Gabbay, other Labor heavyweights fined for excess campaign spending

Gabbay, other Labor heavyweights fined for excess campaign spending

Comptroller hands Zionist Union chairman NIS 90,000 fine for exceeding legal cap on funding in 2017 primaries; outgoing chairman Herzog also penalized

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting in Knesset on May 7, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting in Knesset on May 7, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira fined Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay and other members of the party by more than NIS 200,000 ($55,000) for campaign financing infractions during last year’s primaries, according to a report by the comptroller’s office released Tuesday.

“After I received responses from the candidates on the results of the inspection of their bank accounts and conducted further checks, and after some of them met me and responded to the findings, I ruled that for five of the candidates there were deficiencies in heeding to legal instructions and the comptroller’s instructions,” Shapira wrote in his report.

Gabbay was handed a NIS 90,000 fine for spending half a million shekels more than the 1.4 million permitted by law during his successful bid for the leadership of one of Israel’s main political parties in July 2017, Hebrew-language media reported.

The report also found that Gabbay had spent more than NIS 1 million of his own money on campaigning during the two rounds of polls.

Opposition chairman Isaac Herzog speaks on a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 25, 2018. (Courtesy)

Opposition chief Isaac Herzog, who had unsuccessfully ran for reelection and was recently named the next head of the Jewish Agency, was given a NIS 60,000 fine after the comptroller ruled that he had exceeded the legally permitted amount by NIS 400,000. Herzog was said to have spent NIS 410,000 of his personal money on the campaign.

Another candidate, MK Erel Margalit, was fined NIS 30,000 — the same amount by which he exceeded the expense ceiling. He spent NIS 800,000 of his own money on the campaign.

“The expense limit is meant to preserve equality between the candidates and not allow a candidate with personal fortune and resources an unfair advantage over other candidates,” Shapira wrote in the report.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira attends the presentation of the State Comptroller’s report at the Knesset, March 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Sticking to the expense ceiling also helps ensuring the elections are clean and boosting public trust that the process and results are unbiased,” he added.

Another candidate, former IDF general Amiram Levin, was said to have failed to present a financial report to the comptroller, instead giving a declaration that his expenses were taken from his own money and a separate clarification that he made no use of donations sent to him and returned them to the donors. He was handed a NIS 20,000 fine for failing to comply with legal campaign-financing requirements.

Ultra-Orthodox candidate Dina Dayan, who withdrew from the race before the election, was fined NIS 750 for filing her financial report after the deadline and failing to open a separate bank account for her campaign.

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