Party Financing and Disclosure
The party law includes several provisions regulating party finance. The law requires the disclosure of donations to parties, authorizes subsidies for parties, and provides in-kind contributions to parties. However, there are no limits on contributions or on party expenditures outside the campaign period. Moreover, there are few restrictions on how parties spend money outside the campaign period. Giving money to voters, for example, is lawful unless it takes place during the campaign period, in which case it is considered vote buying.
The executive committee of the party is responsible for the financial administration of the entire party. The party headquarters is required by law to maintain records of all revenue and expenditures, receipts for donations, and accounts of the assets and liabilities of party officials. Branch offices must submit reports to the party headquarters on a regular basis. The party’s financial statements must be audited by a certified public accountant, the results of which have to be approved by the party’s general assembly, or convention, by April of every year. The results must also be posted at the party’s offices across the country for at least 15 days for public viewing. Within 30 days of approval by the general assembly, the reports are submitted to the Registrar at the ECT, where they are also made available for public review. However, the ECT reports that few people ever check the reports of parties, other than those candidates who have lost in the election. Failure to submit financial reports or falsification of the reports can result in fines and criminal charges.
The law defines a donation to a party as money, property, or any other benefit that can be ascribed a monetary value, other than membership fees required under the party regulations. It prohibits donations by foreigners, including companies with 25 percent foreign ownership, by state enterprises, and by any organization that “jeopardizes national security.” In addition, no private companies are permitted to make political contributions in ways that “deviate from the standard path for their industry,” and no donations are allowed from contractors that have been awarded government concessions or projects. Any party violating these regulations can be fined and possibly dissolved, and the party member responsible can be imprisoned for a term of two to 10 years. The person giving a donation against the law can face imprisonment or fines.
The revenues received from fundraising activities that involve selling a good or service, such as tables at a dinner, are not considered donations. Therefore, the party does not need to declare these amounts or disclose the names of contributors. As mentioned, there is also no ceiling on contributions, either from within or outside the party. The lack of such limits has allowed extremely wealthy individuals to exert strong influence on the parties. According to reports submitted to the ECT, ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s wife, Khunying Pojamarn, donated 240 million baht to Thai Rak Thai Party in one year. In addition, with no limit on the amount companies can give, there have been concerns that businesses can exert undue influence on parties.
Parties must file all donations, regardless of their amount, with the ECT. The party must record the names and addresses of contributors, the amounts donated, the names of the party members through whom the donations were made, and the date of the donation. The party must issue three receipts for each financial contribution, one for the donor, one for the recipient, and one for the party to file with the Registrar. Any donations received by party members, independently from the party, must be recorded with the party within seven days. All donations are deposited in a bank account under the name of the party, and the party leader must provide records of the deposit and certification by the bank to the Registrar. Direct donations to the leader of a party must be recorded, sent to the ECT, and posted openly at the party headquarters for at least 15 days. According to the party law, all contributors are entitled to a tax deduction, but the revenue code has not yet been revised to permit such deductions.
The ECT determines the expenditure limits for the campaign period in consultation with the leaders of all parties competing in the election. The campaign period technically begins on the date of the promulgation of a royal decree following dissolution of parliament and ends on the day of the election results declaration. There are separate limits for individual candidates and political parties. In the 2001 House elections, candidates were limited to one million baht each ($22,000), and the party could spend no more than one mil- lion baht per party list candidate. In addition to placing ceilings on spending, the law also defines legitimate spending. Parties and candidates can spend money on application fees, staff persons, rent, transportation, procurement, media advertising, flyers and publications, postage and utilities, and “other expenses that do not violate legal sanctions.” No candidate or person can give, or promise to give, money, transportation, property, or entertainment to a voter or organization to induce a voter to vote for him or her, any other candidate, or party. However, it is not illegal for citizens to sell their votes. This is to encourage testimony from witnesses in vote buying cases.
All income and expenditures of the party and individual candidates must be recorded with the party treasurer, who files a return with the ECT within 90 days from the announcement of the election results. The ECT’s Party List Election Expenditure Audit Center in Bangkok audits the expenditures of the parties, and the ECT’s constituency audit centers at the provincial level monitor the constituency candidates. The ECT makes all audit results public within 60 days after receiving the returns. Parties and candidates found in violation of these regulations can be subject to fines, imprisonment, and disenfranchisement. After the results of the election are announced, parties have the right to submit a petition with a complaint of an electoral violation to the ECT within 30 days. The ECT conducts a hearing “without delay” and has the authority to order a recount, mandate a fresh election, and disqualify candidates .