Party financing: Labour, PN fail to declare single donor in MEP election year

Parties have clearly found a way around party financing laws: they are simply not declaring any donation above €7,000 whose source has to be published

Not one single donation during the 2019 election year for MEPs exceeded the transparency limit of €7,000 that would have revealed a donor, according to the 2019 donation reports filed by the Labour and Nationalist parties.

By law parties are only obliged to publish the source of donations above this threshold, and the 2019 report – published only now by Malta’s Electoral Commission, three years later – contrasts with the reports that preceded it.

Donation reports for 2020 and 2021 are yet to be published by the Electoral Commission, a commission that includes representatives nominated by both Labour and the PN and which is supposed to act as a regulator on party financing.

In total Labour received €1.12 million in donations in 2019, and the PN €1.6 million, compared to the paltry €2,877 declared by Green Party Alternattiva Demokratika, which was just over the defunct far-right Moviment Patriotti Maltin; while the far-right Imperium Europa received just €849.

Both major parties declared a considerable amount of money from individuals and companies whose donations exceeded €500 but stayed below €7,000, meaning the source will only be known to the Commission but not to the public.

The PN tapped more than double the amount received by Labour from such donations.

Labour declared €326,510 from 138 different donations of over €500, an average of €2,366 each. The PN received 333 such donations, totalling €775,298 – an average of €2,328.

Labour then recevied €671,001 in donations between €50 and €500; the PN, €183,297.

But the PN got €637,625 in donations of less than €50, compared to Labour’s €111,172.

Very few ‘donors’ identified in past reports 

In 2018 the PN had raised €1.57 million, while the Labour Party collected €1.37 million. While the PL received €25,000 from Sensiela Kotba Socjalisti, the PL’s publishing house, and €10,000 from the Ħamrun Labour Party Club, the PN managed to get a €10,100 donation from Sam Abela, the son of former PN MP and one-time minister Tony Abela. 

In 2017, which coincided with a general election, the Nationalist Party received over €3.36 million, significantly more than the Labour Party, which received just over €1.98 million. 

The Labour Party received two donations over the €7000 threshold: €15,000 from Marlene Gauci and one of €10,000 from Tarcisio Galea Properties, a corporate entity. The Nationalist Party received €10,320 donation from Sam Abela.

Corporate donations were more prominent in reports issued in 2016 when the Labour Party had collected €93,000 in donations of over €7,000. These donors comprised Attard Bros and Eurocraft (€10,000 each), €20,000 from Sea View & Sons, €10,000 from Camland, GAP Holdings, Hal Mann, and BV Formosa, and €13,000 from the Marsaxlokk Labour Party club. The PN received a single donation of €18,000 came from former Nationalist MP Anthony Abela. 

The party financing law, proposed and enacted by the post 2013 Labour government, stipulates that no party is allowed to receive donations by the same person or entity exceeding €25,000 in any given financial year. 

Donations of up to €50 may be made anonymously while those of up to €500 can be kept confidential by the party, however the Commission may request information if it suspects wrongdoing.

Donations between €500 and €7,000 cannot be received in a confidential manner and must show the donor’s name if requested. Donations exceeding €7,000 must be registered with the Electoral Commission and must also be published online.

Individual candidates are also subject to restrictions on campaign. They may only spend up to €20,000 in donations from one district, or €40,000 from two, during general election campaigns. Spending on local council campaigns are capped at €5,000, while spending for MEP candidates are capped at €50,000. 

But crucially these limits only apply from the moment an election date is announced which means that no law covers campaign spending during previous months of electioneering. 

A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission told MaltaToday that the Electoral Commission had granted various extensions of the deadline for the submission of party financing reports due to the pandemic, as political parties could not convene their annual conferences/meetings which were to approve the reports in question.

Moreover, reports presented by several political parties included various deficiencies, which required further details or amendments. The verification was carried out by the Commission’s appointed auditors and any discrepancies were highlighted to the relevant party. Feedback received from the respective political parties was referred to the auditors for their further review.