The Macri administration is sponsoring legislation that will re-legalize corporate donations to political campaigns, La Nación reported today. The practice has been illegal since 2009.
The Secretary of Political Affairs in the Interior Minister, Adrián Pérez, said the change is part of a broader initiative to increase public spending transparency. “Banning corporate donations didn’t work,” Pérez said. “It only increased corporate support in the black market, with companies donating under other names. If people can legally donate, with donation caps and under a public registry, this seems like the better option to us.”
The changes fall neatly in line with Macri’s anti-regulation dogma. Pérez’s explanation assumes that banning corporate donations doesn’t stop companies from the practice, so it’s better to let the companies donate, so at least we’ll know what’s going on.
The US transparency organization, The Sunlight Foundation, issued a report during the 2015 presidential election that supports Pérez’s claims. Sunlight Foundation’s data shows two striking trends. First, there is a huge drop in reported donations, both individual and corporate, after the law in 2009. According to the foundation, this means that parties are probably just reporting less of their donations. Second, from 2011 to 2013, the number of reported corporate donations actually increases, meaning that there probably wasn’t any sort of real enforcement against the practice.
To the administration’s credit, the law does include major overhauls in the name of transparency. The bill mandates the creation of a registry for all campaign donations and spending, prohibiting cash donations. In addition to clarifying where money is coming from, the registry will also make it easier to enforce spending caps.
The bill also imposes harsher sanctions on using public funds for political ends, a practice that according to the Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ) has been problematic in Argentina for a long time, even though it was illegal.
Public opinion is fairly split on the changes. ACIJ’s Sebastián Pilo disagrees with the new changes. “If corporations are still making political donations when it is illegal, the regulation should be stricter, not eliminated,” Pilo said. “If we legalize corporate donations, we run the risk that public policies benefit corporations and not the people.”
The Center for the Implementation of Public Policy for Equity and Growth (CIPPEC) said they support allowing corporate donations with clear spending caps. “The problem is when we don’t know who gave the money and what it was spent on,” CIPPEC’s Lara Goyburu told La Nación.
The bill, proposed by the executive branch, still needs legislative approval and will be sent to Congress in March.