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Form of government
What is the basic source of law? Describe the scope of, and limitations on, government power relevant to the regulation of lobbying and government relations.
The basic source of law in Argentina is a written constitution. Article 14 incorporates, among others, freedom of speech, the right to petition to the authorities and freedom of association.
In addition, article 39 recognises the right of citizens to file bills at the deputies’ chamber in Congress. These bills must be discussed within the following 12 months. These initiatives cannot refer to constitutional amendments, international treaties, taxes, national budget or criminal matters. Government regulation cannot demand the consent of over 3 per cent of the electoral roll to allow the filing of the bills.
The Constitution organised the country as a federal republic where the President is head of both state and government, and the provinces (estates) are represented in the legislative power (senate and chamber of deputies or representatives).
Describe the legislative system as it relates to lobbying.
The national government has a presidential system. The legislative body is bicameral, with a deputies’ chamber and a senators’ chamber. Both deputies and senators are appointed by the citizens in elections. The deputies are proportional to the inhabitants of each province, while there are three senators per province (two for the majority and one for the first minority). Deputies are elected for a four-year term and senators are elected for a six-year term, and both can be re-elected. Half of the deputies’ chamber and one-third of the senators’ chamber is renewed every two years. The Vice President presides over the Senate.
The executive branch is entitled to issue regulatory decrees in relation to the laws approved by congress, and also law decrees in case of need and urgency, but these cannot be related to criminal, tax, electoral or political parties.
Describe the extent to which legislative or rule-making authority relevant to lobbying practice also exists at regional, provincial or municipal level.
Provinces are given every power not delegated to the federal government in the Constitution. Each province is entitled to approve its own constitution and laws in their legislative bodies. The national government is in charge of foreign affairs of the country. The matters delegated to the federal government comprise, among others:
- substantive codes;
- customs; and
- federal taxes.
In Argentina, natural resources belong to the provinces.
Does the legislative process at national or subnational level include a formal consultation process? What opportunities or access points are typically available to influence legislation?
There is no green paper or white paper scheme. Pursuant to article 40 of the Constitution, Congress may, following an initiative of the deputies’ chamber, submit a bill for public consultation. If the bill is approved by the people it is automatically promulgated. Also, Congress and the President can call for non-binding public consultations, in which case it is not mandatory to vote.
However, those mechanisms are not usual and the opportunities typically available for the population to influence legislation are public hearings, particularly on environmental matters or public services. Interaction with government and parliamentary staff is also common, but this is not regulated, as explained in the section ‘Regulation of Lobbying’ below.
Is the judiciary deemed independent and coequal? Are judges elected or appointed? If judges are elected, are campaigns financed through public appropriation or candidate fundraising?
Yes, the judiciary is the third independent branch (the others are the executive and legislative). In all cases judges are appointed. In the Supreme Court, the members are appointed by the President with the approval of two-thirds of the Senate. The remaining federal judges are appointed on the basis of a proposal submitted by the Judicial Council and approved by the Senate. The appointment of provincial judges depends on the rules established by each province.
Regulation of lobbying
Is lobbying self-regulated by the industry, or is it regulated by the government, legislature or an independent regulator? What are the regulator’s powers?
The only aspect of lobbying that is regulated by the government is the publicising of meetings that are held between lobbyists’ representatives and different public officials. Decree No. 1172/2003 establishes a set of guidelines for that purpose. The Executive Branch Registry of Meetings of Representation of Interests (the Registry) is maintained by the Sub-Secretary of Institutional Reform and Democracy Strengthening, part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Public Works and Housing. The role of the authorities is limited to the control of the reporting obligations of public officials. Non-reporting of a meeting in accordance with the guidelines constitutes serious misconduct.
Is there a definition or other guidance as to what constitutes lobbying?
