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Other people’s money. How much candidates and political forces spent on the last elections and on what

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Other people’s money. How much candidates and political forces spent on the last elections and on what

26 November 2015 16:11 | Author: Yuliya OLKHOVSKA

People really look forward to elections in Ukraine. Residents of cities and villages know that before elections candidates not only give out promises of happy lives and the future, but also shell out for some real help. This includes either a couple hundred hryvnias for people personally or a few thousand to improve infrastructure or landscaping.

Candidates have a separate budget of expenses for election campaign advertising, production of fliers, newspaper publications, TV airtime and placing ads on billboards.

So how much were the candidates ready to shell out to gain the favor of peoples’ minds and hearts, where did they get the money from and what did they spent it on?

First one out

According to Article 54 of the Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections,” parties’ local branches and candidates at all levels have the right to start their election campaigns on the day after the territorial election commission makes a relevant decision to register candidates. In Melitopol, this norm was fulfilled by local political organizations. However, their Ukrainian “parents” started advertising long before the beginning of the election campaign.

Already in the beginning of September, billboards with advertising for the Nash Kray political force, which includes mostly people from the Party of Regions and Communists, appeared in Melitopol. The advertising billboards for this political force were the first to appear and throughout the campaign led in terms of number. The Opposition Bloc and the #1 candidate on its list, Evheniy Balytskiy, were the second to start their election campaign. Batkivshchyna followed; its advertising billboards were mainly of the same as the national Ukrainian form.

Who ordered it?

According to Point 2, Article 56 of the Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections,” print advertising materials must contain information about who ordered it and the organization that printed it, its circulation, and information about the people responsible for its production. The circulation of print advertising materials without this information is prohibited.

In Melitopol, this legal standard was fulfilled by the majority of political parties. Sometimes some pieces of information were missing. Not always was all information present on the billboards of Nash Kray. In addition, all of the necessary information was missing from the billboards of Ukrop.

We note that among various political advertisers, there were some cheaters. Silna Ukraina and Serhiy Minko congratulated Melitopol on its birthday. Those billboards did not have information on who ordered them. On one hand, it might not be viewed as political advertising, just a greeting. On the other hand, there is no doubt that such advertising is also part of an election campaign.

Test for openness

According to Ukrainian legislation, election campaigns are conducted using the funds and from the assets of the election funds of candidates running in single-mandate constituencies, of candidates for the heads of villages and cities, of local branches of political parties, and of candidates that are registered in multi-mandate constituencies.

The use of funds from other sources by election campaigns is prohibited. After the first weeks of the election campaign, we went to the political forces with requests to tell us how much money they planned to spend on their campaigns and where that money was coming from.

Samopomich and Solidarnist refused to say the amount and only specified that everything would be “in accordance with legislation.” The Opposition Bloc did not comment on our request at all.

Other political forces were more open. “Most, but with good taste,” Socialists decided to spend just a few dozen thousands of hryvnias. The Afghanistan Veterans Party decided not to be modest. The size of its fund was UAH 706,000. The head of their political force, mayoral candidate Andriy Chappa said, “These are the assets collected by members of the party. During the last year and a half we were getting ready and everybody contributed up to UAH 12,000 to the fund.”

Some political forces did everything without election funds.

“We did not finance advertisings in media or on billboards, and did not order campaign products, which is why we had no need for an election fund,” said Aleksey Revenok, head of the city branch of Ukrainian union Svoboda. “Those boards located in Melitopol were ordered by the regional organization and were financed by the regional branches. We ‘economized.’”

Money likes to be counted

Overall, the desire or lack of desire to disclose the amounts spent on election campaigns did not really matter. This is because each of the headquarters must publicize the sizes of their election funds on the official website of the Central Election Committee. We sent a request to the City Election Commission, asking it to provide information on the sizes of the election funds of candidates and political forces. However, we never got an answer back from them. That is why we prepared an investigation, and judged from official data on the 2015 elections on the official portal of the Melitopol City Council.

The most modest expenses for its election campaign were from Ukrainian union Batkivshchyna. The size of its fund was a little more than UAH 17,000. Of that amount, the biggest contribution was from Aleksey Prokofyev (he ran for mayor) – UAH 11,650. In his report, it does not say where the money was spent. According to the publicized plan, the socialists’ report looked very modest. If we believe the report, they spent only UAH 26,103 on their election campaign. Moreover, all of that money was for the local branches of the party. The biggest expense was on advertising on TV for UAH 2,500, UAH 4,000 for printing advertising materials and UAH 5,200 for publications in print media. It is interesting to note that representatives of this political party said that they paid UAH 2,300 to Ukrposhta for the delivery of advertising materials to each household.

The city branch of Ukrop spent UAH 40,600 on political campaigning. They produced promotional materials. The election fund of this organization was filled by candidates Ihor Symonenko and Mykola Arestenko. They contributed UAH 8,000 and UAH 9,000, respectively. Another UAH 24,000 was contributed from three other individuals.

The city branch of the political party Nash Kray spent a little more than UAH 46,000 on political campaigning. That fund was formed from the personal assets of its candidates. More than UAH 17,000 was spent on printing fliers, calendars, and posters of various formats. In addition, the funds’ expenses included rent for an office in the Taras Shevchenko Palace of Culture. This political party said in its report that it only advertised in “Glavnaya Gazeta.” This advertising cost the party UAH 15,680.

The city branch of the party Solidarity reported that, from its election fund, it spent UAH 78,700 on various types of political advertising. The money was contributed to the fund from candidates including those on the party list and from voluntary contributions from people like A.V. Sorokin, who contributed UAH 7,236. It is interesting to note that the majority of assets of this election fund (UAH 61,363) was spent on the production and placement of advertising materials through the service of private entrepreneur A.V. Sorokin.

