Po­lit­i­cal par­ties splurge on ads for pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates

Kyiv Post - - National - BY BERMET TALANT [email protected]

The elec­tion cam­paign is in full swing in Ukraine — six weeks be­fore the of­fi­cial start, and the po­lit­i­cal par­ties’ lat­est fi­nan­cial re­ports for July to Septem­ber of­fer a glimpse into how much some po­ten­tial can­di­dates are al­ready spend­ing on the race to be pres­i­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures the par­ties filed with the Na­tional Agency for Cor­rup­tion Pre­ven­tion (NAZK) Batkivshchyna party leader Yu­lia Ty­moshenko spent over Hr 72 mil­lion ($2.6 mil­lion) on billboards and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties have to file quar­terly fi­nan­cial re­ports with NAZK in or­der to re­ceive state fund­ing.

Law­maker Oleg Lyashko spent the money his Rad­i­cal Party re­ceived from the state on ad­ver­tis­ing on two pro-Rus­sian TV chan­nels that the Rad­i­cal Party ear­lier voted to sanc­tion.

By law, can­di­dates have to es­tab­lish elec­tion cam­paign funds only after the of­fi­cial cam­paign is launched on Dec. 31 and they are reg­is­tered by the Cen­tral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. The amount of money spent on early cam­paign­ing does not have to be de­clared.

The govern­ment be­gan to fi­nance po­lit­i­cal par­ties in 2016 in or­der to help them be­come in­de­pen­dent of rich and pow­er­ful donors — mainly oli­garchs. Olek­siy Koshel, the head of the Com­mit­tee of Vot­ers of Ukraine, an elec­tion watch­dog, told the Kyiv Post that state sub­si­dies to po­lit­i­cal par­ties have brought pos­i­tive re­sults: they have le­gal­ized their op­er­a­tions and be­gun to de­velop re­gional net­works.

Ty­moshenko

The big­gest spender on pre-elec­tion pro­mo­tion is the Batkivshchyna Party leader, Yu­lia Ty­moshenko. The OPORA civil net­work, an elec­tion-mon­i­tor­ing NGO, has called her the leader in out­door ad­ver­tise­ment, along with Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko.

Ac­cord­ing to its lat­est fi­nan­cial re­port, the Batkivshchyna Party spent Hr 19.5 mil­lion ($700,000) on out­door ads and over Hr 53 mil­lion ($1.9 mil­lion) on TV com­mer­cials be­tween July and Septem­ber. Ty­moshenko be­gan ac­tively pro­mot­ing her New Course for Ukraine plat­form this sum­mer, so most of these funds were prob­a­bly spent on this.

More specif­i­cally, Ty­moshenko’s party paid some Hr 19 mil­lion ($682,000) to Global Me­dia Group, a TV ads place­ment com­pany with ob­scure off­shore own­er­ship. An­other Hr 30 mil­lion (over $1 mil­lion) for ad­ver­tis­ing ser­vices were paid to oli­garch Vik­tor Pinchuk’s StarLight Brand Con­tent, which sells ads on STB, ICTV, and Novy Chan­nel.

The money that Batkivshchyna

splurged on pro­mo­tion ap­pears to come from donors, since the party re­ceived only Hr 8 mil­lion ($287,488) from the state. The party re­ceived some Hr 71 mil­lion ($2.5 mil­lion) in con­tri­bu­tions from in­di­vid­u­als, and al­most Hr 5 mil­lion ($179,680) from le­gal en­ti­ties, ac­cord­ing to its fi­nanc­ing re­port.

A to­tal of 336 peo­ple do­nated to the party a very sim­i­lar amount of be­tween Hr 148,000 and Hr 149,000. Koshel from the Com­mit­tee of Vot­ers of Ukraine said that the same hap­pened dur­ing the 2014 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

“This is un­likely to be a co­in­ci­dence. In fact, donors may be try­ing to avoid an au­dit, as anti-money laun­der­ing laws re­quire spe­cial mon­i­tor­ing of any trans­fer of Hr 150,000 or more,” Koshel said.

