The presence of money in politics is both necessary and a danger. "While money is required to foster political competition, its role in politics can [also] undermine the tenets of democracy... Money can distort the electoral process as a result of the source and distribution of funds, the management of resources and expenses, as well as the motivation linked to donations." (Speck, 2008) Thus most laws that regulate money in politics (especially campaign funding) are built around the principle of political equality. (Walecki, 2004) "Campaign finance regulations are designed to create a level playing field for competition between political parties and candidates." (Open Society Justice Initiative, 2005: 102) When corruption enters campaign finance, the damage it creates has extensive reach. "It discredits elections, poisons governments, undermines transparency and accountability, and frustrates the consolidation of the rule of law." (Ibid: xi) Party financing scandals in Belgium, France, Germany and Spain, for instance, resulted in public distrust of politicians, political institutions and processes. People view political parties as slowly losing independence as it is being held captive by private interests - political decisions are improperly influenced by money contributions from private sources. The channels of campaign finance become ways through which the most serious type of corruption - state capture - take root in a political system. (Ibid; Walecki, 2004)
OSJI (2005) identified three types of corrupt campaign finance practices: 1) quid pro quo donations, 2) misuse of state resources, and 3) direct bribery or vote buying. (see Pinto-Duschinsky, 2002 and Walecki, 2004 for a more detailed listing of these practices). In addressing this, Pinto-Duschinsky (2002) recommends three important kinds of regulations on campaign finance: 1) disclosure regulations, 2) direct public subsidies and 3) provision of free political broadcasts. Speck (2008) identifies other equally important regulations pertaining to the use of state resources during election campaign periods, those that set limits to contributions from private sources, and those governing state agencies that control political finance. Even with the presence of state controls, civil society monitoring stands as a a strong deterrent against abuses in campaign finance because of the social sanctions (e.g. withdrawal of support) it is able to 'impose' on abusive candidates and political parties. Unlike state control, social oversight can go beyond the legal limitations (e.g. 'evidence or proof' to prosecute) and still have a disciplining effect on political actors. (Speck, 2008)
In 2007, Transparency and Accountability Network along with Lawyers' League for Liberty, Consortium for Electoral Reforms, Access to Information Network, and a group of research analysts led by Dr. Edna Co, attempted to monitor campaign spending (partial) of select 'key' political players (party list, individual candidates in national and local elections, and party coalitions). Their monitoring effort revealed findings of irregular (e.g. Overspending, Under-reporting, excess television and radio time 'appearances') and illegal (e.g. Vote buying) practices. Enforcement of campaign spending regulations by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is shown to have not been met. (PAP, 2008) With its findings, PAP was able to elevate the issue of campaign finance as a governance concern that caught the attention of the public, media, academe, practitioners and policy-makers.