1American electoral campaigns are viewed as opportunities for the debate and engagement of ideas; yet they garner an equal measure of attention for being fundraising competitions. Taking seriously the influence of money on elections provides a useful entry point for a renewed understanding of politics. In France, by contrast, the situation is far murkier. Under the Fifth Republic,  and generally since the early 1950s, the issue of political finance has only with great difficulty been acknowledged as a problem for state authorities to tackle. Not until March 1988 did this issue become a political imperative. And it was not political scientists  but rather legal practitioners who were the first to take the new rules seriously – even if recent assessments of the effects of these rules have been increasingly critical.  The good intentions that led to the creation of these regulations had unintended consequences, raising issues that prompted new attempts at regulation,  such that, since 1988, there has been a succession of further reforms: in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2011. Revisions were subsequently proposed by the Mazeaud Commission, which was created in late 2008 to address this issue, and the most recent law was passed on April 14, 2011.  France is thus no longer an exception. Like many other states, by codifying political finance France has embarked on a headlong rush – continually undoing, in the process, the definitive nature of all regulation on the subject. In addition, as in other countries, French scholars have simultaneously begun to produce more substantial multidisciplinary studies on political finance. 
2But was the French situation in 1988 really so unique? We should not be misled by the fact that no specific law on political finance had as yet been passed in France. Since the 1970s, about 30 legislative proposals had been introduced; and a French investigative mission had been sent to the United States to study the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns.  One piece of legislation had been drafted, and high-level political officials, including one French president, had also weighed in on the subject – to no avail. These attempts have been forgotten. Early research on the topic focused on the content of the rules established in 1988 as well as on the subsequent 1990 legislation. Since the latter law was more systematic, more attentive to practical considerations, and contained heavier sanctions, it effectively bypassed the 1988 law. Two prominent, yet highly dubious, explanations for the genesis of the 1988 and 1990 laws came to be accepted: that these laws were a response to the increasing costs of modern electoral campaigns and to the insufficiency of available funds to meet these costs. The series of political-financial scandals of the late 1980s was cited as evidence for these arguments.  Alongside this line of research, no studies have taken seriously the aborted reform initiatives of the 1970s and 1980s and sought to link the legislation passed at the end of the 1980s to its proto-history.
3In analyzing public policy, it is nonetheless commonplace to dissect such processes of non-decision.  For those who claim the mantle of historical institutionalism, it is likewise standard practice to trace the evolution of a government initiative by seeking to highlight processes of “path dependence”. Like many other rules, the laws of 1988 and 1990 did not appear out of nowhere. They reflect a longer history, in the course of which particular ways of posing a problem and of finding a solution took shape. How can we not, therefore, take seriously these unsuccessful reform initiatives? The failure to produce a law in the short-term does not necessarily mean that nothing played out to the advantage of these attempts at codification. It is thus important to shift our lens to the period preceding the passage of the 1988 laws – and not merely to better elucidate what followed.
4If these mobilizations merit investigation, it is first and foremost so as to understand why and under what circumstances the issue of party and campaign finance cropped up in France. Quite probably, these repeated initiatives, which failed in the short-term to lead to the passage of legislation, reflected above all a desire to symbolically recognize the links between money and politics. Given that the executive branch has dominated the production of laws in Fifth Republic France, it is tempting to analyze the parliamentary proposals that claimed to reform French political finance as mere ritual mobilizations. One would be mistaken, however, to stop there. Even though these initiatives were not translated into actual legislation, they nonetheless generated a key concept that successfully took root: beyond the camps and the personalities that clashed with each other over the reform of political finance in France, a growing consensus emerged on the necessity of a separation of the political and economic spheres. Consequently, these mobilizations also involved the formalization – constantly reworked – of an official representation of the selection of political democratic elites. This representation emphasized transparency and partial independence from the influences of other spheres; and it went hand in hand with the defense of an ideal of fair electoral and political battles, protected from plutocratic tendencies and threats.
5The issue of the boundaries of the political sphere thus dovetails with another equally sensitive issue: that of the motivations of the proponents of these reforms. In effect, the regulation of financing for political organizations and for campaigns primarily concerned members of the French parliament. Such regulation was likely to have an impact on their re-election campaigns, as well as on the everyday functioning of politics. Despite this reality, however, the aims and content of their reform proposals resulted in a far more neutralized vision of reform, one that emphasized first and foremost probity, increased ethical standards for public life, and the necessity of reforming and modernizing political life – components that call to mind “entrepreneurs” and “moral crusades.” 
6In this article, I explore these lines of inquiry, revealing the ways in which the issue of political finance in France gave rise to multiple ritual mobilizations, which both put into play and shaped the definition of symbolic boundaries. Such analysis subsequently enables examination of the members of parliament who pursued these vain reform attempts and their relationship with money. 
7To refer to parliamentary interventions as ritual mobilizations is hardly flattering, since the ritual dimension evokes symbolic policies that lack any significant concrete effects. The political finance reform initiatives considered here were indeed shelved. In a system such as that of the French Fifth Republic, in which the executive branch exercises great control over the production of laws, the initiatives of members of parliament were often condemned to failure. To understand the lack of success of these short-term mobilizations, they must thus be placed within a broader historical narrative. Only then does it become possible to understand how these initiatives ultimately fostered a dynamic around the political finance issue and defined the boundaries within which it was possible to think and act on the subject.
Chronology and summary of reform initiatives
Chronology and summary of reform initiatives
8Between 1970 and 1987, the relationship between money and politics proved problematic.  It emerged as an issue alongside the transformation of electoral mobilizations. This transformation was illustrated in 1972 by the American-style campaigns run by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, which made headlines for their unprecedented costs. Legal action and media coverage also brought to light numerous political-financial scandals, placing in the foreground the issue of the ties between money and politics, and the necessity of supervising such ties. The relationship between businesses and political parties was one subject that received attention. For instance, the twists and turns of the Garantie Foncière and Patrimoine Foncier company scandals between 1971 and 1975 put eminent members of the Union of Democrats for the Republic political party under scrutiny. At the start of the 1980s, the Socialist Party was also ensnared in this net of scandals, with the Urba and Luchaire affairs. Renowned figures found themselves at the center of a political storm: Marcel Dassault, for example, was accused (and subsequently acquitted) of tax fraud in 1976-1977 in relation to an inquiry on his financing of Jacques Chirac’s newspaper, L’essor du Limousin [Limousin Booming]; or Valery Giscard d’Estaing, in the spotlight in 1979-1980 for a notorious African diamond scandal. The end of the 1980s would see the revival of such accusations; for example, against Christian Nucci in the Carrefour du Développement scandal, or against the deputy mayor of Angoulême, Jean-Michel Boucheron.
9Recent scholarship on political scandals has emphasized the unprecedented relentlessness of the press and the judiciary in triggering them. As Dominique Marchetti has shown, investigative reporting began to develop in France in the 1970s.  Certain institutions, such as the satirical newspaper Le canard enchaîné,  and individual journalists, such as André Campana, who published L’Argent secret [Secret Money] in 1976, or Jean Montaldo, who released Les finances du PCF [The Finances of the French Communist Party] in 1977, made a specialty of denouncing the links between politics and finance. Since the early 1980s, additional transformations in the media’s treatment of politics undoubtedly contributed to the magnitude of these scandals.  The increased intervention of the judiciary is a more recent phenomenon, in a context of transformation within the profession. The coming of age of a new generation of examining magistrates, equipped with new practices and understandings of their profession, has resulted in a greater autonomy of the judiciary vis-à-vis the political sphere. 
10These developments would seem to imply that the structuring and functioning of French political space underwent a transformation. In practical terms, however, the issue of money in politics remained one limited to interventions of principle. Reform initiatives responded to court reports and to the rhythm of the electoral calendar. From 1970 to 1975, when four elections at the national level were scheduled, members of parliament submitted three legislative proposals for political finance reform in France. In this period, political-financial scandals were also numerous and virulent. From 1976-1981, however, such scandals were less prominent in the public space. Nonetheless, the eight elections held in this latter period stimulated eleven reform initiatives. Finally, from 1982-1987, a combination of circumstances seemed to be at work: just four elections took place, but the fight against scandals became even more vigorous. Nine legislative proposals were presented to the National Assembly in this period.
11It would certainly be reductive to confine analysis of the issue of political finance reform to such a short time span, and to see it as attuned only to the electoral calendar or to court cases and media headlines. Indeed, the incapacity to legislate on the subject was also shaped by a longer, underlying history of obstacles that likewise structured the reform of political finance in France.
