The Likud-Beytenu party spent NIS 71 million ($20 million) on its election campaign last year, driving its budget deficit to NIS 21 million ($5.9 million), which could threaten its continued operations, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira said in a report on the 2013 elections released Wednesday.
The report also revealed that the right-wing Jewish Home party, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s center-left Hatnua party, and the Israeli-Arab Balad party were subject to hefty fines for financial irregularities.
Jewish Home was levied with a NIS 380,000 ($108,000) penalty after the financial summary it filed was deemed incomplete. Similarly, the Hatnua party received a NIS 140,000 ($39,000) penalty, and the Balad faction was forced to pay NIS 160,000 ($45,000) for failing to report all of its expenses.
When it came to exorbitant spending of public funds on the 2013 campaign, the comptroller specifically criticized the Likud-Beytenu party’s pre-election gala, the costs of which amounted to NIS 1.25 million ($355,000), including NIS 80,000 ($22,000) paid to singer Sarit Hadad for a three-song show.
“Even during an election there is no room for organizing extravagant and luxurious conferences, the cost of which adds up to huge sums at the expense of public funds, and financed by the taxpayer,” Shapira wrote.
However, members of Likud defended the decision to hold the primary event around the time of the party’s merger with Yisrael Beytenu, and said it was done for “strategic reasons,” in order to bring together thousands of activists from the two parties and “unify them with regard to their joint activities.”
Overall, the Israeli government spent NIS 240 million ($68 million) on the 2013 elections, of which NIS 195 million ($55 million) were drawn from public funds.
Only five political parties — Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz, Hadash and Kadima — did not spend more than their allotted funds. Shas has the second-largest deficit, standing at NIS 12 million ($3.4 million), which has in part been attributed to the party’s expectation to receive more seats and, consequently, a larger budget.
The reckless spending is liable to negatively affect the parties, Shapira cautioned. “The deficits of some of the parties is likely to endanger their financial solvency and continued operation,” he wrote.