Comptroller slams Peres, Netanyahu

Likud chairman promises to return NIS 84,000 out of own pocket.

lindenstrauss speaks 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
lindenstrauss speaks 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Vice Premier Shimon Peres should consider returning, or donating to the state, the $320,000 he received as primary election campaign contributions from three businessmen two weeks before a law severely limiting the amount of money candidates could receive went into effect. This was one of the key findings in State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' report on campaign contributions during the 2005 primary campaigns released Monday.
  • Israel ranks as more corrupt in '06 Peres's expenditure exceeded the legal limit of NIS 366,000 per candidate according to the report. The report also said opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu failed to follow legally mandated accounting practices and exceeded the spending limit when running for the Likud leadership. Lindenstrauss called on Netanyahu to return NIS 83,000 to the state. Netanyahu said Monday he would pay the money from his personal funds, Army Radio reported. Since Peres had received the three contributions before the nine-month countdown began, Lindenstrauss said he had no authority to act against him. Peres spokesman Yoram Dori criticized the media for what he called a "campaign of false accusations" against the deputy premier. "It's now clear that Peres acted legally," Dori said. Lindenstrauss also announced he was handing over the file on the United Arab List to the state prosecution, saying it failed to inform him when the party's primary was scheduled to be held and who the candidates were. In addition, he is handing over the names of 53 candidates, none of whom were elected to the Knesset, who failed to report their contributions and expenditures to the State Comptroller's Office. Peres received $100,000 each from Haim Saban and Bruce Rappaport and $120,000 from Daniel Abraham. Lindenstrauss said it was improper for Peres, who was an MK at the time, to receive such large sums. During the nine months prior to their party's primary, candidates were allowed to receive a maximum of NIS 40,000 from an individual contributor and his family. He wrote that "the law and the Knesset rules of ethics point to the fact that it is not proper for members of Knesset, and for other candidates as well, to receive money to fund their campaigns for public office from wealthy men when it is not out of the question that these contributors may have clear-cut business interests in Israel. "At any rate, the state comptroller's position on the matter of Peres, considering the large sums of money that he received, is that it would be proper for him to consider returning the contributions to their wealthy donors or to the state treasury." Lindenstrauss added that the Knesset had adopted the provisions of the Civil Service Law (Donations) prohibiting MKs from keeping large gifts for themselves. Furthermore, the Knesset's Ethics Committee passed a regulation on February 12, 2002, stating that "MKs must refuse to accept all benefits, given directly or indirectly, which could be interpreted as being an attempt to influence the way they fulfill their jobs." Lindenstrauss also gave negative reports on Labor leadership candidates Amir Peretz, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Ehud Barak and Matan Vilna'i. Among those running for MK, Lindenstrauss gave negative reports to the Likud's Limor Livnat, David Levy, Eitan Sulami and Zalman Shuval, and Labor's Avi Yehezkel, Danny Atar and Alon Pinkas. Most of the negative reports had to do with the fact that the candidates did not keep proper receipts and records of their expenditures.