12French political elites have always had difficulty dispassionately addressing the ties between money and politics, and their inability to reform French political finance is hardly surprising. This tendency is illustrated by the case, rife with complications, of the allowances granted to members of parliament.  Additional examples include the debates over the recognition and payment of parliamentary assistants and over the professional status and compensation of local elected officials.  Since Max Weber’s famous lecture on politics as a vocation, however, we have been aware that public funding of political activities is likely to encourage a non-plutocratic recruitment of political elites; and that public funding aptly corresponds to the democratic ideal. Yet political functions are decidedly unlike those of other professions. Polls often provide an image of public opinion as expecting sustained engagement from its representatives – an engagement, moreover, that is disinterested, seeking no remuneration.  Therefore, since the allowances granted to members of parliament provoke classic and longpracticed modes of contestation – notably that of the people against the powerful, which has long fed certain forms of anti-parliamentary sentiment  – members of parliament are reluctant to broach this issue.
13The problem can be approached from another angle: that of the lack of probity of political elites. Unraveling the relationship between voters and the political-financial scandals that involve their representatives is a very complicated task. Studies in progress show that elected representatives who are indicted, and sometimes convicted, of illegal conflicts of interest, of embezzlement, or of trading in influence, are not universally perceived in a negative manner by their fellow citizens. Local forms of tolerance for such conduct have been observed, and it is very difficult to generalize about a single collective relationship to politics and ethical behavior.  The ambiguity of judgments made by citizens about the probity of their representatives, combined with a deleterious atmosphere – one in which political elites are stigmatized from the moment the very question of the financing of their activities is posed – explains political elites’ collective suppression, indeed denial, of the material bases of their situation.
14Yet we should move beyond acknowledgement of the failure of parliamentary and governmental initiatives to reform political finance – if only because these initiatives helped to make the very problem exist as such, by defining ways of thinking about it. The decision to study the evolution of these initiatives raises the issue of the forging of a potential “path dependence”,  likely to leave its mark on future policies concerning political finance. In the older and more precise terminology of Norbert Elias, our task henceforth is to demonstrate the process by which legislative proposals succeeded one after another, according to a dynamic by which “the transformation of a particular figuration into another narrows down the wide range of potential outcomes”. 
Narrowing down the wide range of legislative proposals
15Members of parliament were divided on the issue of political finance. The titles of the earliest legislative proposals emphasized equal opportunities and spending limits for candidates, and those of subsequent initiatives focused on the financing of political parties and elections.
16At the same time, another path was mapped out in the wake of a political finance reform proposal submitted by François Mitterrand in April 1972.  The issue of the links between money and politics evoked that of the probity of elected representatives, political candidates, and high-level public officials. Such concerns produced legislative proposals that sought to shed light on the assets and earnings of these public office holders. This redefinition of the problem defined the years 1979-1982, when seven of the nine reform initiatives addressing the financial-political nexus effectively focused on elected officials’ assets and earnings. These various legislative proposals were not necessarily opposed to each other. As the preamble to the one presented by Michel Rocard in November 1979, which sought “to raise the ethical standards of political life”, declared: the “measures contained in the present legislation add to a set of legislative efforts previously submitted by the Socialist Group that aimed to establish fair and precise rules for the financing of political parties”. The various legislative proposals thus resonated with each other – an assessment amply demonstrated by analysis of their content. Such analysis offers a rich comparative entry point for delineating the contours of the “path dependence” taken. The first indication of the structuring of this “path dependence” lies in the sequencing of legislative proposals. In 1973, Legislative proposal 378 was a revival of Proposal 1663 from 1971. Proposal 361 of 1986 paraphrased Proposal 606 of 1978. And in 1987, Proposals 89 and 1070 were essentially identical to each other, except that one was submitted to the Senate and the other to the National Assembly.
17These early recommendations tended to limit the potential for innovation, as if parliamentary action was stuck working within the domain carved out by its initial efforts. Proposals seemed contained within a single framework, even if piecemeal discussions and attempts at their further development still took place. From the period 1971-1976, Proposals 1663, 1664, 2043, 378, and 2170 all focused on candidates and on establishing spending ceilings (at issue were the ways in which such ceilings should be fixed). In these years, the transparency of accounts and of sanctions against various kinds of offenses was a theme in its earliest stages of articulation. Yet it appeared in the very first legislative proposals and proved an enduring line of attack. A period of transition marked 1976, as the framing of the issue shifted with Proposals 2281, 2283, and 214. Proposal 2281 aimed the spotlight at political parties and at funding, and 2283 offered a synthesis of these two elements. The earlier focus, however, was still present: 214, which followed 2281, once again brought to the fore the classic dyad of candidates and spending. In 1978, two subsequent initiatives (287 and 531) also sought to incorporate a wider range of issues; while providing a richer and more complex perspective on the issue, they too proved unsuccessful. The five proposals submitted between 1978 and 1986 (606, 586, 1302, 1320, and 361) reverted to a compartmentalized approach – sometimes focusing on candidates and their spending, other times on political parties and their funds – and thus giving the impression that camps were in conflict over issues with limited stakes. As before, these disagreements resulted in new attempts at synthesis and in the imperative to find a comprehensive approach to the problem (evident in Proposals 594 and 646 of 1986-1987). This way of addressing the issue, however, quickly became outmoded, leaving the field open for a redefinition of objectives. Thus in 1987, the six legislative proposals submitted (765, 879, 89, 1070, 1189, and 1164) all dealt with political parties and their modes of financing.
18In this manner, the various reform initiatives of these years constructed their subject, oscillating between fixing ceilings for candidates’ spending and addressing the resources of candidates’ organizations. A range of arguments and solutions was generated – templates of ideas that could be drawn upon in subsequent reform efforts. A path dependence progressively took shape, one that was neither linear nor harmonious, but one that nonetheless managed to carve out a space within which the problem of political finance could evolve. I will now examine the stakes of this process of framing the problem, which entailed putting into place a set of symbolic boundaries.
The definition of symbolic boundaries
19The various legislative proposals claiming to regulate French political finance were addressing a delicate problem. As Pierre Lascoumes has shown with regard to the fight against corruption, the boundaries between practices considered legitimate and those judged unacceptable are extremely fluid, given the diversity of “normative pressures, of the public sphere, and of conflicts over legitimacy – which makes the domain of corruption so heterogeneous and which generates great incertitude about how to classify specific situations”.  The initiatives that sought to reform political finance strove to construct boundaries around practices and situations whose definition was thus rather ambiguous. To get around this difficulty, some reflected on the more general functions fulfilled by such boundaries, asserting that at stake in the definition of boundaries was the need to defend the illusion of a pure and orderly political sphere. 
20It is indeed hard to accept that the rules put forward were based in objective reality. How does one explain the fact that whereas one legislative proposal fixed a candidate’s maximum spending at 10,000 francs (1663), another fixed it at 60,000 francs (2170)? Or the submission of a proposal that allowed candidates to receive contributions from individuals and corporations (531), while another declared that such funds must absolutely be forbidden (1189)? As these lines of inquiry suggest, we should understand the reform proposals as actions aimed at drawing new dividing lines, with the objective of defending and restoring the illusion of purity within the political sphere. Accordingly, the crusade for transparency that accompanied most of these parliamentary initiatives merits closer inspection. Examination of the practices condemned and sanctioned in these proposals will enable us, subsequently, to describe the pure/impure principle around which the links between money and politics were redefined. Finally, analysis of the rules of absolution and of the sanctions advocated in these initiatives will allow us to evaluate their ritual and symbolic character.
Clarity or obscurity?
21Political finance reform proved an exceptionally fertile terrain for promoting an ideal of transparency, a virtue that was constantly championed. In some legislative proposals, candidates were asked to “make known, in their statement of principle, the functions that they carry out in their professional lives”. Other legislative proposals even sought to make public the “income taxes paid” by each member of parliament, so as to “break the law of silence that surrounds all matters of political finance” (2043).
22These calls for transparency often resembled ritual incantations. In effect, legislative proposals applied transparency in a very inconsistent fashion, primarily targeting candidates who received public funds (287) and leaving candidates with other sources of funding unmonitored. Some proposals judged it sufficient to wait for candidates or their organizations to provide their financial reports (1663). Deadlines, formats, and instructions for the submission of such documents were not specified; and no sanctions were envisioned for those who failed to do so. Publication of financial reports was treated in an equally incongruous manner: whereas some legislative proposals restricted publication and reserved such statements for examination by a committee of experts (2281), others allowed their consultation by “interested persons”, without defining the procedures to be followed.
23Inspection of the intended recipients of this financial information, and of their functions, provides further evidence of the more or less symbolic character of these claims for transparency. The following officials were selected to receive this data: the president of the vote-counting commission (1663 and 287), the president of the publicity commission (2170, 1320, 89, and 1189), the president of the Cour des comptes  (2281, 646, and 879), the president of a national commission created specifically to audit accounts (2283, 531, 1302, and 765), the president of a permanent commission operative in every region of the country (214), and the prefect of the département (606 and 361). With the choice of these officials, central and local institutions – established or to be created, with different degrees of participation in the electoral process, and of varying importance – were placed at the heart of the proposed procedures. They were assigned diverse prerogatives: some proposals charged them with basic monitoring and auditing (531), whereas others gave them independent administrative authority with genuine powers of investigation (765 and 89).
