June 12, 2009 4:06PM

Campaign Finance Reform, European Style

Europe just held elections for the European parliament. The British National Party — an essentially fascist, all‐​white grouping — won two seats. And access to potentially a lot of money.

It isn’t literally public campaign financing, but once elected, parties in the European parliament often can get their hands on a lot of public funding. Reports the Independent:

Both men will be entitled to about £310,000 in annual funding, including an £80,443 salary, a staff budget of up to £182,000 and £40,000 for office expenses. But the British National Party (BNP) could also unlock a share of the £22.8m allowance that is given to parliamentary groups if it can find at least 25 fellow MEPs from seven member states willing to form a bloc within the European Parliament.

Being part of a group is crucial in terms of power as it entitles members to EU funding, a party office, administrative staff and, crucially, the right to vote in committees which are the nerve centre of the Parliament.

A parliamentary group is also entitled to up to £5m of extra funding over the next five‐​year term.

A number of far‐​right groups have secured seats in the European Parliament, many of whom hold outwardly racist or neo‐​fascist policies. Prior to the European elections, high‐​ranking members of the BNP had attended rallies held by neo‐​Nazis in both Italy and Hungary.

It’s bad enough for Europeans to have to tolerate such folks in the European Parliament. But subsidizing their activities seems ridiculous. So it is with the public funding of elections and government restrictions on private fundraising and advertising in elections in the U.S. The thought of jackboots at the trough, as some in Britain put it, is as good an argument as I can imagine against the public financing of elections here.