Norway’s Conservative Party is often said to have the most “rich uncles” to help fund election campaigns, but this year its arch rival Labour Party has emerged as securing the most campaign donations of all. The money involved is modest, however, compared to countries like the US.
Norway’s political parties combined are expected to have spent around NOK 95 million (USD 12 million at current exchange rates) to win voters’ favour. Labour and the Conservatives stand for nearly half of that amount alone, with the other seven parties making up the rest. In addition come the very small parties that secure less than 1 percent of the vote but still want to make their presence known.
In election years, all political parties must publicly report contributions of more than NOK 10,000. This year’s reporting period ran from January 1 to August 2. News bureau NTB reported that the Conservatives attracted the largest number of donations, but Labour got the most money.
Labour can boast the biggest single contributors in the form of Norway’s largest trade union confederation LO and other labour federations. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that they had contributed nearly NOK 20 million to Labour by the end of June, while NTB reported that had risen to nearly NOK 33 million in August.
‘They need support’
The Labour Party’s secretary, Kjersti Stenseng, put their campaign budget at around NOK 30 million. “We don’t have so many rich uncles, but we have a strong employees’ organization that wants a change of government, LO,” Stenseng told state broadcaster NRK.
NTB reported, however, that Labour also attracts strong support from one of Norway’s wealthiest men, investor and retired businessman Trond Mohn of Bergen. He donated NOK 2.5 million to Labour “because I’m a member of the Labour Party and they need support,” Mohn told NTB when the most active portion of the election campaign began in early August. Mohn, known as one of Norway’s major philanthropists who often funds research projects, predicted it would be “an exciting election campaign” and claimed at the time that he had “great faith” in Labour’s candidate for prime minister, Jonas Gahr Støre.
While LO had already given Labour a lump sum of NOK 10 million by May, the Conservatives’ biggest single donations were around NOK 500,000, from investment and real estate firms Høegh Eiendom, Pecunia and Sole Invest. The party itself also reported that other major individual donors included Wilh Wilhelmsen Holding (NOK 300,000), Mustad Industrier (NOK 150,000) and Rasmussengruppen (100,000).
Businessmen Harald Møller, Kristian Siem, and Arne Fredly also have been among those donating to the Conservatives, who’ll be spending around NOK 25 million on this year’s election campaign. Wealthy grocery store founder and investor Stein Erik Hagen donated NOK 5 million to the Conservatives last year and NOK 2.5 million to its government partner, the Progress Party.
Progress had only taken in around NOK 225,000 by the end of June, much less than what it’s received in earlier years. Party secretary Fredrik Färber told newspaper Dagsavisen the party still had a solid campaign chest, filled in earlier years by such donors as Hagen and, in earlier years, investor Christen Sveaas.
NRK reported this week that Progress expects to spend NOK 19 million on the campaign, followed by the Liberal Party at 7.7 million, the Socialist Left (SV) at NOK 6 million, the Center Party NOK 3.2 million, the Greens NOK 3 million, the Christian Democrats NOK 1.7 million and the Reds NOK 1.9 million.
Big boost in campaign spending by the Reds
The Reds’ campaign spending is more than double the NOK 800,000 it spent during municipal elections in 2013. Its party secretary Mari Eifring said that’s because its financial support has risen dramatically as well. “We’ve experienced a very strong willingness by people to support the Reds, and that perhaps folks see that we don’t have any rich uncles or large organizations to support us,” Eifring told NRK. “We’ve received more than 3,000 individual contributions.”
Some of the parties require their full-time candidates and elected officials to contribute themselves. SV is the strictest, reports Aftenposten, requiring all its top party officials to pay NOK 34,000 into the party’s treasury. One of its Oslo politicians, Inga Marte Thorkildsen has donated around NOK 58,000 to SV’s eleciton campaign.
The Greens’ city politician Lan Marie Nguyen Berg has paid NOK 50,000 to the party she represents. Labour’s Oslo chapter requires its top politicians to pay 2 percent of their salaries to the party. Oslo city politicians Raymond Johansen paid NOK 15,000, while Geir Lippestad and Robert Steen paid NOK 23,000 each. Støre paid NOK 11,000.