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Fake Contributors: New Accusations Target Cambiemos in Buenos Aires City

El Destape delves further into the coalition's campaign financial framework.

By | [email protected] | July 30, 2018 1:27pm

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The accusations against the Cambiemos coalition regarding the use of fake contributors to finance the 2017 midterms campaign in the Province has crossed the General Paz highway, reaching its Buenos Aires City officials.

In an online TV show yesterday, Journalists from news site El Destape – which broke the story about the fake contributions in the Buenos Aires Province – alleged that the Horacio Rodríguez Larreta administration also faked contributions to the campaign, but with a different method than its provincial counterpart.

According to the site, rather than using the information of recipients of social welfare plans and campaign candidates, the City administration funneled public funds and/or dirty money through oblivious public employees to fund last year’s midterms campaign, which Elisa “Lilita” Carrió ended up winning with more than 50 percent of the vote.

According to these documents, in March 2017, the City government granted extraordinary bonuses, which oscillated between AR $10,000 and AR $120,000, to 22 employees working in different areas of the administration. Three months later, and on the same day, 11 of them donated AR $25,000 in cash, and one AR $20,000. Overall, the figure amounts to AR $295,000.

The investigation prompted NGO La Alameda to expand its formal accusation against Cambiemos, which is already being investigated by Federal Judge Sebastián Casanello. La Alameda founder Tamara Rosenberg told press they intend for the judge to investigate potential irregularities in the 2017 campaigns in the City and Province of Buenos Aires, as well as the 2015 Presidential campaign.

“More than AR $4 million of taxpayer money in the City of Buenos Aires went to the Vamos Juntos [as Cambiemos was called in the City, since the coalition did not include the Unión Civica Radical in the district] campaign through public employees and officials. If we are to add the contributions to the Provincial campaign and the 2015 presidential one, the amount doubles, surpassing AR $8 million,” members of the NGO told press.

Rosenberg went on to describe what was the common M.O. used by the party, according to public who claimed to be aware of it: “One of the hypotheses is that officials used their personal credit cards for expenses related to the party, and then were given cash back to cover up for the ‘donation.'” They suspect that the money could have come from “public funds or companies that have been granted state contracts.”

Moreover, the writ requests that given the fact that most of the people who, through the NGO, are accusing the government of identity theft are public employees, their identities be kept secret.

When consulted by Clarín, Carrió’s spokespeople claimed to be unaware of the accusation. However, Cambiemos candidate for the 2015 Ituzaingó district mayoral elections Gustavo Marasco assured in a radio interview last week that Carrió, considered by many to be the party’s “moral compass,” knew about the scheme implemented but refrained from acting. “I personally told Paula Oliveto [National Deputy and a close aide of Carrió] but she told me they couldn’t do anything about it,” said Marasco.

There were developments in the Buenos Aires Province front during the weekend as well. According to La Nación, the internal audit ordered by Governor Vidal on July 18th – which was coupled with the dismissal of the administration’s Accountant General María Fernanda Inza, Cambiemos’ treasurer during the campaign – has already revealed irregularities in the campaign’s funding. “Besides the hundreds of ‘fake contributors,’ there are now other ones who claim to have donated AR $5 million but don’t show up on the official list presented to the electoral court,” indicates the article.

Photo via Portal de Salta

“Far from exculpatory, this preliminary date shows the lack of financial control that reigned during the Cambiemos midterms campaign last year, which led to a journalistic investigation, multiple criminal accusation and the removal of Fernanda Inza,” it adds.

Facing the evidence, other officials have also come out to do damage control and try to prevent the shock waves from reaching the party’s top figures. President of the PRO party, Humberto Schiavoni, said in a radio interview this weekend he was certain that neither Vidal nor the actual candidates in the elections new anything  about the “fake contributors” scheme.

“Neither in the legal aspect, nor the political one, is the Governor responsible, it’s a problem of the system. In many cases, we are talking about contributions that have been genuinely made by people. But they are not monetary contributions, so when trying to justify where they came from, people resort to these shortcuts. If all contributions went through the banking system, this would not happen,” he said.

Somewhat conceding there were irregularities, Schiavoni said “we may have placed the bar too high when it comes to transparency.” “There is no bad faith, nor intention to willingly break the law, it is a dynamic that happens in campaigns because of how little time there is. We have to change the system because no one wants these things to happen,” he added.

The Cambiemos coalition is set to re-introduce a bill aimed at having all campaign contributions go through the banking system in the future. But it is the past, not the future, what currently sees it embroiled in a controversy that continues to grow by the day.