The guidelines established by Decree No. 1172/2003 define ‘representation of interests’ as any activity that is carried out - in a formal meeting that is requested by a public official - by individuals or legal entities, public or private, on their behalf or on behalf of third parties, with or without profit, whose purpose is to influence others in the course of any of the functions or decisions of the organisations, bodies, companies, agencies and any other entity that is under the jurisdiction of the executive branch.
Registration and other disclosure
Is there voluntary or mandatory registration of lobbyists? How else is lobbying disclosed?
There is no voluntary or mandatory registration of lobbyists. The only registration that is mandatory is the registration of the meetings that are held by certain public officials with individuals or entities looking forward to the purposes defined in question 7, in accordance with the guidelines established by Decree No. 1172/2003. This registration obligation is imposed over the public officials that are involved and not over the lobbyists. Any individual or legal entity, public or private, may demand compliance from the public official with its reporting obligations.
Activities subject to disclosure or registration
What communications must be disclosed or registered?
The meetings that are held by certain public officials with individuals or entities for the purposes defined in question 7 must be disclosed by the public officials that are involved.
The public officials that have this reporting obligation are: the President; the Vice President; the Cabinet Chief; ministers; secretaries and undersecretaries; appointed federal controllers; senior management in organisations, bodies, companies, agencies and other entities under the jurisdiction of the executive branch; and public agents that are equivalent to general directors. In addition, if a request for a meeting is received by a low-ranking public official who still has advisory or lawmaking powers, or sufficient power to influence, that person must report this to his or her superior in the following five days to be included within the Registry.
Entities and persons subject to lobbying rules
Which entities and persons are caught by the disclosure rules?
There are no lobbying rules. The only regulation on lobbying incorporated in Argentina mandates disclosure obligations of public officials.
What information must be registered or otherwise disclosed regarding lobbyists and the entities and persons they act for ? Who has responsibility for registering the information?
The public official must disclose the following items in the Registry with respect to each request for a meeting:
- details of the lobbyist;
- interests that are invoked by the lobbyist;
- participants of the meeting;
- place, date and time of the meeting;
- summary of the issues discussed in the meeting; and
- evidence of the meeting (minutes or similar).
Content of reports
When must reports on lobbying activities be submitted , and what must they include?
There are no reporting obligations other than those explained in question 11.
Financing of the registration regime
How is the registration system funded?
Each of the public officials and entities that are obliged to report (as specified in question 7) must maintain their own registry with their respective public funds.
Public access to lobbying registers and reports
Is access to registry information and to reports available to the public?
The law mandates that the information included in each registry must be publicly available, updated and published on the respective website of the public official or the entities obliged to report.
Code of conduct
Is there a code of conduct that applies to lobbyists and their practice?
There is no specific code of conduct for lobbyists and their practice. It is voluntary for the individuals and entities involved in lobbying to incorporate a code of conduct in this regard.
Are there restrictions in broadcast and press regulation that limit commercial interests’ ability to use the media to influence public policy outcomes?
How are political parties and politicians funded in your jurisdiction?
The financing of political parties is divided between public and private financing, as provided by Law No. 26,215.
There is a Permanent Party Fund administered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, formed by:
- the contribution established annually in the National Budget Law;
- the money collected from the fines imposed on infringements of the Political Parties Financing Law and the Electoral Code;
- the funds produced as a result of the liquidation of former political parties;
- donations and other contributions to the state that have the purpose of financing political parties;
- the refunds from political parties, confederations or other alliances; and
- private contributions to the fund.
Twenty per cent of the fund is distributed equally between all the political parties; the remaining 80 per cent is distributed in accordance with the votes obtained in the last national deputies’ election, only if the political parties obtained over 1 per cent of the electoral roll. Regarding alliances, the funds are distributed in accordance with the agreement entered into by the political parties forming the alliance.
Political parties must allocate at least 20 per cent of these funds to finance training activities for public charges, education of future leaders and research. At least 30 per cent of this amount must be for activities involving people under the age of 30.
Political parties may receive:
- periodical contributions from their affiliates in accordance with the articles of incorporation of the political party;
- donations from other individuals or entities; and
- equity performance and other activities.
