Use the Lexology Getting The Deal Through tool to compare the answers in this article with those from other jurisdictions.
Form of government
What is the basic source of law? Describe the scope of, and limitations on, government power relevant to the regulation of lobbying and government relations.
The main source of law in Russia is the Constitution. The current Constitution was adopted in 1993 (two years after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).
The Constitution defines the administrative and territorial division of the country, establishes the form of government, and identifies the main bodies of state power and the principles of local self-government. The Constitution also defines the basic rights and freedoms of ‘man and citizen’. It has supreme legal force throughout the territory of Russia.
The Constitution establishes the separation of legislative, executive and judicial authorities and their independence. However, the scope of powers of executive authorities (the President and the government) makes Russia largely a super-presidential country (see question 2). The legislative branch and the judicial system have a relative influence and are mostly dependent on the executive branch (see question 5).
The Constitution confirms the rights of citizens to associate to protect their interests and guarantee freedom of activity of public associations. The rights of the business community are not separately reserved in the Constitution.
In respect of cooperation with the state, citizens have the following rights:
- the right to participate in state administration directly or through their representatives;
- the right to elect and to be elected to state authorities and local self-government authorities;
- the right to send individual or collective inquiries to state authorities and local self-government authorities; and
- the right to appeal in court the decisions and actions of state authorities, local self-government authorities and officials.
The Constitution describes the role and responsibilities of the President, the Federal Assembly (the parliament), the government, the judicial branch and the public prosecution service.
The Constitution also establishes the bodies and their members that possess the right of legislative initiative: the President; the Federation Council; Federation Council members; State Duma members; and the government and legislative bodies of constituent entities of Russia (regional parliaments). The Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court also have the right of legislative initiative with regard to the issues pertaining to their competence (see question 5).
In general, discussions about changing the Constitution take place infrequently. The last significant amendments were introduced in 2008 and in 2014, and were aimed at strengthening presidential power. In 2008, the term for which the President could be elected was extended from four to six years, and the term of the State Duma was extended from four to five years. In 2014, the Constitution enshrined the right of the President to appoint chosen representatives (known as senators) to the Federation Council, who may account for up to 10 per cent of the Council’s members. This further increases the President’s influence on the legislative process.
Certain provisions of the Constitution are further elaborated in the Federal Constitutional Laws, which occupy the second tier after the Constitution in the legal hierarchy. With regard to interaction with state authorities, the Law on the Government and the Law on the Judicial System are of importance. These laws define, among other things, the general powers, the procedure of formation and relations with other authorities.
Describe the legislative system as it relates to lobbying.
Russia is both a presidential and a parliamentary republic. This means that the government and the Chair of the Government (the Prime Minister) are accountable to both the President and the Federal Assembly.
However, according to the current Constitution, the President has broad powers to control other authorities.
In particular, the President proposes the candidate for the position of Chair of the Government and must dissolve the State Duma in the event of triple rejection of the candidate. If the Chair raises an issue of no confidence in the State Duma, the President is entitled to dissolve the chamber. The President also confirms the appointment of the government ministers in their offices and appoints federal judges.
These factors have formed a super-presidential republic in Russia where the President and his subordinate institution (the Presidential Executive Office) consolidate the power.
Although a fairly wide range of bodies has the right of legislative initiative, the government is the initiator of most of the adopted laws. The President usually introduces draft laws on the most sensitive social issues. In most cases, draft laws have a chance to be passed, subject to approval by the government or the Presidential Executive Office (or both).
Draft laws introduced by State Duma members of oppositional factions, by legislative assemblies of constituent entities of Russia or those unapproved by the government or the Presidential Executive Office have almost no chance of being passed. All this leads to a less significant status of the State Duma and its somewhat technical role in the legislative process.
The Federal Assembly is the highest legislative body of the country. It consists of two chambers: the State Duma and the Federation Council.