24Public dissemination of the financial information collected can be assessed in the same manner. With regard to scope of dissemination, some legislative proposals were silent (1663), while others limited public accessibility to consultation in town halls or publication in the Journal officiel. Some allowed voters to examine the data but did not specify the conditions for such access (606 and 586). One proposal required publication of this information in two local newspapers (89); while others recommended a combination of measures, for instance, posting the data in town halls and publishing it in a newspaper (287). The proposals also varied with regard to the content of the information released. Most mentioned making candidates’ bank statements public, but some called instead for candidates to provide a detailed record of spending (2170). Furthermore, the emphasis in certain proposals on financial contributions from individuals or corporations complicated the situation, raising the issue of whether information about such donations should be widely available to the public or not.
25These concerns were hardly anodyne. They had the capacity to indirectly condition the ways in which candidates spent and accepted money. Nevertheless, the notion of transparency expressed in this context seems rather naive, given that it assumed that increased public access to financial information would guarantee greater moral rectitude – a dubious proposition. When the transparency principle eventually came to dominate all other concerns, moreover, it provoked the question of the excesses and limits of transparency.  Yet ultimately, these struggles for greater transparency signaled the embedding of an ideal of purity at the heart of the various legislative proposals put forward in the French parliament during these years.
Corruption or purity?
26Reflecting on corruption and purity in politics can be disconcerting, just as it is for Bible scholars faced with the abominations of Leviticus, and his dietary rules. As Mary Douglas contemplates: “Why should the camel, the hare, and the rabbit be unclean? Why should some locusts, but not all, be unclean? Why should the frog be clean and the mouse and the hippopotamus unclean? What have chameleons, moles, and crocodiles got in common that they should be listed together (Levit. xi, 27)?” 
27The intrusion of money into politics evokes the same kinds of puzzles. For several reformers, the scale of spending by candidates and organizations directly threatened the smooth functioning of democracy. The preamble to Legislative proposal 531 illustrated this symbolic struggle:
“Money is invading and besieging politics. Soon, politics will be the monopoly of candidates and parties with powerful financial means. Already, it has become a spectacle, a ruinously expensive performance that features personalities and biographies more than political visions and policy agendas. Tomorrow, politics will become a bazaar where money rules. We must thus respond with urgency. To limit the impact of money on voting, which threatens the free choice of voters, and thus democracy. To reestablish equal opportunities for political parties and candidates. To guarantee their independence in the face of pressure groups and the business world. The integrity and dignity of public life is at stake.”
29By stigmatizing the dominance of money in politics, the proponents of these legislative proposals repeatedly reaffirmed the necessity of “preventing an escalation that would threaten two democratic principles: debate over political programs and equality in electoral competitions” (361, 2). Consequently, the desire to “break the law of silence that surrounds all matters of political finance” (2043, 5) resulted in the denunciation of a whole series of practices. This stance vividly illustrates arguments made by Viviana Zelizer, who has effectively shown how – contrary to the commonly held view reducing money to “a single, interchangeable, absolutely impersonal instrument”, destroying personal bonds with “calculative instrumental ties” – people in fact make “every effort to embed money in particular times, places, and social relations”. Money thus undergoes various forms of social marking and is “shaped and reshaped by particular networks of social relations and varying systems of meanings”. 
30With regard to denunciations of money in politics, ire was directed in particular at campaign strategies. Some legislative proposals thus reasserted the rules governing campaign publicity, while condemning a whole series of practices and behaviors, such as those listed in Proposal 1663:
“Sending gifts, money, newspapers, brochures, pamphlets, or any other item of campaign publicity to voters’ homes”, “the hosting of free receptions, lunches, or banquets”, “the conducting or […] use of polls that track the evolution of voters’ intentions before election day”, “the use of advertising spaces other than those indicated in Article L52-1 of the Electoral Code”, “the holding of meetings or […] the organization of rallies in public places”, and “the use of private antennas for radio or television broadcasting or […] the use of sound equipment in public places.”
32A redefinition of the offenses considered most reprehensible progressively took place. A large majority of parliamentary initiatives concurred that spending by candidates and organizations beyond authorized ceilings constituted significant misconduct and, in certain cases, they issued sanctions to this end. These attempts to limit spending implied respect for rules on the matter; and legislators criticized disregard for such rules. Ensuring compliance with spending ceilings meant that the total amount of funds spent across the board would first have to be identified. To do this, spending by candidates and their organizations would have to be documented via invoices. Any amount that exceeded a given maximum, which varied by legislative proposal, would have to be paid by check or bank transfer, not in cash. Non-compliance with these rules – by failing to submit the required documentation to the institutions in charge of monitoring spending, or by omitting certain expenses from one’s financial report – would lead to sanctions.
33An evolution was signaled by this shift from the denunciation of money in politics to the advocacy of authorized spending ceilings and compliance mechanisms. No longer was the focus so much on keeping money out of politics. Rather, the emphasis was now placed on “advancing the normalization of the relationship [between money and politics]” (287, 3). The symbolic boundaries between the economic and political spheres were modified. Certain legislative proposals thus began by emphasizing the positive role in democracy played by political parties, which “freely contribute to the expression of suffrage” and fulfill a “public service mission”. As a result, the issue of political parties’ material and financial bases became a serious and legitimate one. The solution proposed was public funding for political parties, along with the establishment of a “civic tax” (2281).  The preamble to this particular proposal even evoked raising the ethical standards of private funding for political parties – but the proposal itself remained silent on this matter.
34In the same way, a series of legislative proposals ultimately placed financial contributions from individuals in a favorable light.  Proposal 531 asserted that the financing of politics “must be open to ordinary citizens”, and that in order to “encourage them to participate” in political life, the system of “individual contributions [had to be] made democratic” (531, 7). In some cases, members of parliament were content to call on public generosity for donations, within fixed limits (2283). Other legislative proposals fought against tax-deductible donations, preferring to consider individual contributions a completely disinterested form of political engagement (1189). Still others sought to “make the citizens of our country aware of the importance of having the financing of political parties and elections assumed by all members of the nation, so as to avoid the risk of domination by pressure groups” (287, 6). This imperative was shared by proposals that called for the creation of various civic taxes payable by all taxpayers. Combination systems involving both voluntary contributions and the taxation of certain categories of taxpayers were also envisioned; such systems enacted a new form of citizenship that was inseparably political and financial (531).
35The recognition of other kinds of private funds came up against significant resistance. Only in July 1978 did a legislative proposal call upon the French parliament to formalize corporate political contributions (531). Proposal 606, which followed 531, combined for the first time individual contributions, corporate contributions, and public funding. But only with Proposal 594 in 1986 was a system genuinely laid out that integrated these various types of funds and considered them from the point of view of political parties and candidates. This initiative, however, did not receive unanimous support. In 1987, Proposal 1189 forbade “any kind of direct or indirect financial contribution to a political candidate from a public or private company or from an employers’ organization or group”. These silences and signs of hostility directed at private funding reveal the extent to which the fixing of such symbolic boundaries between economic and political spheres triggered intense debate within the parliamentary arena.
36This identification of denounced practices, however, is not sufficient for the task of delineating the parliamentary configurations that clashed and changed over the issue of political finance. To better grasp the symbolic boundaries as they were being shaped, we must take into account the entire range of sanctions recommended in support of a new financial law for politics that the reform initiatives were intended to establish.
Offenses condemned and sanctions recommended
Offenses condemned and sanctions recommended
Punishment or absolution?
37This reorientation of the way in which political finance reform was addressed raises the question of whether, beyond the boundaries drawn between money and politics, the sanctions recommended were likewise symbolic in nature. In effect, at the heart of these proposed repressive measures lay subtle loopholes, offering potential offenders the possibility of honorable escape routes.
38The first surprising element is the contrast between the legislative proposals’ highly moralizing and condemnatory titles and their lack of actual rules geared toward dissuading potential offenders. For example, Proposal 1663 fixed a spending ceiling for candidates but failed to devise sanctions in the event that it was exceeded. Likewise, Proposal 1189 strictly forbade all corporate contributions yet “overlooked” the outlining of consequences for candidates or political parties accused or found guilty of having received such funds. Proposals condemned and cracked down on specific actions. The first reprehensible act targeted by these reform initiatives was a candidate’s payment of expenses without documentation in the form of an invoice (1663). This offense was subsequently expanded to include the total or partial non-declaration of expenses, as well as the concealment and secret payment of expenses (2170). With regard to this particular set of offenses, some seemingly rigorous legislative proposals actually left members of parliament some leeway. Proposal 1320 thus condemned the “deliberate” non-declaration of one or more expenses. To be sanctioned, however, the intentional nature of such an omission had to be proven. The other most frequently condemned offense was exceeding an authorized spending ceiling. To this end, reformers also incorporated into their efforts the funds drawn upon by candidates and by political parties. As they did so, they asserted that such funds must also comply with set limits, which varied according to the source of the funds. In addition, two other offenses were often cited: the payment of expenses greater than 1,000 francs in cash, and the non-submission of financial reports by candidates and political parties. With regard to the latter offense, financial reports were supposed to consist of inventories of funds and expenses, accompanied by documentation in the form of “accurate balance sheets of monies received and spent”. Finally, as somewhat of an afterthought, the receipt of grants from abroad could also result in penalties of varying degrees of severity (1302 and 594).
