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Knesset big spenders: Ariel and Gilon
By LAHAV HARKOV
02/22/2013
MKs’ expenditures range from websites to refreshments to amplifiers.
 
MK Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) spent more than any other MK in 2012, topping the list by using NIS 90,807 of his “connection with the public” budget, according to a list made public by the Knesset on Thursday.

MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) came in second place, spending NIS 85,489, about half of which went to a secretary for his extraparliamentary office, while outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Minister-without- Portfolio Bennie Begin spent nothing.

The budget to “connect with the public” varies, but ministers receive less than MKs, and those who do not spend their whole budget may roll over funds to the next year.

Ariel’s expenses cover many of the possible ways an MK could spend his “connection with the public” budget, including “office needs” (NIS 7,713), “printing and publishing” (NIS 5,827), “mail and telegraphs” (NIS 5,448), “light refreshments” (NIS 2,927), websites, social media, cellphones for himself and his assistants, computers and one of the biggest expenses for most MKs: an extra-parliamentary office, NIS 22,200 in Ariel’s case.

Ariel’s spokesman defended the MK, saying all of his expenses were approved by the Knesset and were used to strengthen his connection with the public. In addition, he pointed out that Ariel chose a Mazda 2, the smallest car offered to MKs, explaining that it saves gas money, which also comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket.

Some MKs managed to use their funds despite being in the Knesset for only a short time.

Former Kadima MK Yuval Zellner, for example, was sworn in in May, but managed to spend NIS 28,320. Aleli Admasu became a Likud MK the day before the 18th Knesset was dissolved, but rented an extra-parliamentary office and spent NIS 6,986 of his budget. Former Labor MK Yoram Marciano, who was sworn in after the Knesset was dissolved, did not spend any money.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent only NIS 1,003 of his budget on Internet services, out of NIS 36,582, which he could have possibly spent on his favorite vanilla and pistachio ice creams under the “light refreshments” item and avoided last week’s “icecream- gate” controversy.

Many MKs find creative ways to connect with voters and spend their budget.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, for example, spent his entire NIS 24,524 budget on a conference. MK Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) spent NIS 10,000 on a conference, plus another NIS 1,146 to fly to the event.

Several MKs ordered polls, such as Nachman Shai (Labor), who spent NIS 12,000, Meir Sheetrit (Livni Party), who spent NIS 15,000, and Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, whose poll cost NIS 24,708.

Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich, who has a strong online presence, especially on Facebook, spent NIS 20,793 on “website/social networks.”

Others put heavy funding into “light refreshments,” like former Kadima MK Shai Hermesh – NIS 14,732 – and former Strong Israel MK Michael Ben- Ari – NIS 8,883.

Beepers were a popular budgetary item, even though MKs can also buy smartphones and other 21st century technology.

MK Avraham Michaeli (Shas) invested NIS 2,124 in beeper services.

Other interesting expenditures include NIS 850 on a GPS by MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad), a NIS 2,239 video camera for Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter, NIS 1,954 on amplifiers and speakers for MK Ibrahim Sarsour (United Arab List-Ta’al) and a NIS 2,310 cable bill for MK Afo Agbaria (Hadash).
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