The State Duma consists of 450 members who are elected for five years by direct national elections according to the mixed electoral system. Of these, 225 members are elected according to the proportional system with a threshold barrier of 5 per cent and 225 members are elected according to the majority voting system in single-member districts. The number of districts within the same constituent entity of the country depends on the size of the population of the constituent entity. Each constituent entity has at least one single-member district.
The system of election of State Duma members has changed more than once as a result of the political environment. The last change occurred before the election of 2016 when elections in single-mandate constituencies were reintroduced. The change was aimed at increasing the number of State Duma members from the pro-presidential party, United Russia.
Since 2003, the parliamentary majority has belonged to the United Russia party (from May 2008, President Vladimir Putin was the leader of the party; since May 2012, it has been headed by the current Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev); currently, the party has a qualified majority in the State Duma, which makes it possible to introduce amendments into the Constitution.
Currently, the Federation Council consists of 170 senators, who represent the constituent entities of Russia. Two senators are appointed per region: one is appointed by the head of the constituent entity; and the other is elected by the members of the legislative assembly of the constituent entity. In addition, the President may appoint representatives of the Russian Federation whose number may total up to 10 per cent of the total number of senators. So far, the President has not exercised this right.
The Federal Law on the Status of Member of the Federation Council of the Federation and the Status of a State Duma Member defines the rights, duties and responsibilities of the members of the Federal Assembly and their assistants.
Despite the relatively low status of senators and State Duma members, they have broad rights. In particular, the right to receive information from state authorities, which the state authorities must provide within 30 days, and the right to a parliamentary inquiry to state authorities, which must also be executed within 30 days.
The issue of delegating authority for the regulation of lobbying is on the table but there has been no discussion on the topic.
Describe the extent to which legislative or rule-making authority relevant to lobbying practice also exists at regional, provincial or municipal level.
Russia is a federal state comprising 85 constituent entities (regions). Constituent entities have their own framework law (a Constitution or a Statute) and their own legislation.
The Constitution establishes a list of issues that are the responsibility of the government (ie, at the federal level) or that are the joint competence of the government and constituent entities. Constituent entities assume powers of the government on issues that are not included in this list.
For instance, regions can impose corporate property tax, gambling tax and transport tax. Regions also bear partial responsibility for health issues, the environment, etc.
Regional parliaments have the right of legislative initiative at the federal level. In addition, regional parliaments can prepare feedback for draft federal laws. However, their actual influence on the federal legislative process, except in a very limited number of regions headed by powerful governors (ie, Moscow, regions where the largest oil and gas fields are concentrated, and some national republics), is limited.
According to the Constitution, the local government provides for independent resolution by the population of the issues of local significance. Local self-government authorities may manage municipal property, form and execute the local budget, and establish local taxes and fees. Local taxes include land tax, sales tax and personal property tax.
At the beginning of the 2000s, a redistribution of powers commenced in favour of the government. As a result, the regions have lost their ability to significantly influence the decision-making process in Russia and in their own territory. This structure is the result of the following.
First, owing to unequal income distribution between the regions, most of the taxes go to the federal budget. This subsidisation means that regional economies have been weakened and there is a lack of incentive for their development.
Secondly, direct elections of governors were abolished in 2004. In 2012, gubernatorial elections were reintroduced but with a complex system of filtering candidates. However, the President retained the option to dismiss heads of regions. As a result, heads of constituent entities have become dependent on the government and make their decisions in light of this fact.
Does the legislative process at national or subnational level include a formal consultation process? What opportunities or access points are typically available to influence legislation?
Several basic methods and tools can be used by Russian citizens, the business community and public organisations to influence the decision--making processes of bodies of legislative and executive power, though the degree of real influence remains low.
Public councils, expert councils and working groups
Public councils, expert councils and working groups are advisory bodies established by legislative and executive bodies. They are comprised of representatives of civil society, the business community, scientific and expert communities, etc.
