Israeli Arab MKs at protest in Beersheba against planned destruction of illegal unrecognized Beduin villages.
(photo credit: JOINT LIST)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira fined the Joint List more than any other political party for violating campaign fund-raising and spending laws during last year’s general election, according to the State Comptroller’s Report published Tuesday.
Shapira fined the alliance, which is made up of four Arab parties, NIS 1,231,000 for a series of violations, including NIS 1.4 million spent on 541 campaign offices. Shapira wrote that he suspected fictitious rental contracts were intended to cover up spending on expenses hidden from his office.
The Joint List reported spending NIS 567,000 on coupons for gas on Election Day without providing proper documentation. Parties that make up the Joint List were also fined more than NIS 500,000 for violations that remain unpaid from before they joined forces. Another faction that no longer exists, Kadima, still owes the state nearly NIS 800,000 in fines.
As has happened in every comptroller’s report since Education Minister Naftali Bennett took over its leadership, Shapira heavily fined the Bayit Yehudi Party. In explaining the NIS 850,000 fine, Shapira wrote that the party did not properly explain all its expenses and wrongly used state funding to pay fines for past violations.
Shapira also fined Bayit Yehudi NIS 1 million in a separate section of the report on violations by Knesset factions, in which he wrote that the party spent millions of shekels illegally.
Both Bayit Yehudi and the Likud broke the law when they organized a right-wing rally two days before the March 17, 2015 election, according to the report. Both parties were fined because Bennett and Netanyahu spoke at the rally, unlike a leftwing rally ahead of the election in which candidates did not address the crowd.
The Likud was fined NIS 850,000 for the rally and other violations.
Other fines levied by the comptroller included NIS 195,000 for Yisrael Beytenu, NIS 18,000 for the Yahad Party led by former interior minister Eli Yishai, and NIS 10,000 for the Green Leaf Party. Green Leaf, which supports legalizing marijuana, did not submit all the necessary documentation.
The comptroller also published a list of how much parties overspent in the election. Surprisingly, the party that overspent the most was “clean governance” booster Yesh Atid, which went NIS 16,113,858 over allowable limits.
Shas overspent by NIS 11,123,026, the Likud by NIS 9,978,737, Yisrael Beytenu by NIS 8,846,157, and Yahad by NIS 8,380,512. Parties that overspent the least were Green Leaf and the Kulanu Party of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Kulanu faction chairman MK Roy Folkman said he is proud of Shapira’s clean bill of health for his party.
“In Kulanu, we raised the banner of safeguarding democracy and proper use of public funds,” Folkman said.
“We are happy that in our first year, we got such a positive report.”
Yesh Atid also praised the report and positive statements Shapira wrote about the party. Regarding Yesh Atid’s overspending, a party spokesman called it a “technical matter” and said the party would learn lessons and closely follow the comptroller’s instructions.
Likud attorney Avi Halevy responded that the party accepted Shapira’s criticism and would completely implement his recommendations.
He, too, recognized positive statements by Shapira, without directly addressing the hefty fine assessed to his party.
Zionist Union MK Miki Rosenthal released a fierce statement slamming Bennett, calling him a “serial criminal, who has realized that crime pays.”
“Bennett and Bayit Yehudi always star in comptroller’s reports on campaign financing violations, because he purposely breaks the law,” Rosenthal said. “He ignores the laws and mocks the comptroller, because it suits him politically.”