Registration of interests
Must parties and politicians register or otherwise declare their interests? What interests, other than travel, hospitality and gifts, must be declared?
There is no specific obligation for parties and politicians to declare their interests, but political parties must file annual financial statements and keep the following mandatory books: inventory; cash and cash equivalents; minutes; and journal ledger.
Contributions to political parties and officials
Are political contributions or other disbursements to parties and political officials limited or regulated? How?
Political parties cannot accept or receive, directly or indirectly:
- anonymous contributions or donations;
- contributions or donations from centralised or decentralised federal, provincial, municipal, binational or multilateral entities;
- contributions or donations from concessionaires of public services or public works;
- contributions or donations from individuals or legal entities involved in the gambling industry;
- contributions or donations from foreign governments or entities;
- contributions or donations from foreign individuals or legal entities without residence or address in the country;
- contributions or donations from individuals obliged by their superiors or employers; or
- contributions or donations from unions, or professionals’ or employers’ associations.
The same restrictions apply to private contributions to the Permanent Party Fund.
In addition, political parties cannot receive donations from legal entities of over 1 per cent of the permitted campaign expenditure per year, or over 2 per cent of the permitted campaign expenditure in the case of individuals.
In the first semester of each year, the National Electoral Chamber informs the political parties the limit of private contributions they may receive, and such information is published on their official website.
Sources of funding for political campaigns
Describe how political campaigns for legislative positions and executive offices are financed.
The financing of political campaigns comprises both public funds and private fundraising.
In election years, the National Budget Law must establish different quotas depending on the positions that have to be elected (first and second round candidates in presidential elections, members of the Mercosur Parliament, senators and deputies). Analogous quotas must be established for the primary elections, equivalent to 50 per cent of the quotas for the general elections.
These funds must be distributed, assigning 50 per cent of the total amount in equal parts to each of the filed lists to compete; the remaining 50 per cent is distributed between the 24 districts, in accordance with the number of voters in each district, and in proportion to the votes obtained by the party in the last general election for the same position. In case of an alliance, the votes of each political party must be added. In case of a second round, the participants receive 30 per cent of the biggest campaign contribution made in the first round. If the party has not participated in prior elections, it will be equated to the party that has participated in the prior election and that obtains the lower contribution amount.
Political parties also receive a contribution for the printing of ballots for the equivalent of 1.5 ballots per voter registered in each district and each category.
Campaign advertising through the media (television and radio) is distributed exclusively by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. However, political parties are in charge of the funds for the production of the advertising.
Only individuals, not legal entities, are entitled to contribute to financing a campaign. These contributions can be conducted by any means that allows the identification of the contributor. Private contributions cannot exceed the difference between the maximum campaign expenditure established by the law and the extraordinary campaign contribution for the political party or the alliance. A final report must be filed with the authorities in this regard.
Lobbyist participation in fundraising and electioneering
Describe whether registration as a lobbyist triggers any special restrictions or disclosure requirements with respect to candidate fundraising.
Legal entities of any type cannot finance political campaigns. There are no specific restrictions or disclosure requirements for individuals other than making the contribution by means that allow the identification of the contributor and comply with the restrictions outlined in question 19.
Independent expenditure and coordination
How is parallel political campaigning independent of a candidate or party regulated?
It is forbidden for third parties to cover the expenditure of campaign advertising. However, the treatment of parallel advertising or grass-roots campaigns has not been expressly settled. If there is evidence that the candidate or political party coordinated such campaign but omitted it from the report of expenditure to the authorities, the candidate or party may be penalised. The same applies in respect of social media, where it is more difficult to trace the source of the advertising and there is no specific regulation in this regard.
Ethics and anti-corruption
Gifts, travel and hospitality
Describe any prohibitions, limitations or disclosure requirements on gifts, travel or hospitality that legislative or executive officials may accept from the public.
