Billionaire opposition politician, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has so far allocated GEL 16.7 million (about USD 10 million) for his public movement,Georgia Dream, launched last month.
The financial declaration of the movement was made publicly available by the movement through its website on January 10. The movement’s financial declaration was also posted on the website of the Chamber of Control, the state audit agency, which under the new party funding regulations, adopted in December, has gained broad authority to oversee political finances.
Last week the audit agency requested Ivanishvili’s movement to submit financial declaration within three days. The agency said that although the Georgian Dream was not a political party, it had its “declared political goals and purposes” thus falling under the new party funding regulations. Political parties have to submit their financial declaration before February 1.
In a letter sent to the state audit agency on January 9, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is the chairman of public movement Georgian Dream, says that he disagrees with the interpretation made by the Chamber of Control that the movement has “declared political goals and purposes.”
Ivanishvili, who has been stripped of his Georgian citizenship and now holds the French passport, has no right to personally establish a political party or to fund it. He, however, had the right to establish a non-entrepreneurial (non-commercial) legal entity in a form of public movement, which he did in December; the Georgian Dream is seen as a grassroots movement to serve as a platform for his political activities before establishing the party.
Ivanishvili says in his letter to the state audit agency, that the newly emended law, which tightened party funding rules, is “vague” and does not specify or explain what does “political goals and purposes” mean or who was a relevant authority to define a legal entity as having “political goals and purposes.”
Ivanishvili also writes that “no matter how illegal and unconstitutional provisions of the law” on political unions might be and although the state audit agency’s request was “illegal and willful”, the Georgian Dream was providing requested information in order not to give grounds for speculation that the movement is engaged in any illegal activity. The movement, however, submitted to the state audit agency part of its financial declaration, which covers a period between December 30 and January 9 and includes only couple of small payments.
The bulk of its financial declaration covering the month of December, the Georgian Dream posted on its website. Ivanishvili says in his letter to the state audit agency, that requesting financial declaration covering a period before the new regulations went into force in late December, amounted to giving the legislative amendments a retroactive affect, which was illegal. But again in order not to give ground for speculation, Ivanishvili wrote, the movement was posting its financial declaration for the month of December on its website so that to make it available for any stakeholder, including the state audit agency.
Head of the political parties’ financial monitoring service at the state audit agency, Natia Mogeladze, said on January 10 that “for some reasons” the Georgian Dream refused to submit its full financial declaration and the agency had to obtain the document from “alternative sources”, which was then posted on the Chamber of Control’s website.
The financial declaration provides a detailed list of expenses, how the movement spent its funds in December. Some portion of the funds, according to the papers, went for buying airtime for advertisement and live coverage of the movement’s inaugural session on Tbilisi-based television stations Maestro and Kavkasia.
According to the papers, the movement paid to Kavkasia TV up to GEL 177,900. According to Kavkasia TV portion of this amount was part of the three-month advertisement contract with the Georgian Dream. Maestro TV, according to financial papers, was paid with GEL 195,600.
According to these papers, the Georgian Dream paid GEL 10,000 to the Gori-based TV station, Trialeti, for allocating airtime to the broadcasting of the movement’s inaugural session on December 11. The Georgian Dream also had advertising contracts with Tbilisi-based Palitra radio station (worth GEL 31,400) and Lagodekhi-based radio station Hereti (worth GEL 83,261). The movement also has an ad contract worth of GEL 54,150 with publisher of the Chokhatauri-based Guria News newspaper. The movement had much smaller ad contract with Tbilisi-based Rezonansi newspaper (worth GEL 2,400) and it paid GEL 297 to another Tbilisi-based newspaper 24 Saati for publishing a statement as an advertisement.