Protest against private campaign donations in front of Brazil's Congress buildings

In Brazil, corporations are forbidden from donating to political campaigns. There are no PACs or Super PACs, as exist in the U.S., it is simply illegal for any legal entity to make contributions to candidacies during election season. That said, business owners still manage to have a big hand in financing campaigns in the 2018 elections.

A recent survey has shown that of the 513 representatives elected in 2018, 90 percent of them received donations from business owners, in the guise of individuals. Among the 54 elected senators, this rate jumps to 98 percent.

</p> <p>Corporate campaign funding has been illegal in Brazil since 2015, when Congress legislated to that effect after a Supreme Court ruling banned legal entities from donating to parties and candidates. However, <a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2018/07/31/brazil-political-crowdfunding-election/">individuals are still allowed to finance campaigns</a>, providing they do not exceed the limit of 10 percent of their declared income from the previous year.</p> <p>A recent study from data intelligence platform <a href="https://parlametria.org/relatorios">Parlametria</a>—the result of a partnership between Open Knowledge Brasil, LabAnalytics and Dado Capital—broke down the individual donations received by elected members of Congress in 2018, separating them by sector and political party. One conclusion is clear: despite the ban, corporate money still has a big influence on Brazilian elections.</p> <p>The study shows that for members of the lower house, donations from business owners made up 16 percent (BRL 90.3 million) of the total amount of campaign funds in 2018. When discounting funding coming from political parties, it accounted for 79 percent of all donations. For senators, this proportion was even starker: 27 percent of all funding, and 90 percent of individual donations.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1041150"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <h2>Influential sectors remain influential</h2> <p>The hypothesis that the clout of corporate money has not left Brazilian elections is backed up by the sectors of business owners who donate the most to political campaigns. When corporate financing was permitted, construction firms and finance companies were traditionally the biggest donors. In 2018, business owners from these sectors were among the highest contributors in both legislative houses.&nbsp;</p> <p>&#8220;The data suggests, therefore, that the ban on corporate donations did not necessarily prevent economic sectors that are preeminent parts of Brazil&#8217;s GDP from continuing to maintain ties with the legislature via donations from corporate partners in these sectors,&#8221; says the report.</p> <p>Beyond these two sectors, the retail trade industry was a standout donor to representatives, while the health segment gave a significant amount of funding to senatorial candidates.</p> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1044671"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <div class="flourish-embed" data-src="visualisation/1044636"></div><script src="https://public.flourish.studio/resources/embed.js"></script> <h2>Out with the old, in with the Novo</h2> <p>The 2018 election saw an increased level of renewal, with re-election rates low and a significant amount of rookie members of Congress taking office. We also saw the rise of a number of different political parties, namely President Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s former outfit the Social Liberal Party (PSL), but also the ultra-neoliberal Partido Novo (&#8220;New Party&#8221;), which elected eight representatives in its first national election.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, if the party&#8217;s name suggests a break with old practices, think again. Of the BRL 4.5 million raised by Novo&#8217;s candidates, BRL 3.8 million came from business owners&#8217; donations, with some 15 percent of that coming from companies linked to finance and insurance. The newly rebranded Podemos party made the most use of corporate money in the Senate, with its 3 elected senators having 80.8 percent of their campaigns funded by business owners.

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PowerDec 04, 2019

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BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.

BY Marcelo Soares

Marcelo Soares is a Brazilian journalist specializing in data journalism and reader engagement.