In the US one of the sticking points we have in politics is that businesses and wealthy individuals can fund politicans and buy influence in washington either by supporting particular parties, particular individuals or by lobbyists.
Is this a major issue in other first world countries like Canada, France, Israel, New Zealand, etc?
It was an issue in Canada, though not as large a one, possibly due to the differences in parliamentary systems between Canada and the USA.
Hopwever, the rules for federal elections were changed in 2003. Contributions to registered political parties and candidates from individuals were capped: there’s a $5000 limit on yearly contributions to parties, and other limits on contributions to candidates and campaigns. Contributions from unions and corporations have greater restrictions.
Federal political parties now get most of their funding from the federal election commission at a rate of $1.75 per vote received in the last federal election. The party must have received a minimum percentage of votes nationally or in the ridings where it ran candidates.
Note to Americans: keep in mind that in Canada’s system, the political parties are much more defined and disciplined than in the US. Oftentimes, party members must vote according to the direction of the party leadership. The head of government, the Prime Minister, is by convention the leader of the party that wins the election. There is no separate election for the PM.
Details from Elections Canada.
The system of funding political parties in Australia is very similar to that in Canada outlined by Sunspace. Parties are funded according to the number of votes received at the last federal election. The report showing the funding amounts resulting from the 2004 federal election is available (in PDF format) here (from the website of the Australian Electoral Commission).
All of the same strictures noted by **Sunspace ** about the parliamentary system also apply to Australia.