This paper deals with the intersection between three sets of challenges that constitute existential threats to democracies across the world. The first is money in politics which not only poses the danger of ‘policy capture’ but also, in worse scenarios, state capture by monied interests. As the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Jane Mohammed has said: ‘In many places the ability of private interests to influence elections is unfettered and the capture of the state by elites is warping the functions of state institutions.’ The second is the impact of digital technologies on elections. As the International IDEA’s 2019 Global State of Democracy report observed, ‘[n]ew technologies, including information and communications technologies (ICTs) and social media, are contributing to a profound transformation of the global democracy landscape.’
The principal question addressed by this paper is poised at the meeting place between these challenges: How might digital campaigning affect the problems of political finance? Also integrated into the analysis is a third set of challenges. Here I refer to those arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the paper reflecting upon how the pandemic might shape the impact of digital campaigning on the problems of political finance.
This paper is written by way of a road-mapping exercise. It seeks to draw out the key issues in determining the impact of digital campaigning on the problems of political finance with a sprinkle of examples for the purpose of illustration. All this is very much preliminary analysis with the paper aiming to be a conversation starter.