Given their horrified reaction to the stories about hidden funds that the Pujol family of Catalan politicians is alleged to have squirreled away in Switzerland — as revealed in anonymous police reports, which have no legal backing whatsoever — as well as their shock over investigations into the finances of the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE), the leaders of the Popular Party (PP) have no choice but to come out with some clear statements about the controversy that has embroiled the party’s former treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, who has been found by the High Court to have been the holder of a Swiss bank account between 2005 and 2009 that held amounts of up to 22 million euros. The money disappeared from that account when the first suspicions of Bárcenas’ involvement in the Gürtel kickbacks-for-contracts scandal came to light, and the evidence so far suggests that there is more to come. The transfers of these funds, made by Bárcenas, took place when Prime Minister Rajoy and other party chiefs were proclaiming his innocence, before they saw to it that he left the party and stepped down from his role in the Senate.
The judicial investigation — which was brought about by the anti-corruption prosecutor — should be applauded, in spite of the three-and-a-half years it has taken for this information to come to light. The reaction of the PP has left a lot to be desired, however. The party has opted for a strategy whereby they claim there is no political responsibility, given that Bárcenas is no longer a member of the PP. The president of the Madrid branch of the ruling conservatives, Esperanza Aguirre, has fallen back on her traditional populist stance by proposing that an anti-corruption prosecutor be placed in each political party, with the aim of stamping out the financial chaos.
But beyond the need to clarify exactly what the source of Bárcenas’ funds is, there is the problem of the public becoming sick to the back teeth of corruption and tax evasion. There is no transparency regarding the sources of the financing of political parties, nor the loans they receive, the companies they have links with, and not even whether or not Bárcenas made use of the government’s fiscal amnesty to regularize part of these funds with the taxman.
No one is forcing the parties to produce their accounts for the public, despite the fact that it is the taxpayer who must fill the government’s coffers. The PP must not gamble with the credibility it has left by assuming that the reduction of the deficit and tax increases are compatible with an ominous silence regarding a former leader who amassed a small fortune during his years in his role as party treasurer. The PP’s general secretary, María Dolores de Cospedal, claims that this is not a party issue, but an individual one. How does she know that? Has she investigated the case?
The economic and financial crisis that we are living through has seen the patience of the public run out when it comes to the plundering of public funds and tax evasion. The PP must not wait for the results of a judicial investigation, which will presumably move at a snail’s pace. The parties must actively take control of their expenditure and their income and guarantee the transparency and legality of the funds under their management. If they don’t, they will be clearing a path for populism and radicalism.