The powers of these bodies can include participation in the preparation of legislative and other statutory legal acts, participation in meetings and discussions of legislative and executive authorities, and ensuring public control over activities of the authorities.
In 2012-14, a reform of public councils under the authorities took place. The reform was aimed at reducing the councils’ dependency on agencies. However, further monitoring of the councils’ activities showed that these bodies performed a non-essential function and did not have any significant influence on the decision-making of state authorities.
Executive authorities establish public councils, expert councils and working groups.
Regulatory impact assessment of draft statutory legal acts and other public consultations
In general, any draft of a statutory legal act (SLA) developed by federal executive authorities must undergo regulatory impact assessment (RIA).
RIA is divided into two stages: departmental RIA; and RIA of the Ministry of Economic Development.
The first stage includes: placement of a notice of SLA development; development of a draft act; preparation of an executive summary and public discussion; and independent anti-corruption expertise.
At the first stage, the body that develops the act independently determines the extent of the regulatory impact of the draft SLA.
The minimum term for public discussion is 10 days and is directly proportional to the level of regulatory impact. Any user registered online at www.regulation.gov.ru may take part in the discussion. Proposals and comments received before the deadline must be mandatorily reviewed by the body that develops the SLA within 20 days, and a summary of the policy proposals specifying the position of the developer must be published on the portal.
The second stage is the preparation of the Ministry of Economic Development’s opinion.
Draft SLAs that affect economic activity must mandatorily undergo RIA. Based on the results of an RIA, an opinion about the excessive pressure on business is prepared. In this case, the opinion is not mandatory (ie, the government can continue the development of the SLA even if a negative opinion is given).
A mandatory RIA procedure exists only for draft SLAs developed by executive authorities. SLAs issued by legislative or judicial bodies, or the President, are not required to undergo RIA.
In addition, RIA does not apply to draft SLAs of executive bodies that:
- contain confidential information or state secrets;
- are created on the basis of orders or instructions from the President or the Chair of the Government, which must be developed within 10 days;
- are considered to be priority projects (ie, of higher significance to the state); and
- are part of the National Technological Initiative.
The government regularly uses these exceptions as justification for adopting SLAs without RIA.
There is also a procedure to assess actual impact with regard to existing and previously adopted acts, to determine whether or not their use achieved the results expected at their development. Following the results of the assessment, the existing act may be revised or abolished. At present, however, this procedure is poorly developed (it includes a very limited number of acts) and has no significant effect on the current regulation.
A public executive body implements RIA for SLAs.
Foreign Investment Advisory Council
The Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC) is an advisory body under the government headed by the Chair of the Government. The FIAC is composed of the representatives of approximately 50 major foreign investors in the Russian economy.
The FIAC’s activities are divided into two segments. The first includes annual meetings with the Chair of the Government where key problems of foreign investors are articulated and priority areas of the FIAC’s focus are determined. Following the results of the meetings, a list of assignments and instructions of the government is prepared.
The second includes the ongoing activity of the FIAC’s working groups. Proposals are prepared with regard to its framework for general improvement of the investment climate in Russia.
Meetings of the FIAC’s executive committee under the chairmanship of the Minister of Economic Development can take place several times a year.
The Federation Council and the State Duma have the right to hold parliamentary hearings on issues within their competence. Members of the public have the right to participate in public hearings. Following the results of a hearing, materials are prepared that may include recommendations for legislative activities. Recommendations can be published and sent to the government.
In practice, parliamentary hearings play a minor role in the legislative process. They are usually held to generate media coverage and to draw stakeholders’ attention to the topic under discussion.
Enquiries to state authorities
The Constitution enshrines the right of citizens to send individual or collective enquiries to state and local self-government authorities.
Citizens have the right of written enquiries and to a personal appointment with a member of a state authority. Written enquiries must be considered within 30 days of the date of their registration.
