After a long investigation into charges of corruption, the Brazilian Supreme Court has banned corporate donations from elections.
Corruption in politics is problematic around the globe, and many countries already ban corporate donations. Now Brazil has taken a strong anti-corruption stand. Dare we hope that the United States will be next?
The Young Turks Discuss Money in Politics
The Young Turks cover Brazil’s Supreme Court anti-corruption decision and compare it with the problem of money in American politics.
In the America, the Supreme Court protected campaign contributions as free speech, overturning campaign finance reform laws. In Brazil, the country’s top court has just done the opposite. In an 8 to 3 decision, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF by its Portuguese initials) overturned a law that allowed Brazilian companies to donate up to 2 percent of their revenue. The ruling is set to take effect ahead of the local elections slated for 2016, EFE reports, paving the way for an election in which cash can’t be used as speech or to curry corporate favors.
“The influence of economic power culminates by turning the electoral process into a political game of marked cards, an odious pantomime that turns the voter into a puppet, crumbling in one blow citizenship and democracy,” said Justice Rosa Weber in explaing her vote….
The decision comes as Brazil confronts the largest corruption scandal in its history, the Lava Jato (carwash) scheme in which top politicians and the country’s state-run oil producer Petrobras are implicated.
The heart of that corporate cash contributions are not private donors or ideological lobbying groups, but construction and engineering firms bent on getting contracts.
— Cedar Attanasio, Latin Times
The case was brought to the supreme court around one and a half years ago by the Order of Brazilian Attorneys (OAB). On Thursday the organization’s secretary general, Cláudio Pereira de Souza Neto, celebrated the decision. “It is what Brazilian society has been hoping for, even more so in these times of crisis,” he said, adding that the court order should make future elections cheaper.
According to a study of 180 countries by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (Idea), 39 ban corporate donations, including Mexico, France and Costa Rica; 126 allow them with certain limitations, including the UK, Germany and Argentina.
— Bruce Douglas, The Guardian
An Argument Against Banning Certain Sources of Campaign Contributions
One sound argument against banning certain sources of campaign contributions is that it may favor incumbent office holders:
Arguments for restricting the amount of, or banning certain sources for, campaign contributions are usually couched in terms of the public interest in clean politics, but the effects of such restrictions or bans almost invariably are to protect incumbent office holders from serious challenges from aspirants who lack their name recognition or official status.
— Political Finance, Wikipedia
This is probably why we see fancy formulas combining corporate/union contributions with public funding when there is talk of campaign finance reform.