State Watchdog Fines Likud for Improper Party Spending for Second Time This Year

The Likud Party was fined $50,000 over an event organized by a private businessmen designed to advance the party's interests

FILE Photo: Culture Minister Miri Regev of the Likud party speaks at an event in Eilat, 2017.
Shlomi Dai

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira has fined the Likud party 180,000 shekels ($50,000) after ruling that an event organized in support of the party, the Likudiada, involved an improper contribution to the party. The fine was cited in a report issued by the State Comptroller’s Office on Monday about spending by political parties.

In January, the comptroller fined Likud 350,000 shekels over the first Likudiada event in 2016. That event was followed by two others – last year and in January of this year.

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The three Likudiada events were organized by individual business people who support the Likud party and not by the party itself or by party officials. Nevertheless, State Comptroller Shapira found that the events were designed to advance the party’s interests and the party had benefitted from the exposure that it received from the events, which Shapira said had monetary value. As a result, the party should have reported the benefits derived from the Likudiada on its books, the comptroller ruled.

“One cannot ignore the fact that the very holding of the event and its coverage in the media constitute an improper contribution to a faction that is not observing the limitations set by the law,” Shapira wrote. “In light of the direct and clear connection between the faction and the event, the faction [Likud] should have noted the event in its books even if it was not organized directly by officials within the faction.”

Likud had recently begun seeking to divorce itself from the event, Shapira added.

Likud reported income last year of 36 million shekels and expenses of 23 million. When offset by the deficit that the party accumulated over the years, its surplus over the past year is 7.6 million shekels.

When it comes to spending by other parties, Shapira fined the Balad faction of the Joint List 60,000 shekels for not keeping its books according to applicable rules. Among the expenses that the party claimed were outlays for a summer camp that it organized, the comptroller reported. Balad also claimed expenses of 45,000 shekels paid to an unnamed former Knesset member and a relative of his, for reasons that could not be verified, Shapira said. Balad’s books also included income of 15,000 shekels in cash that the faction claimed were proceeds from ticket sales from a performance although there was no proof that it was done in accordance with the law, the report stated.

Shapira also fined the Habayit Hayehudi party 50,000 shekels, which did not apply to its faction partner, the National Union. The fine was for failure to follow financial procedures in recent election campaigns. The party recorded net expenses of 1.2 million shekels, but the expenses were not included in its financial books and the party had not retained documentation from supplier on the amounts. Shapira said he had not managed to verify a portion of the party’s expenses or to verify that the party’s reporting was reliable.