It is the highest penalty ever imposed on a party and will be the highest ever to be paid by one. For surpassing the upper limit in the 2017 election campaign, the ÖVP will now have to pay €800,000, following a decision by the Unabhängiger Parteien-Transparenz-Senat (Independent Party Transparency Council). This is the second massive overrun in campaign spending since 2013, when the ÖVP paid back €300,000.
Beside the €800,000, the party has to pay another €10,000 because they accepted donations from the publically-owned Tyrolean Mountain, according to a report by ORF’s Zeit im Bild. And another €70,000 because the state of Upper Austria leased a lakeside property at Mondsee too cheaply to the ÖVP Youth Organization.
The ÖVP Spent Almost Double of What Was Permitted
Austrian campaign spending law stipulates that the parties may incur a maximum of € 7 million in expenditures each in the 82 days leading up to the election. The ÖVP under party leader and top candidate Sebastian Kurz spent €12.96 million in 2017 — almost €6 million more than allowed.
During the election campaign, the ÖVP repeatedly emphasized that the upper limit of seven million euros should be adhered to.
Mathias Huter of the Forum Informationsfreiheit (Forum for Freedom of Information) thinks that the punishment comes a bit late. “It would be desirable that voters can get a picture of the parties’ financial situation in a timely manner,” he told the news program ZIB2 January 15, “and that such violations become clear to people before they make their decision in the voting booth.” Slovakia, for example, obliges its parties to keep ‘transparent accounts’ where citizens can get a real-time picture of the parties’ financial situation. As a result, it is clear in real time what money is flowing where.
After the decision on the fine was made public, the ÖVP released the following statement:
“We apologized for the cost overrun over a year ago and will of course pay the fine. As a consequence, we have set up an internal controlling system for the 2019 election campaign to ensure that such cost overruns do not occur again. The final statement for the 2019 campaign is not yet available, but it is already clear that the cost ceiling has been met.“
(Foto: UNIS Vienna)