Bill Restricting NGOs' Funding of Political Campaigns Passes Preliminary Knesset Vote

The so-called 'V-15 Law,' after the nonprofit that worked against Netanyahu's reelection last year, would limit contributions from individual donors.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Reuters

The Knesset on Wednesday passed a preliminary reading of a bill that would restrict the funding of nonprofit organizations that conduct political campaigns, but are not affiliated to any party.

The bill, an amendment to the Parties Financing Law, has been dubbed the “V-15 law,” after the NGO that conducted a wide-ranging campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection last year. The bill mentions V-15 specifically as the central motive for the legislation. Netanyahu supports the bill and recently presented it to the heads of the coalition factions.

The bill defines the term “organization active in elections” as an organization that conducts political polls during an election campaign, that offers rides to polling stations, that works to map out potential voters for any political party and publishes ads aimed at persuading voters to vote for a specific party.

Olivier Fitoussi

Such organizations, just like political parties, would be allowed to accept no more than 1,000 shekels ($260) from an individual donor during a nonelection year. During an election year, such groups can accept up to 2,300 shekels ($597) from an individual. All contributions must be published on the group’s website at least 30 days before the campaign and will monitored by the state comptroller.

The bill, sponsored by MK Yoav Kish (Likud), passed by a vote of 43-31. “We bring good tidings to Israeli citizens,” Kish said after the vote. “We won’t let money from tycoons control our elections and undermine Israel’s democratic nature.”

He continued: “Right or left, the democratic process belongs solely to Israel’s citizens. I’m sure that all the factions in this house understand this and I will try to recruit the opposition factions to this important move as well.”

“In recent years the parties on the right and the left discovered that they can privatize the political campaign and instead of using the limited budgets permitted them by law, they can rely on private organizations with similar worldviews whose funding sources are unrestricted," a source involved in writing the bill recently said. "This bill will prevent unfair harm to some of the parties, particularly the small parties, because the NGOs generally collect large sums to strengthen potential prime ministerial candidates (who head the larger parties)."

The bill’s explanatory notes that "In the United States there are many legislative lacunae that enable rich people to indirectly fund a party or candidate with no connection to that candidate’s actual campaign. A phenomenon has resulted whereby during American election campaigns there is no effective restriction on tycoons intervening and this has created a negative race to solicit nonparty funding. To prevent the wealthy from exploiting their money to skew the results of Israeli elections, the above amendment is pr