Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Part of the proposed “reform” is a fund of R$3.6 billion (more than US$1.1 billion) for political parties to spend in the 2018 elections. As one commentator has pointed out, this is R$25 for each registered voter. It’s entitled the Fund for the Financing of Democracy, which is a flagrant misnomer — it’s designed to finance impunity, not democracy.
The booty will be dispensed to the political parties based upon their representation in the Chamber of Deputies in the 2014 election; this means that four major parties – PMDB, PT, PSDB and PP – will receive some R$1.5 billion. Those four parties, not coincidentally, are also the leaders in the number of legislators under investigation for corruption.
The main point of the Distritão, as everyone knows, is to ensure that the current miscreants in Congress continue in Congress. If re-elected, they are entitled to be tried by the STF, Brazil’s Supreme Court, in the highly likely event they are accused of crimes. STF’s docket is overloaded, which means there will be years and years of delay, and almost surely no punishment.
But we digress — back to campaign finance. The STF in 2015 decided that corporations cannot make contributions to political parties or to individual politicians. In 2014, companies made legal donations of some R$3.4 billion — the illegal donations have not yet been totaled.
Without corporate contributions, candidates for elective office will have to depend upon their own financial resources and/or donations from individuals, as well as the free time which Brazilian free TV channels are legally obliged to give during the 45-day campaign.
Not enough? Of course not, politicians have always needed more money. But wait! Brazil has long had a campaign finance fund, which in 2018 will amount to almost R$1 billion. That’s right — without changing any electoral laws, one BILLION Reais of taxpayer money will be poured into the festering oubliette of Brazil’s political parties in 2018.
Of course, the “reform” legislation could simply replace the existing fund with the new one, which would lessen the burden on taxpayers. But that would mean the politicians would not get as much cash in their pockets, so it won’t happen. Most members of Congress are not worried about balancing the budget, they’re worried about keeping their immunity from prosecution.
Do the politicians really need another R$3.6 billion of taxpayer money to maintain themselves in power, when the country is tightening its belt and government workers’ salaries are about to be frozen? The Brazilian Congress thinks so, and it holds the purse strings.
That is shameful.