State Comptroller report slams party finances

Yosef Shapira's annual report finds PM Netanyahu's Likud hosted NIS 50,212 dinner; 12 of 18 parties overspent, in debt.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
State Comptroller Yosef Shapira on Monday published his 2011 annual report on the expenditures by political parties, criticizing major parties' use of funds, such as a dinner hosted at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's residence for 120 people at a whopping cost of NIS 50,212.
The report also noted disapprovingly that 12 of the 18 political parties spent more than the funds they had "in hand" and are in debt.
The total expenses of all 18 political parties came to NIS 89 million, out of the NIS 108 million allocated to them by the state, plus an additional NIS 30 million in revenue from membership fees and the sale, rental or other income derived from assets.
The highlighted and criticized dinner hosted by the prime minister for the Likud party averaged out to approximately NIS 418 per invite.
Additionally, Likud was found to have employed the services of strategic and media consultants at a cost of NIS 32,000 per month.
Labor's top two advisers, two former Knesset members, were paid NIS 90,000.
Another event that incurred Shapira's disapproval was NIS 19,000 paid by Israel Beyteinu for a visit to Italy by its members to coordinate and sign on to some joint efforts with an Italian political party.
Special attention was given to the Kadima primary as the only major party having a real primary fight in 2011.
Netanyahu has not had a serious primary challenge since being elected prime minister and the Labor party primary occurred in 2012, beyond the end point of the report.
Regarding Kadima, the report left some leading or former leading Kadima members, notably Tzipi Livni and Avi Dichter unscathed.
Although Livni raised and spent most of NIS 1.6 million, her spending was within the guidelines for spending regulations.
This finding was in contrast to an earlier comptroller report which had criticized some of Livni's spending practices. The almost NIS 1.6 million was broken down into approximately NIS 950,000 in foreign donations and over 620,000 in donations from within Israel.
With respect to current Kadima party chairman, Shaul Mofaz, Shapira found he had accepted two illegal cash donations during the party's primary.
Although the State Comptroller found that Mofaz had not acted in bad faith, he did not entirely accept Mofaz's explanation regarding his inexperience and imposed a fine of NIS 28,000 on Mofaz.
The National Religious faction of Habayit Hayehudi and Balad also lost NIS 80,000 each for infractions, as well as.
Other prominent expenditures included Aryeh Eldad's "Hatikvah" (Hope) faction of the National Union party, which spent $10,000 for public relation services abroad and another NIS 100,000 for the printing and foreign distribution of 7300 brochures. MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta’al) was found to have given 15 wedding gifts each of NIS 800 using party funds.
According to the report, the Labor party once again led the 12 factions in debt, showing a negative balance of NIS 42 million. Kadima came in second with a total deficit of NIS 31 million, followed by the National Religious Party at NIS 17.5 million and Likud at NIS 13 million.
The report found that six parties had positive balances, led by Shas with a positive balance of NIS 5 million and Israel Beyteinu at about NIS 2.5 million.
"I think the main activities of a party, whether for publicity, hasbara (public diplomacy) or public relations, when funded by the public's money, should be directed at the citizens of Israel, who are the parties' potential voters... and within Israel," Shapira wrote. "The question is whether funding such activities is consistent with these goals and purposes."