39These offenses and violations were assigned a wide range of sanctions: return of state grants, fines, prison sentences, nullification of an election, resignation, and loss of civil rights. The omission of certain expenses, or the payment of expenses without an invoice, made one liable to a fine that ranged from 180 to 500,000 francs. In rare instances, the threat of a prison sentence of fifteen days to six months was proposed. Legislative proposal 89 was the only one to contain the provision that for repeat offenses, a candidate would quite simply lose his civil rights. Occasionally, exceeding fixed spending ceilings was subject to harsher penalties: in addition to fines (ranging from 10,000 to 500,000 francs) and the return of state grants – two elements that were sometimes combined – offenders risked having their election nullified. Where cash payments for expenses were prohibited, the corresponding fines were generally more modest (ranging from 1,000 to 100,000 francs, with the exception of one proposal that levied fines up to twice the amount of total campaign expenses); recommended prison sentences for this offense ranged from fifteen days to six months. Less frequently proposed penalties included the cessation of all public funding, the repayment of state grants, and the nullification of an election. The non-submission of financial reports was sanctioned by the potential discontinuation and repayment of public funding and by the threat of nullification of an election; it was subject to much heavier fines (up to one million francs) but to lighter prison sentences (up to fifteen days). Evidently, this inventory of sanctions must be approached while keeping in mind the heterogeneous scope of the legislative proposals. Proposals dealt variously with political parties or with candidates, and with their expenses or with their funds. The range of offenses cited and liable to sanction depended in part on the successful integration of these diverse elements. Some legislative proposals were far more severe and threatening than others (notably 646); but such initiatives were rare.
40An examination of the debates and stances taken on political finance reform will enable us to grasp more effectively the grey zones and room to maneuver that the political actors who promoted such reform carved out for themselves. They did so under the guise of moralistic proposal titles and argumentation, allegedly seeking to separate the political sphere from the economic sphere so as to better preserve its purity. Such behavior, draped in moral rectitude, must be understood and explained. To this end, it serves to consider the individual and collective actors who submitted legislative proposals and who publicly took up the issue of political finance reform in France.
The motivations behind parliamentary mobilizations
41The issue of financing elections and partisan organizations was a crucial one for the French political class. To legislate or to seek reform in this domain marked an intervention into the codification of political activity. Study of this issue, therefore, provides an opportunity to discern the concrete ties that bind elected representatives to money. Accordingly, this article examines the members of the French parliament who promoted reform and the positions they adopted – an approach that will enable a better understanding of the legislative proposals they produced.
The leading figures of morality-driven parliamentary action
42In whose interest is it to reform political finance? Michael Johnston has observed that in many democratic systems, the rules of political finance were either rewritten or created by political parties in power so as to consolidate their own advantages.  In the case considered here, legislative proposals for political finance reform in France were put forward by individuals and by groups, some of whom were in the parliamentary majority, some in the minority.
43The variety of subjects addressed by the proposals reflects the extremely diverse range of elected representatives and groups who mobilized in favor of reform. We can venture that the members of parliament involved in generating legislative proposals were among those most recently elected and least established. In general, elected representatives of modest financial means, having experienced financial difficulties, were in a position to make such claims; as were candidates supported by political entities with few registered members or elected politicians capable of amassing a war chest to fund their election campaigns. Yet reform was also espoused by better endowed members of parliament. These figures, however, had to overcome thorny questions about their methods of getting elected – questions that provoked the issue of raising and using funds for electoral purposes. Such financial concerns were also faced by party leaders, occupied as they were with the futures of their candidates and representatives.
44There was thus no lack of elected representatives willing to take on roles as reformers. With regard to the establishment of the United States Constitution, Charles Beard has shown how the stances taken by its proponents can be assessed in light of their financial resources.  Is it likewise possible to shed some light on positions taken in favor of political finance reform by members of the French parliament through an examination of their social attributes?
45Of the 23 members of parliament who put forward legislative proposals, some did so individually (Achille Peretti, Guy Cabanel, Pierre Marcilhacy, Florence d’Harcourt, Claude Labbé, Jean-Pierre Delalande, and Philippe Vasseur) – as did Raymond Barre, in his role as Prime Minister. Others personally implicated themselves as leaders of collective reform efforts (Jean-Marie Commenay, Henri Ferretti, Georges Donnez, Pierre Micaux, and Alain Griotteray). In addition, some heads of parliamentary groups made themselves heard by mobilizing their political camps around the issue of political finance reform (Jacques Barrot, André Diligent, Georges Marchais, Guy Ducoloné, Michel Crêpeau, Gaston Defferre, Georges Guille, René Chazelle, Henri Lavielle, and Guy Mollet). In order to delineate the ideal type of the morally virtuous member of parliament, I will focus on the first two sets of individuals. These elected representatives sought to personally involve themselves in the issue of political finance reform.
46Consultation of biographical dictionaries  and of the name indices of the National Assembly’s gazette yields biographical data enabling a reconstruction of the parliamentary work undertaken by the eleven deputies  (and Prime Minister Raymond Barre) in the first two groups outlined above. Firstly, this set of representatives was not homogeneous with regard to its members’ professional backgrounds. Five of them had law degrees  or emphasized their practice of a legal profession. The others included a doctor, a professor, a former airline inspector, a forestry management expert, and three individuals from the field of journalism. All of them came from the parliamentary right: three from the Rally for the Republic party, six from the Union for French Democracy party, and three linked to small centrist formations. The right-wing political affiliation of these representatives may suggest a lack of parliamentary party discipline on their part – a discipline perhaps better respected on the left in the National Assembly. Consider that, by contrast, only two of the eight reform initiatives put forth by parliamentary group leaders (those in the third set outlined above) came from political parties on the right (Legislative proposals 1663, 1664, 378, 531, 89, 1070, 1164, and 1189).
47Secondly, several factors would seem to lend credence to the idea that the deputies in the first two groups outlined above were not yet well-established in parliament. Six out of the twelve were in their first legislative session, two were in their second session, and four had a seniority of three or more sessions. They were not all political novices, however. By simultaneously holding other elected offices  and by taking on other functions, some compensated for their parliamentary inexperience with significant external political experience (notably Raymond Barre and Georges Donnez). The collective image of these deputies as a group composed largely of political aspirants was also affirmed by the infrequency with which they were able to attain either national or parliamentary political offices. With the exception of Raymond Barre, who was serving as Prime Minister at the time of his intervention, and Claude Labbé, who was head of the Rally for the Republic group in the National Assembly when he submitted his legislative proposal, only four of the ten other deputies had exercised any national or parliamentary political leadership before intervening in the issue of political finance reform in France.
48Finally, consider these deputies’ ties to parliamentary institutions.  As a hypothesis, we could venture that the Commission for Constitutional Laws, Legislation, and General Administration of the Republic would constitute the breeding ground for these reformers; it would appear to be the commission best equipped to handle issues pertaining to elections. Yet only four of the twelve representatives were at some point associated with this commission. Moreover, among the deputies most involved in election-related issues, Claude Labbé stood out for his efforts. Labbé only served, however, on the National Assembly’s Commission for Production and Exchange.
49The impression that results is one of a muffled struggle between individual and collective actors whose legislative proposals often took a very moralizing tone. In addition, a good proportion of these proposals barely included sanctions to punish the offenses that they targeted. Beyond these similarities, however, it is difficult to find commonality among the actors who presented themselves as promoters of political finance reform. The sociography of these moral entrepreneurs is thus rather fragile and calls for a different approach. To this end, let us now consider whether an analysis of political divisions and of political context could better account for the positions taken in favor of these reform initiatives.
The political marking of the reform
50How did political finance reform become an issue for one or several political camps? In what circumstances and within what limits did this occur?
51An initial general tendency can be observed: for the period under consideration, during which 23 legislative proposals were submitted, political finance reform was largely monopolized by parties of the right (two-thirds of the reform initiatives came from the right, just over a quarter came from the parliamentary left, and the remainder came from independents). Within this right wing, the Centrists were clearly the most prominent reformers, generating eleven out of fourteen proposals (with the three others coming from members of the Rally for the Republic party). A second observation emphasizes political cycles. In effect, mobilizations around the issue of political finance reform peaked at two moments: 1976-1979 (ten proposals) and 1986-1987 (nine proposals).
