FILE - In this July 5, 2012 file photo, pre-paid gift cards, which many said they had been given to them by supporters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, allegedly to influence votes prior to Sunday's elections, are displayed during a news conference of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, presidential candidate for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), Mexico City. Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute confirmed on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2012, that President Enrique Pena Nieto's party spent about $5.2 million through electronic cash cards during last year's presidential campaign. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini, File)
Thursday, January 24, 2013 7:20 pm
Mexico: ruling party used $5.2 million cash cards
The Associated Press
While opposition parties had charged the money represented illicit campaign financing, the institute said it found no evidence of that.
Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party has said the money was used for normal party personnel expenses, but the funds aroused suspicion, because the money appeared to have been triangulated through several shadowy companies instead of being disbursed directly from party coffers. Opponents also said they suspected that corporations may have used the cards to make campaign donations, something that is prohibited under Mexican law.
The institute's board voted 5-4 late Wednesday that the funding did not necessarily represent a campaign violation, though critics said the institute, known as the IFE, did not take the trouble to investigate thoroughly where the money came from.
"Not knowing the source or the destination (of the funds) is a serious infraction that the IFE forgave," said Rogelio Carvajal, representative of the conservative National Action Party, told local media Thursday.
However, the institute said it will apply the amount against the candidate's $26.5-million campaign spending limit. The institute, Mexico's top electoral oversight agency, is scheduled to rule on possible campaign overspending by late January.
Campaign overspending can result in fines, but not reversal of the election results.
Pena Nieto won the July elections, but was dogged by accusations from his opponents that his campaign used cash cards and handed out pre-paid gift cards to gain support.