As a general rule, public officials are not allowed to receive any kind of gift or donation. The exceptions are courtesy gifts in situations when gifts are normal or gifts that have a diplomatic purpose.
With respect to travel and hospitality, public officials are only allowed to accept these invitations if they are for participation in conferences or seminars, courses or other cultural or academic activities.
In all cases, the giver cannot be an individual or entity that:
- develops activities that are regulated by agency of the public official;
- manages concessions or franchises;
- is a public contractor or supplier of such agency; or
- represents interests that would be affected by a decision of the public official involved.
What anti-bribery laws apply in your jurisdiction that restrict payments or otherwise control the activities of lobbyists or holders of government contracts?
The Argentine Criminal Code regulates crimes against the public administration such as bribery, influence peddling, negotiations incompatible with public service, extortion, unlawful enrichment of public officials, preparation of false financial statements and reports with the purpose of hiding bribery and influence peddling. There have also been cases in which politicians and public contractors were accused of illegal association, which is another crime contemplated under the Criminal Code.
The Criminal Code was recently amended by the Corporate Criminal Liability Law, which incorporates the possibility of penalising Argentine or foreign companies for crimes against the public administration. Companies shall bear criminal liability in case of crimes committed directly or indirectly by those companies, with their participation or in their name or interest, or for their benefit. Therefore, according to the new law, not only will the individuals participating in the crimes be held liable, but the companies involved will be penalised too.
Are there any controls on public officials entering the private sector after service or becoming lobbyists, or on private-sector professionals being seconded to public bodies?
Former public officials cannot be appointed as directors or managers in companies whose activities are related to their prior role in administration for at least two years after they have left the public sector.
Individuals involved in the planning, development and completion of privatisations or concessions to companies or public services will be prohibited from taking a role in public regulating entities, or commissions of such companies or concessions, for three years after the completion of the last project they were involved in.
Prohibitions on lobbying
Is it possible to be barred from lobbying or engaging lobbying services? How?
No, because lobbying is not regulated.
Recent cases and sanctions
Analyse any recent high-profile judicial or administrative decisions dealing with the intersection of government relations, lobbying registration and political finance?
Generally, the expenditure registered by the political parties in their campaigns exceeds the reported contributions. In addition, most of the contributions are made in cash, making them untraceable. Complaints are usually filed in relation to those individuals that contributed to the campaign who are managers of important companies, in particular, many public contractors (as stated in question 19, it is forbidden for legal entities to contribute to political campaigns, and public contractors cannot contribute to political parties).
Several political parties were penalised after the presidential elections in 2015 because of the extemporaneous or inaccurate filing of the respective campaign financing reports before the Electoral Chamber. The penalties included fines that were deducted from the public funds assigned for the mid-term elections in 2017, and in cases where the political parties had not filed any financial statements at all, public financing of their campaigns was suspended.
Remedies and sanctions
In cases of non-compliance or failure to register or report, what remedies or sanctions have been imposed?
When there are inconsistencies in the accountability of the income and expenditure of a campaign, the sanctions tend to be fines imposed by the National Electoral Chamber.
Update and trends
Update and trends
Are there any emerging trends or hot topics in government relations, lobbying or related law and regulation? Have changes occurred recently or are changes expected in the near future (through either legislation or court decisions) that will have an impact on the practice of government relations or lobbying disclosure?
There have been several bills to regulate lobbying filed by different political parties in Congress. In particular, there is one initiative that was prepared by the current administration, which incorporates a public registry of lobbyists, and the power to control and sanction them, and also provides certain rules on ethics. However, these bills are currently being discussed in the internal commissions of the Senate, and it is not certain if and when the bills will be addressed in the chamber. In addition, the current administration is trying to approve a bill related to the financing of political campaigns in order to allow legal entities to contribute up to 5 per cent of the campaign expenditures and to mandate that all contributions should made through the banking system. The idea was that this new bill would be approved before the end of 2018, but everything indicates that it will remain pending for 2019.