How much money did members of Solís’ Cabinet donate to the PAC election campaign?

April 29, 2014
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On Monday, President-elect Luis Guillermo Solís named 20 of his incoming head ministers, 11 of whom had contributed to his party’s election campaign. But none of them donated very much money.

According to campaign contributions from the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE), the 11 ministers gave a nominal amount of $8,795 to the Citizen Action Party (PAC) between January 2011 and January 2014. Their total represented only a fraction of the approximately $224,000 raised during this period. Data are not yet available for fundraising figures after January.

All those contributions combined were dwarfed by the president-elect himself. Solís contributed more than $10,000 to his party’s campaign.

The top contributor was the incoming head of the Central Bank, Olivier Castro Pérez, who gave $2,350. Castro has a long history of working with the Costa Rican banking sector, according to a PAC biography, with prior stints at the Central Bank and Banco Nacional. His amount was the 20th highest by any contributor to PAC during this election cycle.

Following Castro was the incoming Planning Minister Olga Sánchez, with $1,900. PAC’s biography said Sánchez had previously worked in consulting for the Planning Ministry as well as an administrator at Costa Rica’s National University.

The last contributor to give more than $1,000 was incoming Culture Minister Elizabeth Fonseca, with $1,540. Fonseca was previously a Legislative Assembly lawmaker with PAC and a researcher at the University of Costa Rica, according to PAC.

Those who gave less than $1,000 were:

  • Incoming Finance Minister Helio Fallas at $800
  • Incoming Labor Minister Víctor Morales at $780
  • Incoming head of the Mixed Institute for Social Aid Carlos Alvarado at $356
  • Incoming head of the Costa Rican Electricity Institute Carlos Obregón at $300
  • Incoming head of the National Insurance Institute Sergio Iván at $300
  • Incoming Education Minister Sonia Mora at $175
  • Incoming Economy Minister Welmer Ramos at $170
  • Incoming Environment and Energy Minister Edgar Gutiérrez at $120.

In Costa Rican elections, campaign contributions go directly to the party, meaning the party can decide to allocate funds to the president’s campaign or to a legislator’s campaign. Private contributions are only a small portion of the overall campaign spending, as the country’s constitution calls for public funding of campaigns.

To illustrate, in the 2010 campaign, PAC received $14.8 million from the state, but only raised $964,000 privately – meaning 6 percent came from private donations. Full public contribution data from the TSE is not yet available for the 2014 elections.

Melvin Jiménez, PAC’s campaign manager and Solís’ incoming chief of staff, said campaign contributions always can help a donor curry favor with a party. However, while private donations are only a small percentage of all campaign dollars, they are an important source of maintaining the party prior to the election, Jiménez said.

As public money only is distributed after the election date – and is based on vote share – parties rely on private donations to run their operations in the non-election season months.

“It’s possible to have 100 people who can help sustain the party during a year,” Jiménez said in an interview.

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