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Brazil to examine Rousseff campaign for funds misuse

Brazil's president will be investigated for allegedly using funds skimmed from kickbacks from the energy giant Petrobras. The Social Democratic Party of Brazil had filed five complaints to get Dilma Rousseff in court.

Brazil's electoral authority found grounds to investigate Dilma Rousseff's 2014 re-election campaign. The opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party claimed that the Workers' Party president funded her campaign with donations from companies involved in the corruption scheme surrounding

the semipublic energy behemoth Petrobras

.

The opposition alleges that Rousseff and running mate Michel Temer engaged in "abuse of economic power, and of fraud, by funding campaign expenses ... with donations from Petrobras contractor companies as part of the bribes distribution."

That proved enough to convince the electoral body, which voted 5-2 to overturn an earlier ruling by Judge Maria Thereza de Assis Moura, who in February had called the evidence insufficient to move forward. Tuesday's ruling represents the first time that the electoral body has opened such proceedings against a sitting president, according to the Superior Electoral Court.

Under 10 percent

With the economy contracting and many critics calling for her impeachment, Rousseff - the first woman elected president of Brazil - has seen her approval rating slide to under 10 percent. Some of Brazil's most senior government officials and private sector executives, as well as a growing list of political figures, have found themselves among the dozens already tainted by the growing Petrobras scandal.

In addition, Rousseff faces allegations of using public financial group resources to fund social programs for the poor - illegal in Brazil. Rousseff chaired Petrobras during the main period of the kickback and political payoff scandal that cost the company more than $2 billion (1.7 billion euros) in 2014.

Though the investigation could lead to the invalidation of Rousseff's victory last year, the judicial case could also last for months - or even years - and she can appeal to the Supreme Court. Many expect her to serve through the end of her term.

Rousseff had narrowly beat her Social Democrat challenger, Aecio Neves, just a year ago. Last week, she announced a

major reshuffling of her government

.

mkg/jr (Reuters, AFP)

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