Sunday, January 24, 2010

Comparing Corporate Donations: Germany and the U.S.

A friend of mine is an American expatriate who has been living in Germany for more than 25 years. I asked him if Germany limited corporate campaign donations and he said no and pointed me to this link from the Library of Congress [1].

There is no need to limit donations if you've already limited what can be done with them.

There are no limits on corporate contributions in Germany, BUT there are severe penalties for not reporting them properly, and strict limits on what that money can buy. Here political parties and corporations can buy unlimited TV and radio ads. And the German Criminal Code "contains a group of offenses dealing with insult, malicious gossip, and disparagement." Here the corporations can blanket the airwaves with that kind of stuff--that's what most campaign ads consist of. Because the limits on what political parties can do with donations are so strict in Germany, corporate donations constitute the SMALLEST amount donated, whereas here they are often the BIGGEST.

From the above link:

"In 2006, the political parties received about 30 percent of their income from the government, about 28 percent from membership dues, an additional 12 percent in mandatory contributions from elected and appointed officials, 10 percent from individual donations, and 3.5 percent from corporate donations."

Plus, the big parties in Germany are limited to no more than twice as much TV time as the small parties, whereas here it can be a thousand times as much, or even more, and usually is. Of course we don't have proportional representation, so why should we force the mainstream media, which is owned by the corporations, to allow small parties to buy ads even if they could afford to? That would infringe on the rights of the corporations that own the media, which also happen to be the corporations that decide the outcome of elections because they announce the winners BEFORE all the votes are counted, and since our votes are counted secretly by computers, we can't know if they were lying or telling the truth. Most corporations here don't tend to be particularly truthful. Wasn't it a Bush cousin on FOX News who called the Florida 2000 election for Bush long before the votes were counted? And of course the Supreme Court made sure that the votes couldn't be counted before Bush was sworn into office. By the time we learned that even despite the illegal purge of qualified voters, Gore had still gotten the most votes, it was too late to do anything about it.

Here's an excerpt from the link given above:

"The severity of limiting campaign airtime for the political parties is enhanced by the consensus of the German states that the political parties may not purchase advertisement time from broadcasters. This prohibition is valid at any time, not only during the campaign period, and it effectively limits the period during which the public must put up with campaign spots. Nevertheless, the public is not deprived of political information in the broadcast media because the broadcasters have the mandate to inform the public on political matters and they air programs in which politicians participate in discussions or interviews."

In other words, they don't have staged "debates" from which third party candidates are barred.

Another friend, a Brit, told me that in the U.K. they don't consider governments that lack proportional representation to be democratic in nature. Remember that we fought for independence from England because of, among other things, taxation without representation. Yet here in the U.S. two small third parties might get up to 10% of the vote each, another group of small third parties might get up to 5% of the vote each, the total could add up to as much as 30% of the vote, and they still wouldn't get a single seat in Congress, so the 30% of taxpayers who voted for them would still be unrepresented in Congress.

Check out that link I gave above. Germans don't have to tolerate more than a few minutes a day of political ads on TV, and that only for a limited time before elections. And there's no swift-boating. And of course Germany doesn't allow electronic voting machines because secret vote counts are incompatible with the most fundamental principles of democracy.

If we had a democratic form of government to begin with, unlimited corporate donations wouldn't be a problem.

Blogger's Note: Add to the above the following facts:  (1) The exit polls in Germany are never wrong by more than about 0.5%, (2) the exit polls in the 2004 election favored Kerry by a 2.5% margin, (3) the exit polls in the 2008 primaries in Massachusetts were at variance with the official vote tallies by as much as 16%, and (4) the Massachusetts Secretary of State declined urgent requests from election integrity activists to run an exit poll last Tuesday (why?).

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