52These reform initiatives can be situated within their political context by evoking a few relevant historical moments. The second half of the 1970s unfolded against a backdrop of tensions internal to the right, between Centrists and Gaullists. The Centrists won the French presidency in 1974; but since the Gaullists had a majority in the National Assembly, Jacques Chirac became Prime Minister. Only in 1978 was equilibrium re-established in the Assembly. In the meantime, the Union of Democrats for the Republic had transformed itself into the Rally for the Republic, and Centrist political strands had allied to create the Union for French Democracy. During this first political cycle, tensions between these rivals were apparent and were incorporated into their interlinked reform proposals. On 24 September 1979, Raymond Barre submitted his legislation on public funding for political parties (1302). The same day, Claude Labbé, then president of the Rally for the Republic group in the National Assembly, responded with a legislative proposal to limit the spending undertaken by candidates in legislative elections (1320). The preamble to Labbé’s proposal recalled, in its very first lines, that “Article 40 of the Constitution forbids any parliamentary initiative that would lead to the provision of financial assistance for political parties or candidates in legislative elections.” The mobilizations for political finance reform launched in 1986-1987 reflected the first period of power-sharing between the president and prime minister.  While François Mitterrand (Socialist Party) and Jacques Chirac (Rally for the Republic) were dueling at the top of the executive branch, the Centrists and, to a lesser extent, the Communists seized the “money and politics” issue so as to challenge their adversaries in power. Evidently, the political sphere of the mid-1980s was different from that of the early 1970s. The reversal of a political majority had occurred, and economic austerity measures had been put into place, followed by power-sharing at the top of the executive branch. The political platform of the left had been transformed, and certain contentious partisan issues were simultaneously subsiding.  In this context, a “politics of scandal”  emerged, which placed in the foreground the issue of reforming French political finance and of improving its ethical standards.
53These mobilizations for political finance reform can also be viewed in light of landmark moments in the history of the financing of the partisan organizations that spearheaded them. Even if modes of financing varied from one partisan formation to another, registered members and elected representatives provided two classic sources of revenue for political parties.
54In the early 1990s, if members of the French parliament are to be believed in this matter,  the French Communist Party received contributions from the greatest number of individuals. For the Socialist Party, dues varied from 150-200 francs, depending on the rates of regional sections. In Paris, however, Socialist Party dues could be as high as 4,000-5,000 francs, given the greater adherence there to the proportionality of dues to income levels. RPR dues were 200 francs, Social Democrats of the Center dues were 220 francs, and National Front dues ranged from 100-200 francs. The data presented in Table 3 makes clear that whereas such funds stabilized for several political parties, they fell significantly for the French Communist Party. Table 3 also shows that the dues of registered party members were overall rather insignificant.
Likely funds available to political parties, 1970-1990
Likely funds available to political parties, 1970-1990
55With regard to the dues paid by elected representatives in 1990, the contrasts between parties were rather more marked. Representatives of the French Communist Party handed over the totality of their parliamentary allowances to the party’s central committee, which then distributed back to them a portion every month (10,542 francs after taxes). Socialist Party representatives paid dues that ranged on average from 7,200-12,000 francs, whereas Rally for the Republic representatives paid about 500 francs per month. Members of parliament from the Social Democrats of the Center were even more reluctant to pay large party dues. Table 3 also indicates a predictable decrease in these funds for the French Communist Party (whose number of elected representatives diminished), as well as the doubtless greater impact of electoral shifts on the Socialist Party’s budget.
56Finally, the data on the number of départemental assembly presidencies and big-city electoral offices held by the various political parties reveals the uneven capacity of these parties to tap alternative sources of revenue. Alternative funds were less in keeping with the law, and they were not inconsequential – given the new powers conferred from 1982 onwards on local government and local elected officials as a result of decentralization. Notably, such funds were linked to the awarding of public contracts and came under widespread scrutiny during the scandals of the late 1980s.  To complete this picture, alternative sources of revenue came also from some partially public forms of financing, such as the “secret funds”. And they came from political parties’ control over some government ministries – the Prime Ministry, the Construction and Housing Ministry, the Commerce and Industry Ministry, and the Defense and Development Ministry – a control exposed after the fact (by various scandals) to be very lucrative. From 1970-1987, these ministries were monopolized first by the Gaullist right, and then, to a lesser extent, by the Socialists and Centrists.
57Placing these elements in historical perspective begs the question of why the Socialist Party barely mobilized for political finance reform after 1973. In 1971, at the Congress of Épinaysur-Seine, François Mitterrand launched his pursuit of the French presidency. Political realism thus took hold; the re-conquest of political power had a price that the Party had to be in a position to pay. The Socialist Party then claimed 60,000 local elected officials, including 6,000 mayors, with whom it could work on political as well as business affairs. To this end, the consultancy Urba Conseil was created in March 1972; its role in financing the Socialist Party is well known today. But as evidence that these financial issues were tough to tackle, an internal Socialist Party working group, presided by André Laignel, was set up to address this issue only in February 1983.
58How should we explain the silences of the Union of Democrats for the Republic and Rally for the Republic parties? These parties had long been in power and thus had time to organize. Before receiving government funds, some of their leaders had created associations that served as intermediaries between political and business milieus. Some of these associations were national in reach – for example, the Society for New Publishing and Distribution, created in 1959 by Albin Chalandon, secretary-general of the Union of Democrats for the Republic; or the Association for Industrial, Economic, and Social Research, directed by Guy Fric, Deputy Treasurer of the same party. Other associations were more local in scope – for instance, the Regional Center for Economic and Social Information in Toulouse, directed by Alexandre Sanguinetti. 
59The zeal of the Centrists for political finance reform must also be explained. From 1976-1979, they took advantage of the transformation of the internal power struggles on the right. Upon winning the French presidency in 1974, it seemed that their foremost concern was to create financial circuits independent of the National Council of French Employers (CNPF). In any case, in June 1975, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing held a cabinet meeting on campaign finance (which notably included Jacques Chirac and Michel Poniatowski). On July 25, Giscard d’Estaing publicly announced his intention to address the issue of political finance. In June 1978, he assigned Raymond Barre the task of devising a law on the subject. In light of the 1978 legislative elections, the Union for French Democracy sent a questionnaire on political finance to its candidates; a large majority of them responded favorably to the establishment of public funding for political parties. The political finance issue thus became one of internal political mobilization. Given this specific conjuncture, it is not surprising that Union for French Democracy representatives in parliament took an offensive stance on the issue. In September 1979, Raymond Barre thus put forward his proposed legislation. It immediately faced a hostile reception from several members of parliament, from the deputy assigned to present it to parliament (Philippe Seguin), and from the majority of French Communist Party representatives.
60Evidently, the legislative proposals put forth in 1986-1987 responded to different circumstances. Jacques Chirac had become Prime Minister. And the Centrists, who benefited less from government largesse, sought to develop new sources of funding. All the legislative proposals submitted in 1986-1987 contained a general plea for the recognition of private sources of funding and a specific call for the legalization of corporate contributions. In retrospect, therefore, it is tempting to analyze these initiatives as attempts to formalize – while further developing – campaign finance strategies forbidden at the time but nonetheless well-known to Centrists. The intervention of Centrist representatives in favor of the legalization of corporate contributions directly reflects the manifestly practical problem faced by members of parliament: the necessity of having to find revenue in order to practice politics. This observation leads us to take seriously the transformation of these political actors’ sense of practicality – a transformation at the heart of their proposals for reform. 
The formalization of the ties linking money and politics
61A review of the principal legislative attempts to address the formalization of political activities between 1976 and 1985 yields eighteen bills, not counting the initiatives doomed to failure.  This is, in effect, a significant testament to the redefinition of the political and parliamentary profession that took place following the era of Charles de Gaulle’s presidency.
The costs of political professionalization: the financing of elected officials and their staff
The costs of political professionalization: the financing of elected officials and their staff
62This process implied, however, the existence of costs that elected representatives were hesitant to expose clearly. Thus allowances, instead of salaries, were very gradually introduced for elected representatives and their staff – as if to deny the notion of compensation for political engagement. Allowances were only later extended to local elected officials and their auxiliaries. This was a development that only gained speed after the passage of the political finance laws of 1988-1990. Before 1980, after all, elected representatives at the national level had to figure out their own ways of obtaining the assistance necessary to carry out their work. To pay their staff, they either had to find secret sources of funding or use their own personal funds.
