January 20, 2003
THE CANDIDATE MAXIMUM
Campaign spending in the parliamentary elections of 2003
Author: Nikolai Silaev
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
THE CONTEMPORARY ELECTION CAMPAIGN, ESPECIALLY AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL,
IS SUCH A COMPLEX PROCESS THAT IT IS PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO CARRY
OUT WITHOUT THE HELP OF SPECIALISTS - AND VERY SUBSTANTIAL FINANCIAL
RESOURCES. TWO ANALYSTS DESCRIBE THE REALITIES OF CAMPAIGN SPENDING
FOR CANDIDATES IN RUSSIA.
The "Year 2003 Problem" lies in store for Russia this year: the
Duma elections. Besides livening up Russian politics, this will also
bring a boom in a special pre-election industry, one which is worth
several hundred million dollars.
In reality, Russia's parliamentary elections have long since
ceased to be simply a method of electing legitimate government bodies,
an arena for battles between various ideologies and policy platforms.
These days, elections are a kind of contest for lobbying power,
between various business groups with their own interests.
As big business in Russia has grown and gained awareness of its
interests, the ideological component of elections has gradually
withered, being more and more reduced to a tool for battles between
The contemporary election campaign, especially at the federal
level, is such a complex process that it is practically impossible to
carry out without the help of specialists - and very substantial
This is why techniques rather than ideologies rule the roost in
elections these days. The past eight to ten years have seen a
multitude of professional political consultants and PR specialists
sprout from the fertile pre-election soil to make money from election
campaigns. Moscow alone has several dozen companies permanently
engaged in this field (after all, there are regional elections as
well); and hundreds of transient companies are set up simply in order
to grab a slice of candidates' campaign funding. Ever since last
autumn, all these companies - along with advertising agencies and many
media outlets - have been waiting impatiently for "everything to
Essentially, everything has already started. On the one hand, the
executive branch has been working on candidates and parties; on the
other, candidates have been seeking sponsors. This process has been
underway for at least six months. The sequence of actions seems simple
enough - get registered, campaign, and count your votes - but in
practice it turns out to be far more cumbersome. Even once the money
has been found (and fund-raising would require an article all to
itself), it is necessary to set up a campaign fund, carefully
concealing any "violations", so that any attempts by rivals to attack
via the courts can be repelled. This process requires qualified
accountants and lawyers. Digging up dirt on rival candidates will
require the services of specialists in commercial espionage - former
and current intelligence agency employees.
DMITRII ORLOV, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE POLITICAL TECHNIQUES CENTER:
The costs involved in organizing and conducting an election
campaign, including measures before the official campaign period
begins, could be $2 million to $10-15 million for a party which is
already represented in the lower house of parliament.
The campaign costs of a candidate in a single-mandate district
vary from $300,000 to $1.5 million.
The political consulting industry as a whole could see a turnover
of around $150-200 million during the parliamentary campaign of 2003.
In future, the proportion of campaign spending that goes into PR
and political advertising is likely to increase. Meanwhile, spending
on opinion polls and large public events will decline. Experience
shows that the practical value of poll results is not always apparent
to clients. Large events such as rallies and rock concerts will be
rejected primarily because they cost a lot of money while not yielding
substantial returns. The effect of a small picket demonstration could
be just as great, and it would cost an order of magnitude less.
IGOR MINTUSOV, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD AT THE NICCOLO M POLITICAL
During the last Duma elections, the political consulting industry
saw a turnover of no less than $150-200 million. There is no reason to
believe that this sum will be any less in the forthcoming campaign.
A number of systems can be used to plan campaign spending for a
single-mandate district. The simplest method is to multiply the number
of voters in the district by the provisional per-vote cost, which is
around $2 to $3. Thus, the campaign budget will depend on the number
Political parties with lists of candidates usually spend $5
million to $30 million on their campaigns, though in some cases
spending might be more, or less. Campaign funds are collected
partially from business leaders who buy their way onto party lists.
Such a place could cost a candidate $500,000 to $2 million.
Campaign spending is directed into several areas. As a rule,
around half the money is distributed to a small group of people who
are close to the candidate or the party leader. Of the remainder,
around half goes into advertising and paying for media coverage; just
as much goes into organizing the campaign team, carrying out a few
special events, and paying political consultants.
(Translated by Arina Yevtikhova)