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Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not break the law when Sears heiress Nina Rosenwald hosted a September 19 fundraiser for him in her Manhattan apartment, according to campaign fundraising guidelines that Likud legal advisor Eitan Haberman sent to the Likud leadership candidates this week.
Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz and State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss launched probes into the dinner that would investigate whether it was illegal for people who came to the dinner to be asked to donate $10,000 - more than the $7,894 limit set in the Israeli Election Law.
But Likud legal advisor Eitan Haberman revealed in campaign fundraising guidelines that he sent to the Likud leadership candidates on Sunday that the limit had not yet taken effect.
According to the guidelines, the candidates currently can receive unlimited contributions from anyone except corporations, because the race does not technically begin until two weeks after the Likud central committee sets a date for the primary, which it decided against doing last month.
Once the date is set for the primary, which can be held no later than April, each candidate will be limited to raising no more than NIS 36,472 ($7894) per person.
The candidates are already limited now in how much they can spend on the campaign - whether from donations or their personal wealth - to a ceiling of NIS 1,821,933 ($394,350).
If Mazuz and Lindenstrauss accept Haberman's ruling, then Sharon will likely be cleared in their investigation. But the guidelines also mean that Sharon's challengers - MKs Binyamin Netanyahu and Uzi Landau - also are not limited in fundraising.
Netanyahu's bureau chief, Yechiel Leiter, called the spending limit "a virtual joke," saying it barely covers a few newspaper ads and a couple of mailings to the 130,000 Likud members.
He said the limit gives incumbent candidates an edge because they can use their positions to get out their messages to the voters.
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