63This dynamic was reflected in the reform initiatives purporting to regulate the relationship between money and politics. Holding an elected office and having to hire a staff so as to conduct one’s functions implied the necessity of having access to funds for this purpose. Likewise, conducting an electoral campaign had a cost.  It required financial resources that candidates were not equally able to raise. By attempting to codify this issue, therefore, members of the French parliament were intervening in a debate that concerned, first and foremost, their own political survival and future. The repeated interventions on this subject by Florence d’Harcourt were doubtless emblematic; she submitted several proposals advocating the establishment of a spending ceiling for legislative elections. Her individual career path, moreover, is illuminating. She was elected successively as a representative for the National Center of Independents and Rural People (CNIP), as an independent, as a representative for the Rally for the Republic, and as a dissident of the Rally for the Republic – a series of fragile affiliations that imply that to run a campaign, she had to count on herself more than on any political apparatus. Add to this brief portrait the fact that d’Harcourt – although an elected official for the Rally for the Republic party in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly – had to face in the 1978 election Robert Hersant, an adversary with a considerable personal fortune who obtained the Rally for the Republic nomination. This experience helps to explain the positions she took in favor of political finance reform in the 1980s.
64Further evidence of the importance of such practical experience is provided by the fact that between 1971 and 1978, the members of parliament who claimed to be legislating broadly on campaign finance in reality only focused on legislative elections. Consequently, our investigation of these political finance reform initiatives as harbingers of a deep transformation of the political sphere merits further development. In this respect, the content of legislative proposals indicates a whole series of legitimate representations concerning modes of election and political organization. These representations oscillated constantly between two worlds: one ending, the other already up and running.
65To illustrate this phenomenon, consider the evolution of the stances on political finance reform taken by the Socialist Party and the Communist Party. In 1971, the Socialist Party applied itself to fighting the excesses and new forms of electoral publicity. As Legislative proposal 1663 forcefully asserted:
“It is unacceptable that the selection of a deputy in France is influenced by such considerable expenses as an outrageous display of posters that surpasses all records for surface area covered; an iconographic night-lit display requiring a multitude of projectors; sensational publicity vehicles; systematic complimentary mailings to voters of glossy magazines, newspapers, and circular letters; teams of associates who are handsomely remunerated – not to mention opinion polls, campaign ‘trinkets’, and various kinds of gifts.”
67This statement thus expressed the concern that the intrusion of money and of new forms of campaigning would sound the death knell of politics as a noble debate of ideas. With regard to the position taken by the Socialist Party a few years later, it was still protesting, in July 1978, the excesses of politics as spectacle. Its foremost concern was still the “restoration of equal opportunity for political parties and candidates”. Yet it was also the first party to propose “not prohibiting private funding, but regulating it” (531) – so as to better confront the changes taking place in politics.
68The Communist Party likewise displayed a sense of practicality and a clear grasp of the situation. In December 1987, it submitted two legislative proposals to the National Assembly. One contained a virulent attack on any corporate contributions and also expressed hostility towards any public funding for political parties (1189).  In this way, it presented itself as a party proud of its members, at the time still relatively numerous. Its conception of politics was one of completely disinterested political engagement. As it declared, “The financial contribution by an individual to a candidate’s political campaign may not benefit from any kind of tax deduction.” The Communist Party, however, did not remain stuck in a defense of the status quo, sustained by funds from its registered members and tied to a classical vision of electoral campaigns. Instead, it articulated the possibility of a state contribution to candidates’ campaign costs. It also recognized the necessity of working with modern means of audio-visual political communication. To this end, its Legislative proposal 1164 contained the provision that each candidate in a presidential election campaign would have available to them, for the first round of the election, two hours of radio broadcasting time: “Programming would be produced by the French Production Company (SFP) under the supervision of candidates, who could draw on consultants. The French Production Company would receive for this purpose a set allocation from the state for each candidate.” Even the Communist Party, therefore, did not resist the dynamic facing all partisan formations in this period: the need to combine traditional and modern modes of political mobilization.
69The recurring theme of fixing a ceiling for campaign expenses also reflected these political transformations, anchored as they were in practical experience. Why did this theme constantly appear as the centerpiece of reform proposals? In effect, the actual length of electoral campaigns had become much longer than the official campaign – a legal campaign whose limited duration spoke to the limited sums of money that candidates were allowed to spend towards getting elected. The state reimbursed such expenses, partially and under specific conditions. At the same time, modes of political action and of publicity were undergoing renewal, with their costs swelling accordingly. Ties of interdependency woven within the political sphere were being expanded; and the division of political labor was being developed in light of the expanded services offered to candidates and parties by advertising, polling, and communications professionals.  Yet the official campaign period heavily constrained these innovations. It restricted and regulated candidates’ modes of action, their advertising space, the precise size and quantity of their campaign posters, and the form and amount of political paraphernalia they could distribute to voters. 
70The debates over fixing a ceiling for campaign expenses attested to these tensions. If the establishment of a ceiling was at issue, so too was the imperative to constantly raise this ceiling. The legislative proposals put forward by the Socialist Party in 1971 and in 1973 thus declared a spending ceiling of 10,000 francs for legislative elections. In 1976, Achille Peretti of the Rally for the Republic party proposed fixing this spending ceiling at 60,000 francs – to which the Socialist Party responded in 1978 by raising it to 100,000 francs. Recall that in 1987, by contrast, only two legislative proposals addressed this issue – pegging the costs for an average electoral district at 50,000-60,000 francs (deviations from the average were numerous). With the exception of these two proposals, however, the reform initiatives submitted in this latter period by the Union for French Democracy and by the Communist Party either no longer mentioned spending ceilings or remained extremely vague about the levels at which they would be fixed.
71The issue of revenues, in particular those of political parties, erupted somewhat after that of spending ceilings, in 1976. In this case too, it arose in conjunction with transformations in the nature of political activity and was informed by the concrete experiences of parties (the decision of members to leave, the decrease in official funds, etc.). In this context, the debate over private funds and foreign funds deserves special attention. Parties on the right frequently sought to forbid such funds – without clearly naming their target. For example, in a context in which journalists regularly evoked the French Communist Party’s financing from Moscow, the Union for French Democracy declared in its Proposal 1302: “Political parties or groups cannot directly or indirectly receive funds from a foreign state or organization.” Unlike those politicians who held it in contempt, the French Communist Party could not count on the largesse of the business milieu, and it responded from this standpoint with its own Proposal 1189: “Direct or indirect contributions to political candidates by private or public companies, or by employers’ organizations or groups, are forbidden.”
72Another particularly revealing issue raised in the debates over political finance reform was that of state funding for political parties – a form of financing intended to be fairly significant. State funding for political parties, and not only for candidates, was first advanced in 1976 by Centrist members of parliament (Proposal 2281).
73In identifying potential recipients of state funding, these various reform initiatives targeted political organizations that were, above all, well-established.  As evidence of this observation, consider the restrictions that proponents of state funding placed on such funds so as to limit access to them. Most often, the political parties that wished to receive such grants had to have obtained at least 5% of actual votes in the most recent legislative elections (Centrist Proposal 2281). On rare occasions, this threshold was lowered to 3% (Union for French Democracy Proposal 765), or even 2% (Socialist Party Proposal 531). Significantly, few reform initiatives concerned themselves with political organizations that might emerge outside the electoral sphere (Guy Cabanel’s Proposal 2283). Financial assistance from the state was sometimes complicated by the requirement that groups seeking to benefit from a state grant have at least 30 elected members of parliament (Union for French Democracy Proposal 1302). The Union for French Democracy also proposed taking into account the results of elections to the European parliament in calculating state grant amounts – surely a move made in light of its own successful returns in the European elections (287 and 646). One Rally for the Republic deputy even ventured incorporating the results of the previous presidential election in calculations for state grants (594).
Funding structures recommended
Funding structures recommended
Ceilings for authorized private spending
Ceilings for authorized private spendingFigures in francs.
IC: Individual Contributions
CC: Corporate Contributions
IC to PEC: Individual Contributions to Presidential Election Candidates
IC to LEC: Individual Contributions to Legislative Election Candidates
IC to RCMC: Individual Contributions to Regional, Cantonal, and Municipal Election Candidates
CC to PEC: Corporate Contributions to Presidential Election Candidates
CC to LEC: Corporate Contributions to Legislative Election Candidates
CC to RCMC: Corporate Contributions to Regional, Cantonal, and Municipal Election Candidates
74In 1978, two years after the call for state funding, the recognition of the necessity of both private and public funds was asserted at the initiative of Socialist members of parliament. These kinds of funds seemed to have had more difficulty entering the public debate. For the first time, the notion was now advanced that political parties and electoral committees should have access to both public (state grants) and diverse private (individual and corporate contributions) funds (531). And from 1986 onwards, all legislative proposals from the right advocated a financing structure incorporating both public and private sources of funding.