Such enquiries do not have any serious effect on the legislative process. For instance, there is a ‘Russian public initiative’ website (www.roi.ru) where citizens can advance various initiatives. Upon receipt of 100,000 signatures, the initiative must be considered by an expert working group under the government (within the Open Government system - see above), which decides whether or not to develop the initiative.
If an initiative has gained more than 35,000 votes, it can be submitted to the State Duma. In the autumn of 2017, 14 initiatives received 100,000 votes; of these, one has been implemented and one has been adopted with reservations. Ten initiatives have also been implemented that received less than 100,000 votes. Since introducing this system in March 2013, more than 11,000 initiatives have been submitted.
Is the judiciary deemed independent and coequal? Are judges elected or appointed? If judges are elected, are campaigns financed through public appropriation or candidate fundraising?
The Constitution identifies the judiciary as a separate, independent branch of government. The judicial system can be divided into several levels (authorities), and into several categories of jurisdiction: constitutional courts; courts of general jurisdiction, which are divided into military and civil courts; and arbitration courts. The federal and regional levels are represented by different courts within the judiciary: the regional level is represented by justices of the peace and constitutional (statute) courts (the powers of these courts are very limited); and the federal level is represented by the system of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court.
The Constitutional Court considers issues of interpretation of the Constitution, and the constitutionality of laws and regulations. The Supreme Court is the highest instance for cases within the general jurisdiction.
Since 2014, arbitration has also been included in the Supreme Court system.
Judges of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court are appointed by the Federation Council upon recommendation of the President. Judges of other federal courts are appointed by the President upon recommendation of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, the status of Federation Council members and judges is quite low. Prior to their appointment, the list of candidates undergoes a thorough filtering process in the Presidential Executive Office (Presidential Commission for Screening Candidates for Federal Judges).
In addition, interaction between the judicial and law enforcement systems has been registered in recent years. In particular, prior to retirement, representatives of law enforcement agencies can hold positions in the judicial system.
The Federal Law on the Judicial System establishes the principles of irremovability and inviolability of federal judges - the term of the judges’ power is not limited. However, there are some exceptions to these rules. First, the age limit for tenure of a federal judge is 70 years. Secondly, the powers of judges can be terminated early for disciplinary offences if the respective decision is passed by the Qualification Board of Judges.
The operation of courts is financed exclusively by the federal budget to ensure independent administration of justice. Reduction of financing of the judicial system of more than 5 per cent is possible, subject to consent of the Judicial Council.
Regulation of lobbying
Is lobbying self-regulated by the industry, or is it regulated by the government, legislature or an independent regulator? What are the regulator’s powers?
There is no specific regulation of lobbying in Russia. There were repeated attempts to introduce it after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Thus, at different times, the State Duma considered at least three draft laws on the regulation of lobbying. Initiators of the draft laws were usually State Duma members from oppositional factions who did not have any significant political weight.
As mentioned in question 1, the Constitution formally provides citizens with the right of association to protect their interests, and guarantees freedom of activity of these associations. Thus, public associations - social organisations in particular - are the main bodies that will promote public interests. In practice, the most active lobbyists are industry and business associations (the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Business Russia, the Russian Grain Union and many others).
The regulator of public organisations is the Ministry of Justice. Public organisations are registered through the Ministry of Justice, which also maintains the register of public organisations.
In addition to public organisations voluntarily established by citizens, the law provides for the existence of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) and the Public Chamber.
The CCI initially aimed to represent the interests of its members in state authorities. The Public Chamber is composed of the representatives of civil society, the scientific and expert community, business representatives, etc. It has the right to carry out examinations of draft laws, draft SLAs, etc, and to send its members and representatives to participate in the meetings of committees and commissions of the Federal Assembly.
The CCI and the Public Chamber have a low status and limited influence.
Is there a definition or other guidance as to what constitutes lobbying?
There is no formal definition of lobbying in the federal laws of Russia. However, a definition is enshrined in the Law on Lawmaking and Statutory Legal Acts of Krasnodar Krai.
