One study of campaign and party finance in North America and Western Europe suggests that 'the main problem in political finance is not corruption but rather the appearance of corruption.' 1 At the same time it is asserted that political parties are inevitable and indispensable 'instruments of democratic government'. 2 But political competition requires resources and the issue of how political parties acquire and use money is central to understanding the relationship of the party system to the wider political system. The main challenge appears to be how to find a model of party finance that successfully reconciles the needs of party building, competition and campaigning with the need to inhibit and minimize the corruption of the electoral and policy processes. Meeting one set of needs at the expense of the other only exacerbates particular problems. Starving political parties of funds in order to bear down on corruption would impede or deny the ability of political parties to perform their functions. Disregarding corruption in order to protect the financial strength of political parties would tend to denigrate democratic values in favour of preserving and enhancing the political advantages of the economically privileged.
If the need to balance competing aims is recognized, the point of balance is a matter for political judgement, cultural traditions and local circumstances. In some countries, an acute shortage of finance seems to encourage and facilitate corruption. But scandals occur in countries where state funding is substantial and even lavish. In considering models of party finance, there is clearly no 'gold standard' against which actual examples can be measured. No system is both