At the plenary session of the Russian Energy Week, Vladimir Putin took part in the panel discussion World Energy: Transformation for Development. Answering the question of the moderator of the discussion, the correspondent of the American television company CNBC Headley Gamble, about the state of the democratic system in Russia, Putin stated:
– The worries about the death of democracy in Russia are greatly exaggerated, as Mark Twain once said in response to rumors about his death. Do not worry about us, think better about yourself, about what is happening there. It seems to me that parliamentarism in Europe suffers from big problems today. Look at traditional parliamentary countries, what is happening there, how power is formed there, how many issues related to corruption are there. In the same States, this is lobbying. What is lobbying? What is official lobbying in the United States? This is legalized corruption, that’s what it is, is it not clear, or what? It is clear to everyone. Everyone keeps quiet. And what is the indirect election of the president in the United States, which leads to the fact that people who have been voted for by a smaller number of voters – and this has happened three times, in my opinion, in the history of the United States?
Official lobbying in the United States is, first of all, the financing of election campaigns (only through the headquarters or a specially created fund) and PR campaigns in the media that is permitted by law. At the same time, outright bribery of the politician, including the presentation of gifts worth more than $ 20, is not allowed. In some states – Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee – lobbying is completely prohibited.
But criticizing the American lobbying system, Putin forgets that in Russia there is a practice of financing election campaigns through voluntary donations. It is prohibited to accept donations only from certain categories of donors, including from foreign citizens and stateless persons, from foreign states and organizations, from minors, from state and municipal authorities.
The Central Election Commission of Russia publishes lists of legal entities that donate electoral funds. So, in the presidential elections in 2018, donations to the Vladimir Putin Foundation (400 million rubles) contributed only the United Russia party and the Foundations for Supporting Regional Cooperation and Development from various constituent entities of the federation, and the funds of other candidates were formed from donations from various commercial structures. The same applies to the electoral funds of political parties. For example, in the 2007 State Duma elections, the United Russia fund was half formed from donations from legal entities. How this fundamentally differs from the American lobbying system is difficult to understand.
The Regional Cooperation and Development Support Funds are opaque structures created in the early 2000s that finance not only Putin’s election campaigns, but also the United Russia party. The funds themselves are funded from the budget, and it is unclear how this fits in with the ban on campaign financing by non-profit organizations that receive funds from organizations established by government agencies (article 58 Federal Law “On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right to Participate in a Referendum of Citizens of the Russian Federation”).
As The Insider found out, in 2020 United Russia received in the form of donations from commercial companies 2.7 billion rubles, with most of this amount from Russian Railways contractors. Some of these companies, in some incomprehensible way, donated more money to the ruling party in one year than they did in several years. But for some reason this does not interest Putin, who prefers to look for legalized corruption in the American lobbying system.