'Parties abide by funding law limits'

Comptroller finds that only one party transgressed Party Funding Law in 2008.

Micha Lindenstrauss 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Micha Lindenstrauss 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
All but one of the 17 political parties which contested the 2009 national elections and submitted their financial records on time observed the Party Funding Law's restrictions on income and expenditures and received a clean bill of health from the State Comptroller, according to a report published on Monday.
The report covered the income and expenditures of the political parties during the 2009 national election campaign, the party factions in the previous Knesset between January 1, 2008 and February 28, 2009 and the parties that contested the local authorities' elections on November 11, 2008.
Although State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss did not say so, the results of the report, particularly regarding the national parties, indicates that they have internalized the restrictions imposed by the law, which has been in effect since 1973.
The only party that exceeded its income ceiling was the Green Party, which did not elect any candidates to the Knesset.
The parties that were given clean bills of health were Ahrayut, Balad, Gil, National Union, Habayit Hayehudi, Likud, Labor, Ra'am-Ta'al, Shas, Meretz, Green Movement, Hadash, Degel Hatorah, Yisrael Beiteinu, Yisrael Hamehadeshet, Yisrael Hazaka, and Kadima.14 other parties that ran for the Knesset did not submit income and expenditure reports. Although they failed to elect any representatives and each received less than one percent of the total vote so that they are not eligible for any state funding, the law still obliges them to submit reports. Another party submitted its figures too late to be included in the report.The state comptroller found that the parties who filed reports spent a total of NIS 241 million on the campaign. They received a total income of NIS 190 million, including NIS 31 million in contributions and NIS 159 million in state funding.
Four parties who were represented in the outgoing Knesset received advances from the state for the election campaign, but did not win any seats and therefore have to repay the money they received, since they proved to be ineligible for the advances. The parties included Gil and Meimad. Lindenstrauss pointed out that there is no mechanism in the law to guarantee that these parties will repay what they owe.
The state comptroller also found that even though almost all of the parties did not exceed their expenditure restrictions, some of the expenditures they made were nevertheless unacceptable. For example, one party held two rallies at a cost of NIS 212,000 and NIS 187,000, when the average cost of such gatherings ranged from a few hundred shekels to NIS 30,000 at the most.
Another party spent NIS 175,000 on fuel, which was enough to buy 33,000 liters of 95 octane gasoline and accumulate 300,000 kilometers of travel. Another faction bought three 37 inch flat screen televisions at a cost of NIS 14,726 and sold them to party activists for half price after the election.
"I look severely upon the wasteful use that factions make of public money that has been given to them in accordance with the law to fund their elections campaigns," wrote Lindenstrauss. "The funding of election expenses by the public is meant to allow for democratic procedures on the basis of equality between contenders and to guarantee ethical behavior. Unreasonable expenditures which indicate wastefulness are a serious phenomenon which is unacceptable."
In another section of the report on state funding for the Knesset factions from January 1, 2008 to February 28, 2009, Lindenstrauss also found that while most parties observed the income and expenditure ceilings, some of the expenditures reported were improper.
For example, the state comptroller found that some parties had givendonations to organizations or sectors of the population. One partydonated NIS 25,000 to a non-profit organization that works on behalf ofHolocaust survivors. Another faction reported purchasing NIS 200,000worth of food products for the poor on the eve of holidays. Anotherdistributed NIS 25,000 worth of chickens to the needy in southernIsrael during Operation Cast Lead. Lindenstrauss pointed out that thefood distributions occurred "at times close to the elections for thelocal authorities or the Knesset."