MPs will launch a probe into “dark money” in elections, after the Mirror revealed online loopholes could let millions in foreign cash pour into British politics.
A Mirror investigation yesterday found it was possible to join Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party as a supporter under the name “Vladimir Putin” and the address of the Kremlin.
The £25 payment can be taken from credit cards registered in any country in the world.
And PayPal, who process the payments, do not tell the Brexit Party what country the money is coming from.
Now a cross-party group has called for Britain’s analogue-age election rules to be re-written to prevent campaigns becoming an “unregulated wild west.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Electoral Campaign Transparency, formed this week, will launch an inquiry into campaign rules.
Labour ’s Stephen Kinnock will chair the group, with Conservative grandee Ken Clarke and former Green leader Caroline Lucas as Vice Chairs.
Mr Clarke said: “Our current campaign laws are designed for soapboxes and leaflets and the fact is elections are fought and won not just on the doorsteps but online as well.”
Mr Kinnock said: “Our political system can only function effectively if the public is confident that our elections and referenda are being policed effectively and that the playing field is level.
“Yet we currently have analogue regulations governing a digital age.”
Britain’s archaic laws don’t apply to individual donations of less than £500, because they were written when it was more difficult to transfer money without a paper trail.
But the rise of PayPal and crowdfunding websites make online transactions easier, faster and less transparent.
It opens the door to untraceable and effectively unlimited foreign donations and even money laundering.
The inquiry will look into ways to update regulations on funding and campaign spending, including how to find out the source of donations.
It will also investigate ways to beef up the Electoral Commission’s investigation and enforcement powers.
And it will look at ways to make online political advertising more transparent and accountable.
Dr Jess Garland, Director of Policy and Research for the Electoral Reform Society, said: “The need to bring Britain’s outdated election laws into the 21st century is urgent.
“As things stand, our elections are vulnerable to foreign interference, dis-information and illicit donations.
“We can't leave the task of protecting our democracy’s future to the whim of today’s tech giants.”
She added: “Online campaigning is an unregulated ‘wild west’ that threatens the principles of transparency, fairness and the notion of a level playing field. This APPG is a vital step forward in bringing these rules into the 21st century.”
Source: Read Full Article