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Between criminal bribery and legitimate political donation: the Brazilian judiciary and the regulation of political finance

Grant number: 20/12205-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctoral
Effective date (Start): November 01, 2021
Effective date (End): December 23, 2024
Field of knowledge:Applied Social Sciences - Law - Public Law
Principal Investigator:Luís Virgílio Afonso da Silva
Grantee:Arthur Guerra de Andrade Filho
Host Institution: Faculdade de Direito (FD). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):22/06246-0 - Operation car wash and the regulation of campaign finance corruption in Brazil: lessons from the U.S. experience, BE.EP.PD


The rise of the Operation Car Wash showed that the boundary between criminal bribery and legitimate political donation is an issue that has the potential to impact political rights, regardless of the perspective taken. Even more disturbing, it may cause legitimacy crises of key institutions of the Brazilian constitutional democracy and put the resilience of the 1988 Constitution at risk. Objectives: To find out what has been the understanding of the Brazilian Judiciary about political finance corruption. The research questions that will guide this investigation are divided into three sections: (a) Where lies the boundary that separates legitimate political donation from criminal bribery?; (b) How do judges define the concept of 'quid pro quo corruption' in relation to 'dependence corruption' and 'war chest corruption'?; (c) How do judges weigh the effects of such forms of political finance corruption on the legitimacy of institutions of the Brazilian constitutional democracy and the resilience of the 1988 Constitution? Methodology: We will descriptively analyse decisions of the Brazilian Judiciary regarding the Operation Car Wash in cases initiated in the Federal Court of Curitiba and cases of the Supreme Federal Court (STF); as well as STF decisions in direct actions of unconstitutionality on political finance corruption. Results: We hope to contribute with the debate about the Operation Car Wash by producing original research examining the operation's judicial decisions under a perspective - of constitutional-electoral law - not yet covered by the academic literature. The results will be disseminated through a set of articles published in relevant academic journals. (AU)

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