MKs 'connect' to their constituency

NIS 2,848 for an espresso machine and 966 for blinds - connecting with voters.

knesset in rain 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
knesset in rain 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In their relentless quest to "connect with voters," MKs spent thousands of shekels on "communication tools," including NIS 2,848 on an espresso machine, NIS 537 on an MP3 player and NIS 966 on Venetian blinds. The Knesset's "connect with voters" budget was released Tuesday as part of the Knesset's yearly MK expenditure report. While MKs with offices outside the Knesset are allotted up to NIS 68,000 each year, the budget provides hazy guidelines to define "communication tools." Items such as Likud MK David Levy's espresso machine, Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh's MP3 player, and Labor MK Raleb Majadele's blinds are only a few of the unconventional purchases itemized by MKs. While most MKs charged subscriptions to major Israeli newspapers, MK Ahmad Tibi (Hadash) purchased an NIS 396 subscription to National Geographic. After the Knesset went into recess in December, Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) spent more than NIS 50,000 on polls, while Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu spent NIS 7,430 on "research." Meanwhile, Labor Chairman Amir Peretz, whose English had spawned a series of popular jokes following a halting speech at the Yitzhak Rabin memorial, spent NIS 4,241 on "foreign language classes." "They charge everything and anything they can," said one long-time Knesset aide. "Most of them don't even know the rules behind what they can charge." The 25 rules, however, would not give much guidance even if they were consulted. Although some points are very clear, such as rule 15: "Television (one only)" (emphasis in the original), others are open to interpretation, such as rule number 24: Ticket to event. While the top spenders, such as MK Chemi Doron (Shinui) racked up NIS 81,000 with a loose definition of the guidelines, others, such as MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism) spent only NIS 4,699 on the bare necessities of Internet and cell phone charges. One of the lowest spenders on the list was Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who spent NIS 6,045 and only itemized two expenses, his landline phone bill and office taxes. The most common expenses were monthly cell phone charges, office supplies, and Internet usage. Even in those fields, however, some MKs managed to stand out, such as MK Pnina Rosenblum who served in the last Knesset's session less than one week, but spent NIS 518 on office supplies. Former MK Omri Sharon, who was convicted last month of illegal campaign financing, spent more than NIS 4,000 on postage stamps, while religious MK Effi Eitam spent NIS 2,500 on New Year's cards - only in December, a time not usually associated with the Jewish New Year.