Party funding in Austria

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Party funding in Austria has been subject to public regulation and public subsidies since 1975. Although the demarcation between campaign financing and routine activities due to overlapping election cycles and "permanent campaigning" is pretty difficult, Austrian law has for a long time provided for separate subsidies from the federal budget. So have done the nine states of the Austrian federation and some municipalities.

Sources of party funds[edit]

In the final quarter of the 20th century the overall income of Austrian parties has rested on two major and two minor pillars. Up to 1975 membership fees, donations and assessments of officeholder ("party taxes" in Austrian parlance) had been the three sources of political funding. The 1970s added public subsidies as another major source of revenue. During the 1990s about 900,000 signed up party members contributed 15 to 25 per cent of the parties' annual income. Trade unions and business donors added 10 to 13 per cent. "Party taxes" collected 10 to 14 per cent and subsidies from local, state and federal taxpayers provided the final 48 to 64 per cent.[1]

Level and items of spending[edit]

Up to 2013 the annual reports of Austrian parties include revenue and expenses for the federal level only.[2] Including the state parties Sickinger has estimated that the total amount available to Austrian parties was ATS 309 (=US-$ 22) per registered voter in 1988, ATS 375 (=US-$27 in 1993 and ATS 413 (=US-$ 29) in 1998.[3] Such spending is among the highest for established liberal democracies. With Austrian parties annual routine spending (on operational costs of a full-time party organization) has always been more important than extra campaign expenses. During the early 1990s total campaign spending for all levels claimed about one sixth of the major parties' (SPÖ and ÖVP) and one fifth of the minor parties (FPÖ, Greens) overall budgets.[4]

Regulation of political money[edit]

The regulation imposed by the Parties Act of 1975 had been rather loose and very liberal. There were no limits on party spending, neither by total amount nor by specific item, neither for campaign expenses nor for routine spending. Moreover there was no statutory limit for political contributions by individual or corporate donors. However, there were practical restrictions, among others an income tax surcharge on political donations by organized interests to be paid by the recipient party and some kind of disclosure of large donations. This rather lackadaisical approach towards control of political finance has been critizised by academics (especially the lack of transparency) for many years and by GRECO reports (e.g. the lack of limits) more recently.[5] In 2012, however, Austria has caught up to the German level of regulation, for various issues even entered new areas (sponsoring, spending limits).[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sickinger, Hubert: 'Parteien- und Wahlkampffinanzierung in den 90er Jahren'. In: Fritz Plasser et al. (eds.), Das österreichische Wahlverhalten, Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2000, pp. 320-322.
  2. ^ Starting with reports for 2014 this will change due to the new Parties Act of 2012 - see below.
  3. ^ Sickinger 1997, pp. 242, 245, 248, 250, 252.
  4. ^ Sickinger 1997, pp. 257, 260.
  5. ^ e.g. Evaluatiion Report on Austria - Transparency of Party Funding - Third Evaluation Round. Greco Eval III Rep (2011) 3E Theme II www.coe.int/greco
  6. ^ Sickinger, Hubert: 'Neue Regeln für die Parteienfinanzierung'. In: Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik 2012, ed. by Andreas Khol et al., Vienna et al.: Böhlau Verlag, 2013, pp. 273-288.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Müller, Wolfgang C./ Hartmann, Martin: 'Finanzen im Dunkeln: Aspekte der Parteienfinanzierung'. In: Gerlich, Peter and Müller, Wolfgang C. (eds.): Zwischen Koalititon und Proporz. Östereichs Parteien seit 1945, Wien: Braumüller, 1983, pp. 249–279.
  • Müller, Wolfgang C.: 'The Development of Austrian Party Organizations in the Post-war Period'. In: Katz, Richard S. and Mair, Peter (eds.): How Parties Organize. Change and Adaptation in Party Organizations in Western Democracies, London et al.: Sage Publications, 1994, pp. 53–68.
  • Sickinger, Hubert: 'Parteien- und Wahlkampffinanzierung in den 90er Jahren'. In: Fritz Plasser et al. (eds.), Das österreichische Wahlverhalten, Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2000, pp. 305–331.
  • Sickinger, Hubert: Politikfinanzierung in Österreich. 1st ed., Thaur et al.: Druck- und Verlagshaus, 1997; 2nd ed., Vienna: Czernin Verlag, 2009.
  • Sickinger, Hubert: 'Neue Regeln für die Parteienfinanzierung'. In: Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik 2012, ed. by Andreas Khol et al., Vienna et al.: Böhlau Verlag, 2013, pp. 273–288.

See also[edit]