Of all the candidates, the biggest contributors were Pavlo Tymofeyev (UAH 20,000 twice) and Pavlo Khryenko (UAH 15,4000). By the way, on these candidates’ declarations, it says that for example Tymofeyev in 2014 earned UAH 35,000, of which more than UAH 6,000 was his unemployment benefit. And Khryenvko, in all of last year, earned only UAH 10,407.

Judging from the report, the Opposition Bloc spent UAH 113,000 from the candidates on its campaign. The biggest contribution came from Iryna Yalpachyk (UAH 50,000) and Evheniy Sherstyuk (UAH 24,600). The money was spent on TV advertising (UAH 49,800), and on the production of magnets, campaign fliers and postcards (more than UAH 63,000).

The election fund of Samopomich was UAH 285,000. This political party used the biggest variety of assets. In addition to the traditional production of fliers, postcards and more, on which it spent UAH 208,000, the city branch purchased airtime on TV (UAH 32,000) and placed advertising on billboards (about UAH 35,000). UAH 5,000 was sent to the Federation of Mas-wrestling for participation in sports competitions.

The fund was filled by the candidates. For example, Nataliya Shatokhyna contributed money several times for a total of UAH 57,600. In addition, a few contributions were made by Maksym Belchev. Note that in their declarations, both candidates declared their income in 2014 to be a little bit more than a million hryvnias.

The city branch of the Afghanistan Veterans Party spent UAH 706,800 on political advertising. The majority was given to the newspaper Noviy Dey – UAH 160,500. Another UAH 58,600 was given for advertising to Melitopolskie Vedomosti. Airtime on Melitopol TV cost UAH 69,600 and on MTV-Plus – UAH 32,700. Besides that, the party spent money on the production of promotional materials (about UAH 250,000) and radio advertising (about UAH 2,000).

I don’t spare when it comes to myself

As for the expenses for the election campaign of the candidates for mayor, the majority of expenses, according to the reports, took place in the first round of the elections.

In the first round, Roman Romanov separately indicated the amount he spent on advertising. From a budget of UAH 80,000, he spent only UAH 76,100, mainly on informational material in newspapers and on the production of fliers. Mykola Andros was very modest. On advertising for voters, he spent only UAH 6,178.

Mykhail Bohdanov spent UAH 12,500 and, just as expected, the amounts were the largest for the first round of elections spent by candidates for mayor. The first payment to his own election fund that Opposition Bloc candidate Aleksandr Ryabykov made already on September 29 was UAH 170,000. The total amount of the fund was UAH 275,000. The majority of money was spent on printed materials – UAH 198,000. About UAH 37,000 was spent on billboard advertising. Airtime on TV cost him only UAH 18,800. Moreover, the candidate placed advertisements on radio and in print media.

Solidarity candidate S. Minko, in the first round, spent UAH 224,000. Most of that (about UAH 65,800) was on advertising on community-owned TV). In addition, UAH 45,100 was spent on advertising in Glavnaya Gazeta, about UAH 13,800 on advertising in Melitopolskie Vedomosti, UAH 8,300 in the newspaper Nash Gorod, and about UAH 3,000 in Noviy Den. Moreover, Serhiy Anatoliyevich was the most actively advertised on the radio, which cost him UAH 9,300 – the most of any candidate or political force.

On participation in the second round of the elections, candidates only used their own money.

S. Minko’s account was increased by UAH 148,200. The biggest amount was spent on printing advertising products (about 60,000), airtime on community-owned TV (UAH 35,900) and about UAH 10,000 was sent to private entrepreneur Kamenevoy for advertising on TV. The newspapers ran his election campaign materials for UAH 31,000. He spent UAH 1,300 for advertising on the radio. For advertising on billboards, Serhiy Minko spent UAH… 972.

A. Ryabykov, on the second round of the election, spent more than UAH 234,000 on his election campaign. Most of that was spent on publications in the newspaper Noviy Den (UAH 88,000), advertising on billboards (UAH 49,000) and on the production of fliers (UAH 46,000).

In this way, Serhiy Minko, in the first two rounds of the election, spent about UAH 373,000 on advertising himself. Aleksandr Ryabykov spent more than UAH 400,000 on advertising himself.

On TV or in the newspaper?

It is very interesting to note how the volume of advertising was distributed by type.

S. Minko, for example, most of all advertised himself on community-owned TV. Remember that during the first round he was acting mayor, then it is clear viewers of TVM (as well as readers of all newspapers) saw this scandal very often. However, regardless of that, the election headquarters of the candidates ordered advertising basically in all media. Least of all on the TV channel MTV-Plus, which belongs to a family of members of the Opposition Bloc – the Balitskiy family (one payment for UAH 4,000 in the second round).

A. Ryabykov and the Opposition Bloc, in turn, did not order advertising on community TV nor on Glavnaya Gazeta Melitopolya, which changed its owner last year and now it is obviously very loyal to S. Minko.

Noviy Den and Melitopolskie Vedomosti published advertising for all candidates and political forces.

Instead of a conclusion

The elections have ended. Official reports showed that some spent extremely low amounts and some very significant ones. Some political forces spent more on TV airtime and others on billboards. We are not going to evaluate the effectiveness of either of the election strategies, but we can only say the difference in amounts spent on each is very big and the real expenses are surely many times higher than stated. For example, all headquarters and advertisers, according to the reports, worked solemnly for a thank you. However, that is a topic for another investigation.

This investigation was prepared with the support of SCOOP, an investigative reporting project in Eastern Europe, and the Danish Association for Investigative Journalists (FUJ) and international organization International Media Support (IMS) and with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Norwegian Kingdom.

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