IDI Scholars’ Statement Ahead Of Tomorrow’s Discussion on V-15 Bill

It is important to require transparency, not to limit contributions, and to establish an effective and equal process of oversight

Ahead of the discussion tomorrow (Tuesday) on the V15 bill, a bill sponsored by Likud MK Yoav Kisch that requires oversight of non-party organizations that are active in elections, Israel Democracy Institute scholars sent a policy statement to Kisch and members of the special committee legislating the bill. The policy statement recommends to the MKs a moderated version of the bill, which would include transparency of these bodies, but would cancel the limitations on non-party organizations that appear in the bill.

The policy statement was written by IDI President Yohanan Plesner and IDI researchers Asaf Shapira and Dr. Guy Lurie. The statement says that, as a rule, oversight of the activities of non-parliamentarian organizations that are active in elections is acceptable and exists in several other Western countries. However, the bill in its current form presents many challenges. Hence, the researchers are recommending essential changes.

The writers of the policy statement explain one of the central problems with the bill is its inability to enforce restrictions in an equal way, such as for groups that primarily work during elections and groups for which that is a secondary mission and are active all year. Organizations in the first group would have to register as active bodies for the elections at a relevant institution of oversight. Yet, many of the groups of the second type will not see themselves as such and will not register. Therefore, the state must prepare in advance for this phenomenon by forming a body that will oversee all such activity on this issue and provide it with the necessary resources, which could be significant. Without a budget for an oversight body, there is no point in moving forward with the bill.

The researchers also write that at this stage, when an absolute majority of the democracies in the world do not place limits on spending or contributions, we can be satisfied with merely requiring transparency. However, we should establish that in several years, after enough experience is gained, a ceiling for expenses should be considered. This would enable maintaining freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and also ensure the public maintains the current high-level of political involvement it currently has. IDI also supports a draft of the bill only requiring oversight in cases of activities against or in favor of a certain party and not on activities for or against a certain subject.

In a comparative analysis performed by IDI of 25 democracies around the world, it was discovered that only five states have rules forbidding non-party organizations from participating in elections, and most of these states are not developed democracies. Despite this, in 13 countries we evaluated (including Austria, Ireland and Sweden) there are no limitations on non-party organizations’ involvement ahead of elections. In other countries like Britain and Canada, there is a spending ceiling. In the US, Australia and Italy there is only a requirement of full transparency.

View full policy statement (Hebrew).