2022 Race

Electoral courts reduce transparency over candidates’ financial statements

transparency candidates financial assets
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Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court decided to stop disclosing information about assets owned by candidates in this year’s elections, ending a years-long tradition aimed at increasing transparency in electoral processes. 

Candidates’ self-provided list of assets was a way for journalists and citizens to monitor how much politicians increased their net worth while serving in office — raising suspicions of illicit enrichment in many cases.

The electoral court said it removed the list of candidates’ assets from its accountability system to comply with the General Data Protection Law (LGPD), which came into force in 2020 and regulates how companies and governments must deal with personal information they hold.

A group of 27 organizations, however, called the move a “serious setback on accountability instruments” in an open letter published on Thursday. The organizations argue that the court had addressed the issue in a public hearing it held in June. 

At the time, it was determined that disclosing candidates’ assets would not violate the data protection rules as they do not contain detailed data, such as property addresses or other information related to the candidates’ privacy.

One example is the statement provided by Pablo Marçal — a presidential candidate polling at 1 percent. He lists owning BRL 13 million (USD 2.4 million) in “other equity interests” without explaining what these are, to what company they are linked, or even the location of these assets.

Electoral prosecutors argued that publicizing the data would allow society to better scrutinize candidates, thus increasing accountability.

This is not the first time data protection regulations have been used as a way to reduce transparency. 

A survey by Fiquem Sabendo, a non-profit organization advocating for freedom of information in Brazil, shows the Jair Bolsonaro administration has used the LGPD as an excuse to withhold public data on at least 79 occasions up until July 10, 2021. 

The government also used data protection as justification for concealing the so-called “dirty list” of companies using slave labor. The list is Brazil’s most effective mechanism for preventing the use of slave labor by companies, but the government has said it cannot reveal sensitive data on private organizations.