Labor's lifeline: More donations from the rich

'You can buy a candidate but you can't buy a party'

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
September 11, 2007 00:44
2 minute read.

 
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After considering firing its staff and selling all its assets, Labor has found a new solution to its NIS 140 million debt: Significantly raising the maximum donation a citizen can make to a political party. Labor Secretary-General Eitan Cabel confirmed Monday that he recently asked Likud faction chairman Gideon Sa'ar to work with him and other parties to amend the law that limits contributions to parties to NIS 900 per year. Cabel has also asked for cooperation to pass legislation that would give parties a massive discount on their property taxes. "[The parties] are all suffering from financial problems," Cabel told The Jerusalem Post. "I'm just trying to fix the absurd situation whereby a candidate for Knesset can raise NIS 40,000 per citizen and a party only 900. The laws are intended to prevent people from buying influence, but the truth is that you can buy a candidate but you can't buy a party." Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu told Sa'ar not to cooperate with Cabel's effort and Kadima officials said they would also reject the proposal. Netanyahu and Sa'ar mocked Labor for relying on wealthy donors to help resuscitate the party. "The supposedly neo-socialist socioeconomic party has stooped so low as to try to become beholden to money from the well-to-do," Sa'ar said at a pre-Rosh Hashana toast for Likud activists at Tel Aviv's Beit Hahayal on Sunday. Cabel lashed out at Sa'ar for "running to tell everyone about private conversations between friends," and said the real reason that Netanyahu decided not to help raise the limit for contributions had nothing to do with good governance. "Bibi is against it because he is worried that more people would contribute to Labor and we would be given an unfair advantage," Cabel said. "Anything else he says is not true and I would be willing for us to take a lie detector test to prove it." Cabel said he never discussed how much he wanted to raise the maximum contribution, but Likud officials said he talked about raising it tenfold, to NIS 9,000. Cabel also said he had not considered whether the law should be changed to allow noncitizens to contribute to parties. At present, any citizen, including those living abroad, can contribute up to NIS 900 to a party in an ordinary year and double that in an election year. Citizens and noncitizens alike can contribute up to NIS 40,000 to a candidate for Knesset, who can spend no more than NIS 400,000 in contributions. Candidates for the leadership of a party can raise up to $9,000 per person from anyone, and a total of $2 million. Due to this law, Likud activist Danny Danon, who intends to run for Knesset with the party, was allowed to raise much more than other Knesset candidates, since he ran for Likud leader. Because of the limitation on the amount parties can raise, the Likud has raised money by inviting potential contributors to dine with Netanyahu and charging them NIS 900 per meal. The party has raised more than NIS 300,000 this way and more meals are planned for after the holidays. Kadima director-general Yohanan Plessner said he had not been approached by Cabel, but that if he were, he would turn him down. "I don't think it would be right to raise the limit, given the current public situation," Plessner said. "I don't see Kadima supporting this at this stage."

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