Rivals press Barak to disclose income

Candidates call on former PM to follow lead of US presidential candidates.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Former prime minister Ehud Barak's four rivals for the Labor Party leadership called on him on Monday to reveal his income and financial assets, following the lead of American presidential candidates. The American candidates are facing a Tuesday deadline to file financial disclosure documents to the Federal Election Commission. Ahead of the deadline, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani revealed that he had received $11.4 million in speaking fees in 2006 - an average of some $88,000 per speech. Four candidates running against Barak in the May 28 primary said Barak should be obligated to give the same full disclosure as Giuliani. They noted that Barak has spoken for and acted as a consultant for many different corporations and organizations, charging a speaker's fee of up to $50,000 and thus creating many potential conflicts of interest. Barak declined to disclose his income for this article. His spokeswoman said it was much easier for the other candidates to do so, because they are all current members of Knesset, and their salary is known to the public. "I would be happy if all the candidates had to disclose how much money they make, because transparency is proper, and where there's transparency, there is less of a chance of corruption," Barak's main rival in the race, MK Ami Ayalon, told The Jerusalem Post. Ayalon's associates disclosed that he makes a salary of NIS 32,000 a month from the Knesset and has a military pension of some NIS 30,000 a month. They said he donates all money from lectures to Akim, a charity that helps people with developmental disorders. "He wants to make sure that he is beholden only to the public and not to anyone else," an Ayalon associate said. "Even if there is no law obligating it, candidates should reveal at their own initiative which corporations they do business with, on behalf of whom they give speeches and to whom they are beholden." MK Danny Yatom said he had the same monthly income as Ayalon. He said he agreed with Ayalon that "the public must know the candidates' income to ensure there are no conflicts of interest." Defense Minister Amir Peretz's campaign manager, MK Yoram Marciano, added that "people who want to be prime minister must be willing to satisfy the public's right to know." Peretz receives a monthly salary of about NIS 34,000. MK Ophir Paz-Pines, who makes NIS 32,000 a month as an MK, said he would be happy to reveal his income, but that he was less disturbed by Barak's wealth than by his rejection of repeated calls for a debate. The closest thing to a debate in the race is expected to take place on Friday, when all five candidates are expected to address the Labor central committee. The committee is set to discuss proposals regarding whether Labor should leave Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's coalition. However, it was still unclear on Monday whether a vote would be held, whether it would be held by secret ballot and whether the meeting would even take place. All five candidates have announced proposals that they intend to present to the committee. Peretz's proposal calls for remaining in the government, refraining from pressuring Kadima to replace Olmert and advocating a cabinet reshuffle that would include exchanging the Defense Ministry for the Finance portfolio. A proposal led by Paz-Pines and supported by Ayalon and Yatom calls for Olmert to resign and for Labor to leave the coalition and try to form a new Kadima-led government if he refuses. The proposal would give whoever is elected Labor leader three weeks to return to the central committee with an operative proposal to implement the decision. A compromise proposal introduced by National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and supported by Barak calls for the central committee to "demonstrate national responsibility by deciding whether to leave the government only after a new chairman is chosen." Kadima officials said they were waiting to see which proposal would pass in the Labor central committee before efforts to overthrow Olmert proceed. Paz-Pines mocked Peretz's proposal, calling it "a scandalous plan to stay in the government at any price" and denouncing the recent alliance between Olmert and Peretz as "a love affair between two failed leaders bonded by their desperation." Meanwhile, Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, who supports Peretz in the race, told Channel 2 at the Knesset on Monday that Barak had come to her house to persuade her to switch her allegiance to him, but that she was leaning against it.