Comptroller: Politicians Must Pay for Misreporting Donations

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss revealed flawed accounting methods employed by about of a third of the candidates in Likud, Kadima, Meretz and National Union party primaries that were held on the eve of the recent election.

According to a special report of the audit conducted on these parties published by the comptroller yesterday, 90 of the 267 candidates who submitted their accounting reports on time were found to have deviated from regulations governing election financing. Another 238 candidates filed their reports late, and have not yet been audited.

Although the state does not participate in the financing of candidates in primary elections, Lindenstrauss decided to hand the entire report over to the Attorney General for his decision on whether to prosecute candidates.

According to the Party Financing law, candidates are forbidden from accepting contributions in excess of NIS 10,000 from any single contributor, or from accepting contributions from a corporation.

The ceiling for total contributions is based on the number of party members, so Likud can raise up to NIS 399,230, while Kadima can accept up to NIS 346,543 and the Labor party is limited to just NIS 290,091. Contributors may donate no more than NIS 30,000 to members of the same party.

The state comptroller levied fines on 12 MKs.

The Likud members who received fines for campaign contribution deviations included Moshe Kahlon (NIS 750), Zion Fanian (NIS 2,000), Ofir Akunis (NIS 1,000), Carmel Shama (NIS 2,500) and Danny Danon, who was slapped with a NIS 8,468 fine. The Kadima members who received fines were Yoel Hasson, who received an NIS 8,000 fine, Shlomo Molla (NIS 8,500), Eli Aflalo, who was fined NIS 2,500, Yohanan Plesner (NIS 2,000) and Robert Tibayev (NIS 1,000).

Labor Party member Daniel Ben Simon was fined NIS 2,500.

National Union member also Aryeh Eldad received a fine of NIS 5,000.

The report revealed that a foreign contributor, Mark Tannenbaum, donated NIS 10,000 to each of eight Likud party members that include Gilad Erdan, Tzipi Hotovely, Yisrael Katz, Yuval Steinitz and Yechiel Leiter. Each of the candidates have announced that at the time that the contributions were received they had been unaware that the donor had contributed more than the allowed total to other party members. Four announced on their own that they would return the money, and two said that they had been the first to receive money. Candidates are allowed to accept money from overseas, which the comptroller wants to curb.

The comptroller recommended that the Knesset amend the law in light of the difficulties involved in enforcing similar cases.

Lindenstrauss also drew the Knesset's attention to the fact that a candidate may accept contributions over NIS 10,000 from family members, as long as the total amount of the contribution does not exceed the party's ceiling.

MK Ruhama Avraham Balila of Kadima, for instance, received two contributions from her sister, Eti Balila Bolender, who gave her NIS 95,555, and Galit Toizer, who contributed NIS 97,020. Avraham Balila received a positive citation from the comptroller.

Nevertheless, the comptroller noted that "by allowing a candidate and his family members to make campaign contributions limited only by the party's total ceiling amount, the principal of equality among the candidates is jeopardized, and the State Comptroller faces an extremely difficult situation."

The issue lies mainly with the fact that the comptroller's office has no authority to examine the source of contributions from family members. This law could open up a loophole accepting legally prohibited contributions and depositing them as contributions made by the candidate himself or his family members, the comptroller said.

The comptroller criticized the custom of transporting employees of audited government bodies to vote in the primaries. Although he did not name the body in question, Lindenstrauss was referring to the bussing of Israel Aerospace Industries workers to vote at Likud voting stations. IAI's labor chairman is MK Haim Katz (Likud).