75With regard to private contributions, the amounts specified in legislative proposals provide a final point of inquiry through which to grasp the sense of practicality and the power relations that informed political finance reform. Legislative proposals recognized private contributions; but they did so in a manner that was vague, refraining from naming specific amounts. In the space of a few months, three proposals from Rally for the Republic and Union for French Democracy members of parliament thus offered a compelling perspective on the importance of private funds, which they wanted to make available to candidates and their parties for campaign and operation costs (594, 646, and 765). Very quickly, amounts cited increased three to twentyfold. If such figures reflected the unofficial practices being engaged in at the time, we can thus gauge the vast chasm that existed between the expectations raised by the transformation of political activity and the obsolescence of the regulations that purported to frame such activity.
76* * *
77As this analysis has shown, the legislative proposals for political finance reform in France cannot be reduced to a series of technical solutions that responded to the absence of a legal framework on the issue.  These unsuccessful initiatives began to delineate new symbolic boundaries between money and politics. Two consequences of these reform efforts must be stressed. Firstly, these initiatives enabled the emergence and prominence of a whole series of norms and values related to the issue of political finance. They also contributed to more precise and bounded definitions of campaign finance and of the funding of partisan political organizations. Thus, they created a set of transmittable parliamentary understandings of the political finance issue. Such understandings were present at the heart of the parliamentary debates over the first political finance law of 1988.  The further development of these understandings would be facilitated by the progressive emergence of a group of members of parliament who specialized in the political finance issue. Philippe Seguin, the deputy designated to present Prime Minister Raymond Barre’s proposed legislation to parliament in 1979, would later preside over the working group that produced a voluminous parliamentary report, Politics and Money, in 1994. Likewise, Jean-Pierre Delalande and Philippe Vasseur, members of parliament from, respectively, the Rally for the Republic and the Union for French Democracy parties, were both very active on this issue in the mid-1980s and also deeply involved in the debates of 1988. With regard to the Socialist Party, deputies Pierre Joxe and Michel Sapin became the experts on political finance reform; they left their mark on the issue through their championing of new political finance laws in the 1990s.
78Secondly, the reform initiatives of the 1970s and 1980s were careful not to propose the creation of a legal structure that would expose elected representatives and political party leaders to severe sanctions.  The first political finance law of 1988 was inscribed, in a way, in this “path dependence”: its legal application remained purely theoretical. For example, the financial legality of the election campaign of Bernard Tapie, a prominent business and media personality, was contested for having exceeded the authorized spending ceiling; but no sanctions were ultimately issued.  The persistent refusal of the French executive branch to push for political finance reform (with the exception of Prime Minister Raymond Barre) also attests to this caution and reticence. It appears that the threshold of collective sensitivity towards the form of violence that money in politics could represent – dirty money in particular – was not yet sufficiently developed in France. 
79The legislative proposals for political finance reform assembled in this article offer a rich means of analyzing modern politics and its transformations. As the second term of President François Mitterrand came to an end in the mid-1990s, a whole new stage in political finance reform opened in France. Numerous reforms have since been passed; the most recent of which, recommended by the Mazeaud Commission, became law in April 2011. 
Translator’s note: The Fifth Republic was established on 4 October 1958.
With the exception of Éric Treille, “Les lois sur le financement de la vie politique et les mobilisations électorales: nouvelles règles, nouveaux acteurs, nouvelles pratiques” (paper presented at the 7th Congress of the French Political Science Association, Lille, France, 18-21 September 2002), http://www.afsp.msh-paris.fr/archives/congreslille/pdflille/tr2treille.pdf, and Abel François and Nicolas Sauger, “Groupes d’intérêt et financement de la vie politique en France: une évaluation des effets de l’interdiction des dons de personnes morales”, Revue française de science politique, 56(2), 2006, 227-54. Among studies produced outside France, see Thomas Drysch, “The new French system of political finance”, in Arthur B. Gunlicks (ed.), Campaign and Party Finance in North America and Western Europe (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993), 155-77; Véronique Pujas and Martin Rhodes, “Party finance and political scandal in Italy, Spain and France”, Western European Politics, 22(3), 1999, 41-63; Ben Clift and Justin Fisher, “Comparative party finance reform: the cases of France and Britain”, Party Politics, 10(6), 2004, 677-99; and Clift and Fisher, “Party finance reform as constitutional engineering? The effectiveness and unintended consequences of party finance reform in France and Britain”, French Politics, 3 (2005): 234-57.
In addition to François and Sauger, see François Facchini, “Critique de trois arguments justifiant les lois sur le financement de la vie politique”, Politiques et management public, 22(4), 2004, 27-46 and Clotilde Valter, Didier Laval, Renaud Gace, and Jean-Michel Fromion, Rapport sur les dépenses électorales: Mission d’audit et de modernisation (Paris: La Documentation française, 2006).
Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, “Financing politics: a global view”, Journal of Democracy, 13(4), 2002, 69-86.
For an overview of the reforms that have extended the work of this commission, see the legislation proposed by Brice Hortefeux on the election of deputies: Projet de loi organique no. 1887 du 29 juillet 2009. See also the recent report by Pierre Mazeaud, Proposition de réforme de la législation sur le financement des campagnes électorales pour les élections législatives (Paris: La Documentation française, 2009) as well as the newest law itself: Loi du 14 avril 2011 portant simplification de dispositions du code électoral et relative à la transparence financière de la vie politique.
Abel François and Éric Phélippeau (eds), Le financement de la vie politique française: Des règles aux pratiques (1988-2008) (Paris: WEKA, 2010).
Rapport d’information no. 1720 annexé à la séance du 20 mai 1980 à la suite d’une mission effectuée du 5 au 20 mars 1980 sur les conditions du financement des partis politiques et des campagnes électorales aux États-Unis d’Amérique.
Guy Carcassonne, “Du non-droit au droit”, Pouvoirs, 70, 1994, 7-17. For a discussion of these explanations in the British context, see Pinto-Duchinsky, Paying for the Party: Myths and Realities in British Political Finance (London: Policy Exchange, 2008).
Roger W. Cobb and Charles D. Elder, Participation in American Politics: The Dynamics of Agenda-Building (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972) and Roger W. Cobb and Marc Howard Ross (eds), Cultural Strategies of Agenda Denial: Avoidance, Attack, and Redefinition (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1997).
See Howard S. Becker, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (London: Free Press of Glencoe, 1963) and Joseph R. Gusfield, Symbolic Crusade: Status Politics and the American Temperance Movement (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1963).
The indices of the Journal officiel from 1945 onwards were consulted for this study, which made it possible to date to the 1970s the inclusion of political finance reform on the French parliamentary agenda (via the submission of legislative proposals). Also consulted were the press files on French political finance at the Bibliothèque André Siegfried (Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, Paris). Finally, research on the authors of legislative proposals was conducted through a systematic review of the name indices of the Journal officiel, so as to discern the legislative themes on which they each came to focus their efforts. Translator’s note: The Journal officiel is the gazette of the French government, publishing all laws, decrees, regulations, and other legal information.
The indices of the Journal officiel for the National Assembly since 1945 do not reveal any parliamentary initiatives aiming to reform French political finance for the period between the end of the Second World War and the start of the 1970s. At most, one finds traces of efforts seeking to regulate campaign publicity (for example, for the cantonal elections of 1949 and for the legislative elections of 1966) or to ensure equal opportunities among political parties and groups by recognizing the principle of equal access to the French Radio and Television Agency (ORTF) in 1966.
Dominique Marchetti, “Le ‘journalisme d’investigation’: genèse et consécration d’une spécialité journalistique”, in Jean-Louis Briquet and Philippe Garraud (eds), Juger la politique: Entreprises et entrepreneurs critiques de la politique (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2002), 167-91.
Laurent Martin, Le canard enchaîné: Histoire d’un journal satirique (1915-2005) (Paris: Nouveau Monde, 2005).
Erik Neveu, “Politics on French television: towards a renewal of political journalism and framed debates?” European Journal of Communication, 14(3), 1999, 379-409.
Violaine Roussel, Affaires de juges: Les magistrats dans les scandales politiques en France (Paris: La Découverte, 2002); Philippe Garraud, “La politique à l’épreuve du jugement judiciaire: la pénalisation croissante du politique comme ‘effet induit’ du processus d’autonomisation de l’institution judiciaire”, in Juger la politique, 25-43; and Véronique Pujas, “Les pouvoirs judiciaires dans la lutte contre la corruption politique en Espagne, en France, et en Italie”, Droit et Société, 44-5, 2000, 41-60.
Alain Garrigou, “Vivre de la politique: les ‘quinze mille’, le mandat et le métier”, Politix, 20, 1992, 7-34.
Patrick Lehingue, “Vocation, art, métier ou profession? Codification et étiquetage des activités politiques”, in Michel Offerlé (ed.), La profession politique, 19e-20e siècles (Paris: Belin, 1999), 93-134 and Éric Phélippeau, “La formalisation du rôle d’assistant parlementaire (1953-1955)”, in Guillaume Courty (ed.), Le travail de collaboration avec les élus (Paris: Michel Houdiard, 2005), 62-80.