Legislators of the region define lobbying as ‘activities of designated persons on information interaction with the lawmaking body of the region for the purpose of expressing the interests of the relevant organisations in the regional lawmaking’.
Consolidation of this concept in regional legislation is unusual and is an exception for Russia.
In general, the topic of developing the law on lobbying and regulation of lobbying activities does not attract the attention of the relevant stakeholders (government agencies, large businesses, etc) and consequently has not led to the introduction of regulation in this sphere.
Registration and other disclosure
Is there voluntary or mandatory registration of lobbyists? How else is lobbying disclosed?
There is no registration of lobbyists in the absence of regulation of lobbying activities.
Nevertheless, voluntary registration of public organisations with the Ministry of Justice is possible. Registration is required for an organisation to obtain legal capacity (ie, to receive all rights and benefits provided for by the Federal Law on Public Associations).
Registered organisations must:
- publish an annual report on the use of their property;
- inform responsible authorities about the continuation of their activities;
- inform responsible state authorities about the amount of money and other property received from foreign sources, and what the funds will be used for;
- maintain accounting and statistical reporting; and
- provide information about their activities to the responsible authorities.
Activities subject to disclosure or registration
What communications must be disclosed or registered?
Public organisations are not required to disclose information about interactions with representatives of authorities, the business community, civil society, etc.
In 2014, the Ministry of Economic Development prepared a draft law whereunder state and municipal employees holding positions in the senior management category or generally at a senior level were required to submit information on a monthly basis about their participation in meetings with representatives of public associations, the business community and non-profit organisations.
However, the draft law establishes the meetings for which certain information does not have to be divulged: in the framework of public services provision and state control; in the framework of coordinating, advisory, expert, working and other consultative bodies; press conferences, etc.
The draft law was subject to public discussion in late 2014 and was submitted to the government for review in November 2015 but has not been brought before the State Duma since then.
Entities and persons subject to lobbying rules
Which entities and persons are caught by the disclosure rules?
What information must be registered or otherwise disclosed regarding lobbyists and the entities and persons they act for ? Who has responsibility for registering the information?
There is no applicable law on this issue.
The draft law of the Ministry of Economic Development (see question 9) proposes introducing amendments to the procedure of citizens’ enquiries to state authorities.
Citizens are required, during a personal appointment with a public officer, to produce an identity document and to provide information about whose interests the citizen is representing. This information must be recorded in a specific card designed for this purpose.
Content of reports
When must reports on lobbying activities be submitted , and what must they include?
Financing of the registration regime
How is the registration system funded?
No system of lobbyists’ registration exists in the absence of regulation.
Public associations are registered by the Ministry of Justice. Registration is financed by the federal budget. Legal entities and entrepreneurs are registered by the Federal Tax Service, which is also financed by the federal budget.
No separate system for physical persons’ registration exists.
Public access to lobbying registers and reports
Is access to registry information and to reports available to the public?
There are no official registers of lobbyists. However, the draft law of the Ministry of Economic Development proposes that information about the meetings should be published on the internet on a monthly basis.
The Ministry of Justice maintains the register of public associations that can be accessed online. Public organisations must also regularly publish the reports about their activities online, which are usually of a general nature and do not only relate to the issues of interaction with state authorities.
Code of conduct
Is there a code of conduct that applies to lobbyists and their practice?
There is no code of conduct enshrined in law; however, various public organisations have the right to adopt this type of document. Voluntary compliance with the code of conduct is independently regulated by each public organisation.
In addition, major companies (mostly foreign) have codes of conduct that take into consideration anti-corruption laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the UK Bribery Act in terms of interaction with state authorities and public officers. These codes are usually mandatory for employees and are applicable to the companies’ business partners.
Are there restrictions in broadcast and press regulation that limit commercial interests’ ability to use the media to influence public policy outcomes?
