Where do the funds come from?


Elections in Israel will take place in January and the campaign season is already in works.  A recent report from Israel’s state comptroller’s office found that in the past two years campaign funding has prominently come from outside of Israel. A political analyst for the The Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman, sits in on a weekly cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Natanyahu and observes the campaign planning in action. Referring to the fundraisers for the campaign, Hoffman states,

“They look for any loophole they can. And if they can get away with doing most of their fundraising abroad or doing it before the election period begins … whatever they can get away with.”

Funding for campaigns is a huge topic currently in the United States and in Israel. The graph below compares the funds raised by each US Presidential candidate campaign.  The article, “The 2012 Money Race: Compare the Candidates” from the New York Times, goes on to give a breakdown of where the money comes from. Each party has raised significant amounts of money through the candidates, the party committees, and Super PAC’s (Political Action Committee), which are an independent committee unaffiliated with the candidate or political party, but raises funds in support of the chosen candidate. If the US presidential campaigns are receiving funding from outside the US it is not a substantial amount. 

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In contrast, a trend is growing amongst campaign fundraisers in Israel. More than 90% of the sitting Prime Minister Netanyahu funds come from foreign contributors, most prominently the United States. A lawmaker from the Independence Party of Israel relates diaspora Jews responsible for the majority of donations. This lawmaker, Einat Wilf, noted on the subject,

“Should you allow some money to come from individuals abroad? It’s not ideal. I would say that the vast majority comes from Jews abroad, and that reflects … call it a sense of solidarity, a sense of involvement in the Jewish community in what happens in Israeli elections.”

One candidate, Shelly Yachimovich, of the liberal Labor Party, has gone against the trends and funded her entire budget inside Israel to advertise her domestic credentials. Einat Wilf expands on the subject of it being a choice of the candidate, but it is easy to understand why many accept these out of country donations.  For Americans, to support a campaign generally means donating money. Jews living in the United States respond the same to politics in Israel.  It’s not just the United States; Jews all over the world are responding to the campaigns and backing with their funded support. Obviously because of Israel’s Jewish State, this aspect of campaigning differs from US elections, where religion is a topic but not the majority of income for fundraisers.

A similar religious focus with fundraising is brought up in the US presidential campaign. The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, is a Mormon and this has played a significant yet reserved role in his campaign. Mormon’s have power with their money and have in the past lead changes to US law and amendments. For example, with the Mormon support and massive fundraising efforts from within their community they played a dominating role in overturning gay marriage rights, which is in opposition to their religious beliefs, in the state of California when they pushed for Proposition 8 to be passed. Now, Mitt Romney does not advertise that he was once a Mormon Bishop and he will not release the amount of money he donates to the institution. The fundraising Mormons are donating towards Mitt Romney’s campaign is currently unknown to the public.

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(Photo credit: AP Huffington Post)

Israel is a Jewish state and therefore the immense amount of fundraising provided by disapora Jews is not very surprising.  However, in the US it is a different scenario due to our separation of church and state. Is it surprising that religious affiliations are fundraising for political campaigns in the US? Do you agree with this type of fundraising for the US and Israel? How much influence do you think religion has or should have on American politics? Finally, what are your views on candidates for Israel’s election gaining the great majority of their funds from the US?

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4 thoughts on “Where do the funds come from?

  1. This is such a great topic to discuss during this time of the year when we are bombarded with the constant commercials, the ever-frequent campaign posters and the debates that take over our televisions. I frequently become frustrated when the numbers come out that reveal the expenditures of these campaigns. It is understood that money has to be involved to get a candidate recognized and elected into office, but I completely disagree with the amounts our political parties see as acceptable. Even though I do not agree with the amount, I have never considered exactly where this money comes from. I found it to be extremely interesting that such a majority of funding for Israel’s candidates comes from abroad. I find this contradictory that the support these people are getting to run their own country are coming from outsiders. Religious views do play a much bigger role for Israel than the United States is accustomed to. Rather than the citizens of the country deciding which candidate can represent them best, I think it is more in the terms of which religious sector will win the office. When you term it in that perspective, it is evident that the religious affiliates from all over the world can have a hand in selecting the next officials in a particular country like Israel. Even though this clarifies the reasoning behind this funding for me, I still don’t agree with it. I believe that the religious sectors within that country should be the ones supporting the candidate of their choice. Support can be shown from foreigners but not be the majority. Those people are not directly affected by the outcome of the election like the true citizens of the country will be, therefore shouldn’t have such a say.

  2. Natalie, this a a very interesting issue that pertains to many across the world, specifically the U.S and Israel in this case. What people need to realize is how much money influences government and their policy decisions. Corporations hire lobbyists who contribute to politicians campaigns in order for them to set policy benefitting certain companies. It is also interesting to note “who” in fact contributes to certain parties because of their known ideologies in regards to social, environmental and economic issues. It is a crazy and often revolving cycle that most the public is unfamiliar with. Whether you want to understand the reasons behind this huge income gap and how policy makers are maybe not looking out for what’s best for their people, just understand the power of money on society.

    To answer your questions. I don’t believe that religious organizations should fund our candidates because we are not a theocracy. Obviously if Mitt Romney wins the election, his innate Mormon values and believes will influence his social policy whether he tells the American public or not. So this is why many of his donations come from the Mormon church whom Mitt has supported in the past. http://www.politicususa.com/tax-exempt-mormon-romney.html. Wealthy individuals in America want to have their hand in the Middle Eastern situation for monetary purposes I’m assuming because they donate so much to their campaigns. It is for our government to decide how to assist in the Middle Eastern scenario, not rich well connected people who simply want more money. The only hope for Israelis is to be educated about their candidates and needs as a country.

  3. I think this post came along at the perfect time. It always amazes me the amount of money that is spent on the campaigns leading up to election day. Even though the money comes from donors to the political party, I think it is obscene the amount of money that is spend. Today most everything costs money and that is also true with the elections. I realize that money has to be involved to make ads and mail letters and put on speeches, but I feel like the large amount of money each candidate uses could be better used helping people in need.
    I found it very interesting that Israeli candidates do not get most of their money from within the state of Israel. Religion plays a large role in the money that Israel gets.The Jewish people donate money to the candidate they feel will better the State of Israel.
    I do not think that religion should play a role in the American election. When religious parties donate money it will inevitably sway some votes, whether for or against the candidate. The US has become a country for all religions to live and therefore I do not think that religion should have a great role. Obviously a candidates beliefs will be shaped by their religion but should not be the deciding factor. I feel that people need to focus on how each candidate will effect their country and let that decide who they will vote for.

  4. It’s crazy that almost all of Israel’s political funding comes from abroad and the opposite is true for the US. It appears that the Israeli elections have a big impact on people throughout the world. I have always heard that Jewish people have very strong ties with each other, so it is not surprising to see that Jews in America are supporting Israel. I think this also has a lot to do with Israel being a country based upon religion. I do not agree that funding should come from other countries. This is partly because the people with much money who are donating to these political parties may not know fully what is going on in that country and may not be supporting someone who would be in most citizens best interests.

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