Campaign finance bill advances

Candidates running for primaries in the Likud and Labor parties will be allowed to spend up to NIS 400,000 during the upcoming primary election campaigns, according to a bill approved for second and final reading on Sunday by the Knesset Law Committee. The bill establishes clearer guidelines regarding campaign contributions and spending during the primaries and transfers responsibility for supervising the conduct of the candidates from an internal party auditor to the State Comptroller. "Even though the election campaign has already begun, we are sending out a message to the candidates that the Knesset has sealed some of the holes [in the current law] and reduced the possibility of corruption in the primaries," said committee chairman Michael Eitan, who forcefully promoted the legislation. According to the bill, the candidates will have to report within 24 hours each campaign contribution received. Eitan wanted the bill to include a provision ordering the candidates to publish the names of the contributors and the sums of money they gave within 72 hours of receipt of the contribution. However, a majority insisted that the list should be published 14 days after the elections. The committee also overrode Eitan's opposition to a provision allowing candidates to receive donations from non-Israelis. According to the bill, candidates facing an electoral body of up to 500 members would be allowed to spend up to NIS 50,000 for the campaign, from 501 to 5,000 up to NIS 275,000 and above 5,000 up to NIS 400,000. The law is a provisional law that would apply only to primary campaigns leading up to the elections for the 17th Knesset next March. The law would also only apply to Likud, Labor and Meretz, whose slate of Knesset candidates will be chosen by electoral bodies of various sizes. The Likud will also hold general primaries to elect it party leader. According to the bill, the penalty for spending more than the law allows would be a year in jail or a fine of four times the amount of money that was spent in excess of the sum permitted by law.
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