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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Easy Tips for Financing a Run for Office

Russia is a continuous stream of gubernatorial elections. Against the background of what is happening lately in the United States, these elections clearly demonstrate the advantages of the Russian electoral system, in which one can usually determine the winner by the day of the voting and — often — quite a bit earlier than that.

According to campaign experts, a candidate for governor in Russia must spend, on average, about $1 per vote. Officially, of course, they are not allowed to spend nearly this much. Although the rules vary from region to region, on average candidates are allowed to spend about 300,000 to 400,000 rubles ($10,770 to $14,360) running for office.

It is perfectly obvious that this amount is adequate only to mount a campaign in one or two villages. Therefore, in addition to official money, there is "black money" as well. Black money consists of both "voluntary" and "involuntary" campaign contributions. Voluntary contributions are made by an entrepreneur who wants the future governor to hand someone else’s property over to him. Involuntary contributions are made to prevent the future governor from giving an entrepreneur’s property to someone else.

As a result, the election of a new governor is inevitably accompanied by the local redistribution of property. For instance, when Yury Tyazhlov was governor of the Moscow region, the government did its banking with Guta Bank. As soon as Boris Gromov became governor, police armed with machine guns appeared at the bank to close the accounts and transfer them to another bank.

In recent months, President Vladimir Putin has taken decisive measures to break these improper ties between the governors and big money. And the governors have begun to feel the heat.

Take, for instance, the remarkable case of Perm. There, incumbent Governor Gennady Igumnov flipped back and forth on the question of whether he would run for another term. He apparently felt that the Kremlin was dissatisfied with him when, just before the election, a criminal case was filed against his daughter. One influential political consultant told me that Igumnov tried for days to call Kremlin Chief of Staff Alexander Voloshin, but Voloshin refused to take his calls.

In the end, Igumnov bravely called a press conference and announced that he would not seek another term. Within an hour, Voloshin called and shortly thereafter, Igumnov announced that he would run after all.

According to other experts with whom I have spoken, a new means of financing gubernatorial campaigns has emerged in connection with Moscow’s drive to reassert control over the regions. The Kremlin administration now has a special office of regional affairs. This office, they say, will call a governor and say: "We’ll support you if you hire such-and-such a PR company." The happy governor lets everyone know that he has the support of the Kremlin, and the donations start flowing into the PR company running the campaign. The PR company somehow manages to express its gratitude to the proper bureaucrats in the Kremlin.

Putin’s bid to control the regions has lifted Russian democracy to a new level. I doubt the United States will ever be able to catch up with us now.

Yulia Latynina is the creator and host of "The Ruble Zone" on NTV television.