Daniel Gaxie, “Économie des partis et rétributions du militantisme”, Revue française de science politique, 27(1), 1977, 123-53 and Gaxie, “Rétributions du militantisme et paradoxes de l’action collective”, Revue suisse de science politique, 11(1), 2005, 157-88.
Pierre Birnbaum, Le peuple contre les gros: Histoire d’un mythe (Paris: Pluriel, 1995 ).
Éric Doidy, “(Ne pas) juger scandaleux: les électeurs de Levallois-Perret face au comportement de leur maire”, Politix, 71, 2005, 165-90; Philippe Bezes and Pierre Lascoumes, “Percevoir et juger la ‘corruption politique’: enjeux et usages des enquêtes sur les représentations des atteintes à la probité publique”, Revue française de science politique, 55(5-6), 2005, 757-86; and Oskar Kurer, “Why do voters support corrupt politicians?” in Arvind K. Jain (ed.), The Political Economy of Corruption (London: Routledge, 2001), 63-86.
Paul Pierson, “Increasing returns, path dependence, and the study of politics”, American Political Science Review, 94(2), 2000, 251-67.
Norbert Elias, Qu’est-ce que la sociologie? (La Tour d’Aigues: Éditions de l’Aube, 1986 ).
This proposal has not been included in Table 1 because no trace of its content is present either in the Journal officiel or in François Mitterrand’s records.
Pierre Lascoumes, Corruptions (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1999), 34-50.
Peter Bratsis, “The construction of corruption, or rules of separation and illusion of purity in bourgeois societies”, Social Text 77, 21(4), 2003, 9-33.
Translator’s note: The Cour des comptes [Court of Accounts] is the French government body charged with monitoring and auditing state finances and the implementation of state finance laws.
Frank Anechiarico and James B. Jacobs, The Pursuit of Absolute Integrity: How Corruption Control Makes Government Ineffective (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge, 1984 ), 42.
Viviana A. Zelizer, The Social Meaning of Money (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 1-2 and 18.
Only a rare few studies emphasize the positive nature of campaign spending, and extrapolate from such spending the quality of a democracy. See John J. Coleman and Paul F. Manna, “Congressional campaign spending and the quality of democracy”, Journal of Politics, 62(3), 2000, 757-89. On the positive role of spending by political parties, see Ingrid van Biezen, “Political parties as public utilities”, Party Politics, 10(6), 2004, 701-22. For a comparative perspective, see Pinto-Duschinsky, “Supporting new democracies”, in Karl-Heinz Nassmacher (ed.), Foundations for Democracy: Approaches to Comparative Political Finance/Essays in Honor of Herbert E. Alexander (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2001), 297-320.
For an illustration of the positive image of such contributions, see Clyde Wilcox, “Contributing as political participation”, in Gerald C. Lubenow (ed.), A User’s Guide to Campaign Finance Reform (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), 109-26. For analysis of the renewal of such contributions in the United States, as well as of the measures that favored their growth, see Herbert E. Alexander, “Spending in the 1996 elections”, in John C. Green (ed.), Financing the 1996 Election (Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 1999), 25-36 and Michael J. Malbin (ed.), Life After Reform: When the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act Meets Politics (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).
Michael Johnston, Political Finance Policy, Parties, and Democratic Development (Washington, D.C.: National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, 2005). At the same time, as Susan Scarrow quite rightly remarks, the definition of such interests can vary greatly from one political party to another and from one time period or context to another. See Susan E. Scarrow, “Explaining political finance reforms: competition and context”, Party Politics, 10(6), 2004, 653-75.
Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1913).
A Who’s Who was consulted for the eleven deputies and one prime minister for the years in which they submitted their reform proposals.
Translator’s note: Deputies [députés] are the elected representatives of the French National Assembly. Their counterparts in the upper house of the French parliament (the Senate) are senators [sénateurs].
Laurent Willemez has shown that numerous elected representatives who highlight and play up their law degrees have never actually practiced this profession. See Willemez, “La ‘République des avocats’: le mythe, le modèle et son endossement”, in La profession politique, 201-29.
Translator’s note: The simultaneous occupation of more than one electoral office is common practice in France.
The data assembled here focuses on the period 1968-1987. For Jean-Marie Commenay, Claude Labbé, and Achille Peretti, deputies since 1958, the parliamentary work they accomplished during the period 1958-1968 has not been included.
Translator’s note: Power-sharing at the top of the French executive branch occurs when the president’s political party does not hold a majority in the French parliament. The president is then required to nominate a prime minister from the majority (opposition) party, resulting in a situation referred to in French as cohabitation.
Philippe Juhem, “SOS-Racisme, histoire d’une mobilisation ‘apolitique’: contribution à une analyse des transformation des représentations politiques”, (PhD Dissertation, Université Paris X-Nanterre, 1998), chapters 5-8.
Here I paraphrase Stephen E. Bornstein, “The Politics of Scandal”, in Peter A. Hall, Jack Hayward, and Howard Machin (eds), Developments in French Politics (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990), 269-81. For a more general framing, and for an analysis of the process whereby scandals occur and develop, see Garrigou, “Le scandale politique comme mobilisation”, in François Chazel (ed.), Action collective et mouvements sociaux (Paris: PUF, 1993), 183-91.
Jean Le Garrec, Rapport de la commission d’enquête sur le financement des partis et des campagnes électorales sous la Cinquième République, 2348 (15 November 1991).
Yves Mény, La corruption de la République (Paris: Fayard, 1992).
Nicolas Fournier and Edmond Legrand, Dossier C…comme combines (Paris: Alain Moreau, 1975); Claude Angeli, Nicolas Brimo, and Louis Maspero, Les dossiers confidentiels du patronat (Paris: François Maspero, 1978); and Jean Garrigues, Les patrons et la politique: 150 ans de liaisons dangereuses (Paris: Perrin, 2002). For a more recent study, see Offerlé, Sociologie des organisations patronales (Paris: La Découverte, 2009).
This approach mirrors Patrick Lehingue’s strategy for examining the debates in the 1970s over the codification of new regulations for opinion polls in France. Lehingue views these debates both as a means of analyzing his actors’ sense of practicality and as a revelatory indicator of the transformation of the political field. See Lehingue, “Usages et effets politiques de la codification: la réglementation des sondages d’opinion en France”, in Danièle Lochak (ed.), Les usages sociaux du droit (Paris: PUF, 1989), 44-67.
Lehingue, “Vocation, art, métier ou profession”, 132-3.
Karl-Heinz Nassmacher proposes a useful integration of these various costs. See Nassmacher, “Comparative political finance in established democracies”, in Foundations for Democracy, 9-33.
For a comparative socio-historical perspective on the rejection of such state funding, see Marcin Walecki’s study of the Polish case, Money and Politics in Poland (Warsaw: Institute of Public Affairs, 2005). For a reappraisal of the commonly held notion that public funding is tied to a decline in political mobilization, see Menachem Hofnung, “Public financing, party membership, and internal party competition”, European Journal of Political Research, 29, 1996, 73-86.
Jacques Gerstlé, La communication politique (Paris: Armand Colin, 2004), 73-85.
Hervé Faupin, Le contrôle du financement de la vie politique: partis et campagnes (Paris: LGDJ, 1998), 184-6.
Richard S. Katz and Peter Mair, “Changing models of party organization and party democracy: the emergence of the Cartel Party”, Party Politics, 1(1), 1995, 5-28.
A broader perspective on the process of legal innovation is offered in Pierre Lascoumes and Évelyne Serverin, “Le droit comme activité sociale: pour une approche wébérienne des activités juridiques”, in Pierre Lascoumes (ed.), Actualité de Max Weber pour la sociologie du droit (Paris: LGDJ, 1995), 155-77.
Phélippeau, “Le financement de la vie politique française saisi par la loi: la codification de mars 1988” (paper presented at the 10th Congress of the French Political Science Association, Grenoble, France, 7-9 September 2009).
Scarrow effectively shows how these reforms were particularly conducive to collaborative intrigues among certain political parties; in some instances, however, conflict also resulted. See Scarrow, “Explaining political finance reforms”.
With the banning of corporate contributions in 1995, the 1988 law came to have unexpected and weighty consequences. See Phélippeau, “Political finance regulations and the institutionalization of French political organizations” (paper presented to the Research Committee on Political Finance and Political Corruption at the Congress of the International Political Science Association, Santiago, Chile, 12-16 July 2009).
The transformation of the threshold of sensitivity to money among actors in the political, legal, and journalistic fields is a subject that merits study, and not just with regard to the French case, using the tools forged by Norbert Elias for thinking about the processes of civilization. See Elias, La civilisation des mœurs (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1973 ).
For their comments on previous versions of this article, I wish to thank in particular Viviana Zelizer and Patrick Lehingue; and I also wish to thank Michelle Pinto for her translation.