Likud Asks Elections Panel to Bar Campaigning by Organization Affiliated With Obama Strategist

Request says the V15 group, which is urging voters to change the government, is circumventing campaign-finance law.

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Jeremy Bird at V15 campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Jeremy Bird at V15 campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Likud petitioned the Central Elections Committee on Wednesday for an order barring campaigning by the V15 organization, after Haaretz earlier this week reported on the organization’s efforts to replace the Likud-led government.

V15, which stands for Victory 2015, is partnering with the pro-peace organization OneVoice. Its goal is to recruit thousands of volunteers who will go door to door before the election to persuade as many as one million people to vote to change the government.

To this end, it hired Jeremy Bird, the national field director of U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, to organize its efforts.

The Likud petition argued that V15 - which it termed an “extreme left-wing organization” - was indirectly campaigning on behalf of Likud’s rivals, Zionist Camp and Meretz, thereby circumventing campaign-finance restrictions imposed by law.

Specifically, the petition said, the organization “is making criminal use of anonymous foreign funding in extremely large amounts.” The petition also demanded that V15 reveal its funding sources.

The petition cited the Haaretz report of Bird’s hiring to bolster its argument, writing that “hiring services of this sort costs a fortune. We’re talking about foreign funding on an enormous scale, in violation of the Party Funding Law.”

It also charged that some of V15’s members have ties with specific parties. It noted that V15 and Zionist Camp have similar logos with similar color schemes. It didn’t mention that Likud’s logo also uses those colors.

“The clear purpose of the law is to prevent intervention in Knesset election campaigns via foreign money spent on campaign advertising,” said attorney Shaul Shimron, who filed the petition on Likud’s behalf. The law does this, he added, by capping individual donations.

“It’s clear that injecting a lot of money that is neither reported nor supervised is liable to lead to extremist elements having an influence on the campaign,” Shimon charged.

The petition was filed by the law firm of E.S. Shimron, I. Molho, Persky & Co. One of this firm’s associates is Asaad Joubran, son of Central Elections Committee chairman and Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, who will rule on the petition.

Shimron noted that in a petition filed earlier by Labor MK Stav Shaffir, in which his firm was on the other side, Shaffir’s lawyer was asked about this and voiced no objection to letting Joubran rule.

“Naturally, Justice Joubran will address this issue, and any decision he makes on the matter will be acceptable to us,” Shimron added.

The Haaretz report on Bird’s involvement with V15 has also aroused great interest in the U.S. It was cited by about 20 different U.S. media outlets, most of them on the right side of the political map.

The conservative media generally didn’t mention that Bird’s company, 270 Strategies, works on election campaigns worldwide. Instead, they speculated that he was sent by Obama, despite the White House’s denial that it had any knowledge of Bird’s involvement.

In response to the petition, V15 said that “Netanyahu is panicking. Since Likud’s campaign staff has accepted the fact that he has lost the field and the street, the party’s lawyers are trying to stop the energy and buzz around Victory 2015.

“We are bringing in innovative work plans learned from successful campaigns overseas. Obama’s ‘recruitment’ to the campaign exists only in the fevered brains of right-wingers and Likud.”

In response, Likud said V15 is an illegal attempt by the Labor Party and the left to buy their way into government. Likud accused leftist groups of operating thanks to funds funneled from Europe, the U.S., and from the New Israel Fund. According to Likud, international elements interested in upending Netanyahu's government are involved with leftist groups such as OneVoice and Molad.

According to the Likud, these activities violate the law which forbids foreign donations to Israeli political parties. "The facts to which we've been exposed in recent days should raise a red flag for anyone who cares about respecting the rules of the democratic game, and regarding the true allegiance of the anti-Zionist camp, led by Bougie and Tzipi (Herzog and Livni)."

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