Political money and transparency

In the last few years, El Salvador has made progress in transparency regarding political donations.  This progress resulted from rulings of the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court requiring that political parties reveal their donors or face being disqualified for naming candidates in elections.   (This was one of the reasons the country's political parties detested the most recent group of magistrates in the Constitutional Chamber).

The Finance Ministry of El Salvador finally published data in early 2018 with donor lists as filed with the government.  The champion for transparency in the government has been the Secretary of Participation, Transparency and Anti-corruption (SPTA), Marcos Rodríguez.   Under his direction, the SPTA took that data, analyzed it and made it accessible in a report of donors and their money flowing to Salvadoran political parties from 2006-2018. It is probably not a surprise that the conservative ARENA party, backed by El Salvador's wealthy and businesses, received the bulk of political donations. ARENA disclosed $44.5 million in donations between 2006 and 2017 compared to only $13 million for the FMLN:

Reported donations to political parties 2006-2018
When those donations are further broken down, you find that the FMLN donations primarily come from individuals, and ARENA donations primarily come from individuals.  The SPTA also makes available a database of the donations info so you can do your own investigations.

What we lack is much information about money flowing into the campaign of El Salvador's leading candidate for president, Nayib Bukele.  Bukele became the presidential nominee of the GANA party at the last moment after the TSE ruled his party had not been registered in time.  The SPTA has only received information on GANA’s donors through 2017 which is before Bukele made his deal to be GANA's nominee. There does not seem to have been any separate reporting of money received by Nuevas Ideas.   As I mentioned in my most recent post, Bukele is already estimated to have spent more than $7 million on political advertising from October through December, far more than the total of $2.2 million in contributions the GANA party reports having received in its entire lifetime beginning in 2010. 

There also is no information about the donations received by ARENA in 2018, although we know that the largest donor to ARENA in 2017 was the Calleja Group, family business of the party's presidential nominee Carlos Calleja.   We also know that ARENA made a $200,000 donation to the PCN party in 2018, and now PCN has joined a coalition supporting Calleja for president.

These totals also do not include spending which the government in power does to promote its successes and thus to promote the candidates of the party controlling the government.

As I mentioned in a blog post when SPTA published its first report on political donors, the political donation reports still lack much to be desired, since some entities which are listed as donors to ARENA are either fictitious or opaque about where they received their money.   The SPTA has recently been tweeting about this:

The biggest donations that ARENA has received come from the Rodriguez Porth Center of Political Studies and the Liberty and Progress Foundation.  The first has no entries in its accounting records since 2011 and the second does not exist.  -- SPTA (@SPTAsv)

Finally and sadly, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) which has the responsibility of overseeing the political parties makes very little information available about party donations. The only data the TSE publishes on its website is through 2015.