are rejecting freedom of information requests about their donors at the council level, arguing it would be a breach of their duty of confidentiality

Political parties are using a loophole to hide the names of their financial backers at the council level, reports Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

A 1995 law requires that political parties have to publish the names of donors who contribute more than 20,000 kroner. But according to the Ministry of Economy and the Interior, councils are not obliged to publish the names of private donors because they have a duty of confidentiality not to share personal information.

Small donation, big impact
Jyllands-Posten reports that seven councils have made use of these conflicting laws to refuse to answer freedom of information requests regarding the identity of private individuals who have donated over 20,000 kroner.

The revelation has bewildered experts in the field, given that a 20,000 kroner donation could make a big impact on the election of a local official who has the power to award contracts.

READ MORE: Left and right squabble over party funding

“There is a greater need for transparency here, so it can seem paradoxical that there is no right for freedom of information requests on the local level, when there is regarding political parties on the national level,” Oluf Jørgensen, a transparency expert and head of research at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, told Jyllands-Posten.

Law professor Jørgen Albæk from the University of Aarhus agrees with Jørgensen’s appraisal.

Cheap influence
“On a national level, you probably need far greater sums of money before you can have an influence, but on a local level a donation between 50,000 and 100,000 kroner could have an impact on personal relationships,” Albæk told Jyllands-Posten.

The politicians who make up Copenhagen City Council have taken advantage of the opportunity to hide the identity of donors to the parties Socialdemokraterne, Socialistisk Folkeparti and Enhedslisten.

Journalists have complained that their freedom of information requests have been turned down.

While the complaints are being handled by her ministry, the economy and interior minister, Margrethe Vestager (Radikale), said she could not comment on the issue.