There is no legislation restricting the use of the media by lobbyists to influence stakeholders and public policy outcomes. However, the executive branch sends businesses clear messages that using the media is counterproductive, though businesses still try to publicise and promote their interests through media channels, despite the media having a limited impact on stakeholders.
The media has a limited impact on stakeholders. As a rule, the media becomes involved regarding initiatives that will have an impact on the public.
In addition, the state perceives attempts to use the media and other channels to influence public policy negatively, especially if these attempts look like interference in political processes.
For instance, in 2014 a law was passed limiting the proportion of shares owned by foreign shareholders in the Russian media to 20 per cent and prohibiting foreigners from establishing media companies in the country. In November 2017, a law was passed introducing foreign agent status for media outlets that receive foreign financing (see question 17).
How are political parties and politicians funded in your jurisdiction?
The Federal Law on Political Parties allows for the formation of parties’ budgets for joining and membership fees, donations, income from events and from entrepreneurial activities, and receipts from civil transactions.
State financing of political parties is also provided for: all parties with presidential candidates or candidates on a federal list for election to the State Duma that gain over 3 per cent in the election are eligible to receive financing from the federal budget.
The amount of funds received by the party depends on the number of electors who voted for the candidates on the federal list or the presidential candidate. Before the last election to the State Duma, the share of state support in the budgets of the largest parties ranged from 68 per cent to 99 per cent. Currently, only four parties that are represented in the State Duma receive state funding.
Thus, large parties get an advantage over small parties because of additional financing from the budget, which reduces the possibility of small parties competing in elections. As a result, only the above-mentioned group of four large parties that are loyal to the President receives state support.
Financing of politicians is only possible during election campaigns.
Registration of interests
Must parties and politicians register or otherwise declare their interests? What interests, other than travel, hospitality and gifts, must be declared?
Russian legislation does not regulate conflicts of interest for politicians and political parties.
However, the issue of conflict of interest is applicable to state employees. A conflict of interest is defined in Russian law as a situation in which the personal interest of a public officer affects or could affect the proper, objective and impartial performance of his or her official duties.
Personal interest is defined as income in the form of money, property, non-property rights, property-related services, work deliverables or any benefits received by a public officer or his or her close relatives (or both), citizens or organisations to which a public officer is connected by a familial, property, corporate or similarly close relationship.
Public officers must take measures to prevent any possibility of a conflict of interest. Such measures include warning his or her employer about a potential conflict of interest.
If a state employee holds securities or any other rights for equity participation in any organisation, he or she must transfer these rights to a trustee who will be responsible for their management (trust management) in order to avoid a conflict of interest.
The same requirements apply to municipal officers, employees of the Central Bank, employees in state corporations, the Pension Fund, etc.
The need to report about the conflict of interest is also formally applied to individuals occupying public office, including the President, the Chair of the Government, his or her deputies, federal ministers, State Duma members, Federation Council members, and judges of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court.
These individuals are also subject to the requirement to transfer the rights to shares in various organisations to trust management.
The campaign on deoffshorisation of the economy has been actively promoted recently. Thus, a law was passed in 2013 to prohibit the use of foreign financial instruments by individuals holding public office and other high-level positions related to the state. It is also forbidden to use trust management for such instruments.
In practice, compliance with the requirements for registering a conflict of interest is not adhered to strictly. In particular, the practice of registering shares in businesses for adult children or the practice of fictitious divorces is widespread in order to preserve business management within the family. Many government officials actually own accounts and property abroad.
In addition to the registration of a conflict of interest, a number of other requirements for public officers is established by law. Thus, public officers and individuals holding public office are required to submit information on their income, property and property-related obligations on an annual basis. This information must also be provided with regard to his or her spouse and minor children.
For individuals holding public office, more severe restrictions are put in place. In addition to the declaration of income and expenses, it is established that they are not entitled to engage in entrepreneurial activities or other paid activities, except for, among others, teaching, creative activities and scientific work, and receiving speech fees.
