United Russia Pressures Business for Contributions

Campaign finance is almost always an ugly issue even in the most transparent democratic systems in the world, but in the new one-party state of Russia, these fund raising efforts can quickly cross the line to resemble extortion threats. Last week blogger La Russophobe posted a translation of a letter from the ruling party to the Siberian Coal Energy Company, which ominously declares that the company’s refusal to contribute funds would be interpreted as a lack of support for the president and his policies, a position which would be reported to the Kremlin and the local authorities. The consequences of not contributing to the campaign are left unsaid in the letter, but it does not take much imagination to think of ways this state could harm a business. This story, which was also picked up the Independent today, is consistent with other strong-armed intimidation tactics such as threatening to fire state workers and professors and fail university students that do not come out to vote for United Russia. In other words, just business as usual.