In a landmark decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court of Brazil banned all corporate contributions to political campaigns and parties.
The decision comes on the heels of a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal involving some of Brazil’s top politicians (including former president Fernando Collor de Mello) and the state-owned oil company Petrobras.
Prosecutors allege that Petrobras executives accepted more than $2 billion in bribes over the past decade from major construction and engineering firms in Brazil. In return, Petrobras rewarded the firms with what the AP describes as, “vastly inflated contracts.”
Many people accuse Brazil’s biggest companies of using political contributions to secure inflated contracts as well. In the country’s last election, more than 90 percent of the contributions that went to major candidates came from corporations.
“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, explaining why she chose to support the ban.
Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Rosa Weber voted in favor of banning corporate contributions to politicians and political parties (Courtesy of the Brazilian Supreme Court)
In an 8-3 vote, Brazil’s Supreme Court justices struck down a law passed in 1995 that allowed companies to donate up to 2% of their annual revenues to politicians or political parties. The Court’s ruling probably won’t be the last word on the issue, however.
Just last week, the Brazilian Congress passed a new law permitting corporate contributions but limiting each company to a total of $5 million in donations.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff — who was one of the politicians implicated in the Petrobras corruption scandal — is expected to veto the new law. But if Brazil’s Congress overrides her veto, the Supreme Court will be forced to take up the issue of corporate contributions once again — something that analysts say the Court is eager to do.