Owing to the fact that Russia has not still ratified article 20 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption - which provides for punishment in the event of a significant increase in the assets of a public official that he or she cannot reasonably explain, in relation to his or her lawful income - unfortunately, public officials are still able to capitalise on conflicts of interest.
Contributions to political parties and officials
Are political contributions or other disbursements to parties and political officials limited or regulated? How?
According to the law, donations are not allowed from, among others: foreign individuals and legal entities; foreign citizens; Russian legal entities with foreign equity over 30 per cent; legal entities registered less than one year before the donation; and non-profit organisations receiving financing from abroad (foreign agents).
The maximum amount for annual donations is limited for different types of donors. The total maximum amount of annual donations is also limited.
Unofficial political organisations operate in Russia, despite the fact that unapproved financing by the private sector of political and electoral campaigns is prohibited.
Sources of funding for political campaigns
Describe how political campaigns for legislative positions and executive offices are financed.
Electoral campaigns of candidates for elective offices are financed through election funds. These funds are generated after the nomination of a candidate or a list of candidates by a party, or after individual nomination of candidates. The law establishes that the maximum amount of election funds must be directly proportional to the level of the elections (ie, regional or federal).
Electoral funds can be generated from:
- candidates’ or electoral associations’ own funds;
- funds allocated to a candidate by the electoral association that nominated him or her; and
- voluntary donations from citizens and legal entities.
In this case, restrictions can be established with regard to the maximum amount of money in the election fund obtained from various sources.
The following are prohibited from making electoral donations:
- foreign states, organisations and citizens;
- state authorities;
- Russian legal entities with foreign equity exceeding 30 per cent;
- Russian legal entities with state participation exceeding 30 per cent;
- anonymous benefactors;
- legal entities registered less than a year before giving the donation; and
- non-profit organisations receiving financing from abroad (foreign agents).
All activities related to the organisation of electoral campaigns must be financed from electoral funds. In practice, candidates form ‘black cash funds’, which are unregistered electoral funds through which the activities of employees, work, goods and services are traditionally paid for, the illegality of which can be hard to prove. In recent years, the formation of black cash funds has resulted in a number of criminal cases, mostly against opposition politicians.
At most levels of the elections, the Central Election Commission must publish information on the internet about major financial transactions of candidates or parties, legal entities that have given large donations and the number of citizens who have given large donations to the electoral fund. In practice, opportunities for obtaining legitimate and substantial donations for political campaigns are limited. Major financial channels are controlled by the ruling elite, which reduces the chances for the opposition to compete in equal conditions.
Lobbyist participation in fundraising and electioneering
Describe whether registration as a lobbyist triggers any special restrictions or disclosure requirements with respect to candidate fundraising.
There is no separate regulation for lobbyists. A unified procedure of disclosing information about the activities of legal entities exists, including information about the financing of political campaigns.
Independent expenditure and coordination
How is parallel political campaigning independent of a candidate or party regulated?
The Federal Law on Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights declares that candidates and electoral associations independently determine the contents, forms and methods of their campaigning, independently hold the campaign and have the right to involve other persons in it.
The same law says that citizens and public associations ‘have the right to hold election campaigning in the forms permitted by law and by lawful methods’.
Thus, the law does not prohibit public organisations and individuals not affiliated with candidates and political parties to hold an independent campaign for or against a candidate or party. Restrictions are applied to the form and methods of campaigning, which are established by the Federal Law on Guarantees of Electoral Rights.
Payment for election campaigning is possible only through a candidate’s electoral fund. This means that campaign materials must be produced free of charge. Representatives of the media are prohibited from engaging in campaigning.
The law does not regulate the coordination of parallel campaigning by representatives of candidates; however, because there is a ban on bribing voters, this activity must be carried out for free. In practice, an independent parallel campaign (ie, carried out by non-affiliated organisations or individuals) can be considered as bribery of voters, especially if evidence is found that this parallel campaign was deliberately orchestrated by the candidate’s representatives.
