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Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Senate in Brazil approved on Wednesday night an amendment which would make it illegal for companies to donate funds to political campaigns. The amendment, part of a more ample political reform bill, was barely approved, 36 votes in favor and 31 votes against.

Voter during 2014 Presidential elections, photo by Jose Cruz, Agencia Brasil.
Voter during 2014 Presidential elections, photo by Jose Cruz, Agencia Brasil.

Those Senators who opposed stated that corporate financial support for political campaigns do not necessarily mean corruption. The bill allows individual citizens to donate to political campaigns to the limit of their annual income.

“I have received campaign contributions from corporate entities, and these have been recorded,” PSDB Senate leader, Cassio Cunha Lima was quoted as saying by daily O Globo. “That in no way means that my mandate is limited, pegged (to corporations) or tainted,” added the opposition leader. Others, however, like PMDB Senator Roberto Requião argued that ‘corporate entities are not citizens, do not have citizenship and can not participate’.

The original proposal, voted on by the Chamber of Deputies earlier this year, had suggested a R$20 million limit on corporate donations. Senators, less than one hour before voting for the exclusion of any and all corporate donations, had agreed on a R$10 million limit for companies.

The issue of corporate donations to electoral campaigns has been discussed both in Congress and at Brazil’s Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justice, Gilmar Mendes, stated at the end of 2014 at a Supreme Court hearing on the subject that the prohibition of corporate donations would not resolve the issue, but rather make politicians and political parties focus on individual Brazilians for the funds.

According to Mendes, fraudulent donations would be much more difficult to detect in such scenario, since amounts would be much lower but the number of contributors would surge. Judge Mendes asked prosecutors last month to look into donations made to President Dilma Rousseff’s re-election campaign, citing signs that companies involved in the Lava Jato (Carwash) corruption scandal may have helped finance the President’s campaign.

According to the Federal Electoral Court (TSE) companies which have been accused of being part of the mega-corruption set-up donated close to R$98.8 million to both Dilma Rousseff’s and (opposition candidate) Aecio Neves’ presidential campaigns.

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