Under The Mattress, MiniDossier by Openpolis

A study on public funding to political parties since 1994. We looked at reimbursements for political campaigns, expenses of political groups and subsidies given to party media. All of this on three different institutional levels: Regions, Italy and Europe. 

Democracy. Our political system based on representation finds its natural development in parties. As established by art. 49 of the Italian Constitution “any citizen has the right to freely establish parties to contribute to determining national policies through democratic processes”. That said, the idea that the State should provide for them with some sort of funding is a natural and necessary aspect of democracy

Profit. Considering this point to be widely accepted, it is important to see how far it can go. By looking at the State money given to parties in the past 20 years, it becomes clear that the real purpose of the system is different: transforming parties into a business that generates profit by having them use only some of the State subsidies and keeping the rest under the mattress.

Elections. The most amount of money was achieved thanks to reimbursement of electoral expenses. By looking at the different elections that took place from 1994 until 2013 – regional, national and european – while parties spent little over 700 million euros, they actually received almost 2 and half billion euros. While laws have been changing, parties are still managing to make some sort of profit. For the 2013 political elections parties’ certified expenses added up to 45 million euros, that said they managed to raise 46 millions euros on their own, and still received State reimbursements as well, giving them a 222% surplus.

Groups. Much of the public’s attention is now moving from reimbursements of electoral expenses to the functioning and activities of political groups. In 2013 Italian regions gave 29,39 million euros to political groups, the Italian parliament gave 38,50 million euros to parliamentary groups, and the European Parliament gave 58,78 million euros to european political groups. Considering only the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate two elements stand out: 1- the money granted to political groups in one year is the same given in two years of reimbursements for electoral expenses 2- all groups ended 2013 with a surplus (all together 15 million euros).

Media. In 10 years – from 2003 to 2013 – party media received 344,54 million euros. 252 went to newspapers and periodicals, while 92 to radios. What surprises is that most of these news outlets did not use the money to build some sort of sustainable business plan. 64% of them have now shut down. The most impressive data regards newspappers, 77,78% have now closed, and 5,56% survives only with an online version.

MiniDossier. “Under the mattress”  is the sixth number of a series of publication called “MiniDossier”. Through a data journalism approach its goal is to verify, analyze and compare data from different official sources in order to suggest different point of views and tell different stories. To contribute and help this research, it is fundamental to support openpolis through our membership campaign.

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