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This article argues about possible connection between Cambridge Analytica and the main Romanian party in power:

Rupert Wolfe Murray, a British consultant, says that Cambridge Analytica, through senior official Mark Turnbull, approached him before Romania’s 2016 parliamentary elections to work for the Social Democratic Party (PSD), ABC News reports.

Wolfe Murray said that he declined the offer because he did not want to work for political parties. It is unclear whether the data analytics company actually played a role in the Romanian elections. The PSD party won around 46 percent of the votes.

A clearer connection between the same party and a private company seems to be related to the 2016 Parliamentary elections:

An aggressive and creative campaign run by Israeli strategists Moshe Klughaft and Sefi Shaked helped the Romanian Center-Left Social Democratic PSD Party win a landslide victory in last week’s election.

However I have noticed very little media coverage about these contracts: some talked very little about them, but there were basically no details provided (e.g. their value). Other information such as politicians big assets, party debt have been presented to the public numerous times and I find strange that these contracts are not discussed.

Question: How is this usually handled in democratic countries? Is basic information of contracts between political parties and private companies public information? Or are these contracts usually made as secret as possible?

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In the United States, according to Open Secrets:

Raising huge sums is only the first step for any candidate or committee. The money also has to be spent -- and reported to the Federal Election Commission. While disclosure is often vague or incomplete, the FEC's expenditures data sheds light on the strategies that campaigns use to turn dollars into votes, the vendors making a fortune on elections, and the groups living large on their donors' money.

and later

Campaigns must report to the FEC the purpose and payee of all disbursements over $200. The Center for Responsive Politics uses this information to classify campaign expenditures into nine major categories: Administrative, Campaign Expenses, Fundraising, Media, Contributions, Strategy & Research, Transfers, Wages & Salaries, and Unclassifiable.

So in the United States, what is reported is the Payer (who files the reports), the Payee (those who get paid), and the purpose. They do not have to file anything if the disbursement is less than $200.

To get an idea of what purpose means in practice, let's look at the first thirty disbursements for the Doug Jones for Senate Committee in March of 2018 (sorted from newest to oldest). There, we find the following purposes:

  • Car Rental
  • Payroll
    • Payroll - Invoice
    • Payroll - Taxes
  • Credit Card Processing Fee
  • Airfare
  • Consulting
  • Fundraising/Event Consulting
  • Refund of Receipt Dated [date]
  • Utilities
  • Fundraising Consulting
  • Travel
    • Travel - Lodging
    • Travel - Airfare
  • Bank Service Fee

It is not clear to me what the difference is between Airfare and Travel - Airfare, except that one is American Airlines and the other is United. It may be different people filling out the form or some other reason.

These are rather broad categories. For example, Payroll covers payments both to individuals and to a company (which looks to manage payrolls). There is quite a bit of travel listed, but we aren't told anything about the purpose of the travel. From the companies involved, we can infer that some of the travel is by hired vehicle (ride sharing rather than taxi in these examples). We know on what day it occurred but not from where to where nor who was traveling.

Most of this would not have been formally contracted. There may be implicit contracts. Neither the formal nor implicit contracts are included in the reporting.

This information is limited to the US, as I don't have easy access to similar reporting in other countries.

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  • I am not sure why you expect the purpose of travel to be reported. If the reporting is to cover the purpose of expense and that purpose is X, then why would the purpose of X need to be listed as well? Requiring reporting on such level would make it necessary to report any part of a work process of a political campaign as long as that part of the work process incurred any expense over $200. It would make strategizing impossible. – grovkin May 26 '18 at 0:06

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