In general, the state has a negative attitude to public manifestation of support of certain candidates. This mostly concerns the support of opposition candidates and campaigning held outside the candidates’ headquarters.
Ethics and anti-corruption
Gifts, travel and hospitality
Describe any prohibitions, limitations or disclosure requirements on gifts, travel or hospitality that legislative or executive officials may accept from the public.
It is prohibited to receive gifts (except for simple gifts that do not cost more than approximately US$50 and gifts at hospitality events) in connection with the official capacity or the performance of the official duties of individuals who:
- occupy public office;
- occupy the public office of a constituent entity;
- occupy municipal offices;
- are public and municipal officers; or
- are employees of the Bank of Russia.
Members of the State Duma and the Federation Council are not banned from receiving gifts. Nevertheless, there is a ban set for them as well as for public officers on receipt of monetary rewards, loans, services, payment for entertainment, leisure activities, transport expenses and other compensations in connection with the performance of their official duties.
What anti-bribery laws apply in your jurisdiction that restrict payments or otherwise control the activities of lobbyists or holders of government contracts?
There is no separate regulation for lobbyists but there is extensive general anti-corruption legislation. Most of the laws and regulations are aimed at minimising corruption among public employees and individuals holding public office.
The main law in this field is the Federal Law on Counteracting Corruption, which establishes the fundamental principles of corruption control, and the legal and organisational basis for preventing and fighting corruption.
Additionally, Russia has fully or partially ratified the following international conventions in the field of combating corruption:
- the United Nations Convention against Corruption;
- the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption;
- the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; and
- the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials.
Responsibility for corruption is established by various provisions of the Criminal Code.
However, anti-corruption laws are not effectively implemented, as evidenced by the corruption cases that have frequently arisen, and, when they are implemented, they are not enforced in a manner that is equal for all social groups. Forfeiture of property as a measure of restraint of corrupt practices is not frequently used in the field of fighting corruption.
Are there any controls on public officials entering the private sector after service or becoming lobbyists, or on private-sector professionals being seconded to public bodies?
Restrictions are established in this field in accordance with the law to avoid a conflict of interest. If a public officer managed any subordinate organisation within his or her authority, employment in this subordinate organisation is possible only subject to permission granted by a special commission on prevention of conflicts of interest.
Additionally, when entering employment, public officers are required to notify their future employer of the fact that they worked in public service, and the employer must notify representatives of the state of the previous place of employment about the conclusion of an agreement with the employee within 10 days.
All the above requirements apply to public officers for two years after their dismissal from public service.
The practice of employment of former public officers in private companies is widespread. Thus, upon leaving public service, public officers sometimes hold positions on the boards of directors of large companies, government relations units, etc.
Prohibitions on lobbying
Is it possible to be barred from lobbying or engaging lobbying services? How?
There is no specific regulation, but there are general rules regarding registration of legal entities if administrative or other offences are committed. In practice, entrepreneurs establish new legal entities if the original entities have been liquidated.
Recent cases and sanctions
Analyse any recent high-profile judicial or administrative decisions dealing with the intersection of government relations, lobbying registration and political finance?
In 2012, a law was passed that introduced the status of foreign agent for non-profit organisations receiving foreign financing or for those of foreign origin. The status of a foreign agent imposes a ban on financing of electoral campaigns.
At the end of November 2017, a law was passed that stipulates that media outlets receiving foreign funding are considered to be foreign agents. The law obliges these media outlets to submit a quarterly report to the Ministry of Justice on their activities, including receipts for all outgoing expenses. Any articles, etc, released by these outlets must be accompanied by a note stipulating that they were published by foreign agents.
Remedies and sanctions
In cases of non-compliance or failure to register or report, what remedies or sanctions have been imposed?
There is no separate regulation for lobbyists. General sanctions for violation of the laws on corporate reporting are applied. In particular, penalties are established for failure to submit reports or for serious errors in reporting.