Poroshenko

By law, the amount of fund­ing a po­lit­i­cal party gets from the govern­ment is pegged to the num­ber of votes it got. Hence, the Peo­ple’s Front and Petro Poroshenko’s Bloc Sol­i­dar­nist re­ceived Hr 33 mil­lion ($1.18 mil­lion) and Hr 32.5 mil­lion ($1.16 mil­lion) re­spec­tively.

Although Pres­i­dent Poroshenko ad­ver­tises as much as Ty­moshenko, the re­port quotes only Hr 3.5 mil­lion ($123,523) spent on “party pro­pa­ganda” with 70 per­cent of that sum on print ser­vices. No data on tele­vi­sion or out­doors ads was pro­vided.

Poroshenko’s party spent most on the ser­vices of dig­i­tal strat­egy agency Post­men, au­dit and tax­a­tion con­sult­ing firm El­it­con­sult­ing, and print­ing house Pres Art.

How­ever, the NAZK fi­nan­cial re­port form is im­per­fect and al­lows par­ties to hide some ex­pen­di­tures be­hind other cat­e­gories, Koshel from the Com­mit­tee of Vot­ers of Ukraine said.

The form also doesn’t re­quire spe­cific in­for­ma­tion on what kind of “party pro­pa­ganda” the money was spent on. An­other way to hide spend­ing is to trans­fer money to lo­cal party branches which, in turn, pay ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies, he said.

Lyashko

An­other po­ten­tial can­di­date for the pres­i­dency, the Rad­i­cal Party leader Oleg Lyashko, has been tour­ing the re­gions more than any­one else. But his party also paid for ads on the 112 and NewsOne tele­vi­sion chan­nels with money re­ceived from the state. That didn’t stop law­mak­ers from the Rad­i­cal Party from vot­ing in fa­vor of sanc­tions against those chan­nels after they were ac­cused of air­ing pro-Rus­sian con­tent.

Lyashko’s party spent al­most Hr 13 mil­lion ($460,000) in to­tal be­tween July and Septem­ber. Most of it was cov­ered by state fund­ing.

Hr 3 mil­lion ($114,883) were spent on tele­vi­sion ad­ver­tis­ing. The fi­nan­cial re­ports showed that the party paid to Hr 900,000 to 112 Ukraina and Hr 900,000 to Novyny 24 for plac­ing ads on NewsOne.

In Oc­to­ber, 16 law­mak­ers from the 21-mem­ber Rad­i­cal Party fac­tion, in­clud­ing Lyashko him­self, sup­ported the sanc­tions against 112 and NewsOne for hav­ing “signs of Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda.”

Samopomich

The Samopomich party also puts a lot of money into pro­mo­tion, as its leader, Lviv Mayor An­driy Sadovyi also has his eye on the Ukrainian pres­i­dency.

The party spent Hr 2.1 mil­lion ($77,100) on out­doors ads and a lit­tle over Hr 1 mil­lion ($37,400) on TV ads, pre­dom­i­nantly on re­gional chan­nels. The party also spent nearly Hr 7.5 mil­lion ($267,000) on print­ing ser­vices.

An ad by Arseniy Yat­senyuk, ex-prime min­is­ter and leader of the Peo­ple's Front party, is seen on Lva Tol­stoho Square in cen­tral Kyiv on Nov. 15. Two months be­fore the of­fi­cial start of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Ukrainian streets are swamped with po­lit­i­cal ads. (Oleg Pe­tra­siuk)

An el­derly woman votes at home on Nov.11, 2015, dur­ing lo­cal elec­tions in Kyiv. While the of­fi­cial cam­paign for the next March's pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Ukraine is yet to start, the lead­ing prospec­tive can­di­dates are al­ready spend­ing heav­ily on po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­tis­ing. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

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