Dr Sam Power gives evidence to All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Campaigning Transparency
A new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Campaigning Transparency, originally formed by Fair Vote UK, Stephen Kinnock MP and the Electoral Reform Society took evidence on issues with regards to the transparency, deterrence and monitoring of electoral campaigns.
Expert in political financing, Dr Sam Power - of the University of Exeter Politics Department - joined academics, regulators and civil society organisations in giving evidence to the fourth session highlighting the rising power of money in election campaigns. Drawing on his research into the ways in which political parties (and campaigns) raise and spend money in Great Britain, Dr Power discussed the need to reform various regulatory practices in this area.
Sam suggested a range of reforms that would increase the transparency of the ways in which current financial practices work. He argued that we know that political parties spent £3.16 million advertising on Facebook at the 2017 general election, but that these figure most likely do not include the full story of spending in this area. For example, political parties and campaigns spend considerable amounts of their money on consultancy firms, who might then use Facebook to advertise on their behalf which is not reported in official returns. He also argued that political parties should be required to declare how much they spend on targeted advertising and that political parties adhere to common accounting practices in their spending returns.
Sam also argued that the Electoral Commission, the body that regulates elections in the UK, should have more powers and funding to enforce these powers. He agreed with the APPG that the maximum fine the Electoral Commission can levy being set at £20,000 is insufficient and that the Commission should have more sanctioning powers. He also advocated for the creation of a 'specialist digital unit' within the Electoral Commission to more accurately reflect, and track, modern campaign practices. To do this, he argued, the Electoral Commission would require considerably more funds.
Finally, Dr Power suggested that money in politics is like water. It flows in an uncontrollable manner and, whilst you can try to put up dams and barriers, it will inevitably find a way through. Therefore it is important to uncover where the most blatant leaks are, and to find ways to stem the flow.
You can listen to the full evidence given in this session at the link below: