Brazil tackles political bribes with a campaign fund sourced by taxpayers

As the nation searches for solutions to avoid future 'Car Wash' scandals, some critics worry this new fund could help politicians seeking re-election avoid persecution for corruption.

Eraldo Peres/AP
Protesters unfurl a large Brazilian flag outside Congress in Brasília in August 2017. As Brazil continues to crackdown on corruption, the government is coming up with new ways to fund campaigns so candidates don't rely on corrupt sources.

Brazil's scandal-plagued political class voted on Wednesday to set up a 1.7 billion reais (US$542 million) fund with taxpayer money to finance election campaigns, making up for a dearth of private funding ahead of next year's general election.

A ban on corporate donations coupled with the drying up of under-the-table contributions and kickbacks in the wake of the country's biggest corruption scandal have left lawmakers struggling to raise campaign funding.

The lower house of Congress approved a bill that had passed the Senate and will take funds from pork barrel appropriations and government payments to buy TV and radio time for parties.

The fund was meant to be part of improvements to Brazil's discredited political system to reduce a proliferation of parties that has made it hard to govern Latin America's largest nation without unwieldy coalitions based on self-interest.

The Senate unanimously approved on Tuesday a constitutional amendment that limits coalitions to parties with similar platforms, but it will not go into effect until the 2022 elections.

More than 100 lawmakers are targeted by the Car Wash corruption investigation that uncovered a network of bribes from private companies seeking to win contracts or influence policies, and even implicated President Michel Temer and several of his cabinet ministers.

Critics of the campaign fund said it was aimed at providing funding for lawmakers seeking re-election to shield themselves from prosecution for corruption.

"It is shameful that this fund will be used by unethical politicians who should not be sitting here in Congress," said Julio Delgado, leader of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB). "Not a single lawmaker under investigation has opposed it."

Backers of the use of public money for campaigns argued that organized crime would step in to finance politicians if funding was lacking.

The sprawling Car Wash graft investigation that convicted dozens of executives from Brazil's main contractor companies has shut down the flow of undeclared payments to politicians.

"What most worries them is where they will get money for their campaigns now that companies cannot donate and are not willing to engage in illegal contributions," said Lucas de Aragão, partner at political risk consultancy Arko Advice.

On the positive side, he said, Congress set a threshold for parties to be able to access public funding and free TV time based on the votes they win, which will help reduce the number of parties, today totaling 35.

This story was reported by Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Brazil tackles political bribes with a campaign fund sourced by taxpayers
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today