Going beyond a conventional campaign finance analysis, the “cost of politics” approach aims to draw links between how funds are raised and the impacts that they can have on the election cycle and quality of electoral democracy.
The innovative approach focuses on the spending of individuals contesting for political office rather than those of political parties. It is broad in its scope, aiming to cover expenditure incurred across the election cycle: following the money spent, from the candidate’s decision to stand for political office at the party primary phase, to the end of an individual's elected tenure. These costs can be both monetary and ‘in-kind’.
It aims to better understand what factors drive individual choices when it comes to spending funds on politics. In doing so it can help explain why there are divergences between stated rules and regulations and their implementation, or lack thereof, and provide a clearer indication of the obstacles to regulating and curbing, or better monitoring, spending on political campaigns.
It can also indicate how the demands from constituents, political parties and other stakeholders on political representatives to deliver personalised goods during the election cycle contributes to the erosion of vertical accountability – citizens role in holding their leaders to account – and horizontal accountability - internal checks and oversight processes. Analysis of the data and implications can provide for targeted and tailored responses to country-specific challenges around the rising costs of seeking elective office.