Politicians ordered to pay for banned election ads

Karin Tammemäe kepikõnnikampaania reklaam.

PHOTO: Mihkel Maripuu

Committee for monitoring political parties’ financing has prescribed that mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar, deputy mayor Arvo Sarapuu, Northern Tallinn district elder Karin Tammemäe and her deputy Priit Kutser, Jaanus Mutli employed at Tallinn business department (all politicians hereunto mentioned belonging to Centre Party) and former Tartu mayor and now health/labour minister Urmas Kruuse (Reform Party) return costs of election ads – originally labelled as information campaign – related to local elections in 2013.

According to monitoring committee chairman Ardo Ojasalu (SDE, soc dems); the committee is also contemplating having recourse to Prosecutor’s Office due to serial cases. «Regarding having recourse to Prosecutor’s Office or not, we have a written vote underway. Once this is over, we will see what will be the stand of the committee,» said Mr Ojasalu, adding that the decision will be passed during today.

Pursuant to precepts issued to the politicians, the Centre Party cadre participating in elections are to return costs of ads, ordered for taxpayer money, to the city; Mr Kruuse will have to make payment to ASBL TriSmile which had the poster printed. The money must be returned within 30 days, the precept may also be contested.

The committee judged that the controversial ads were related to local election campaigns by the politicians. Payments for ads are considered donations by legal persons, which are prohibited. Pursuant to Political Parties Act, a prohibited donation needs to be returned to the donator.

In its decision, the committee was supported by expert assessment by scientists of Tartu University ordered by the committee in January so as to assess the actual perceived meaning of the ads and information presented by candidates. Also, the committee familiarised themselves with assessments by advertisement experts as collected by special anti-corruption committee.

Before this year is over, National Audit Office ought to have completed an audit delving into legality of ad and information costs by local governments.