The Estonian Political Parties Funding Supervisory Committee (ERJK) has sent inquiries to six political parties with the aim of ascertaining whether they received data or services from the Liberal Citizen Foundation (SALK), which may be classified as prohibited donations.
The ERJK has sent inquiries to the Reform Party, Eesti 200 and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), which make up the current government coalition, as well as the opposition Center part and Isamaa, along with non-parliamentary party Parempoolsed.
In its inquiries, the ERJK asks three questions.
First, did the party order or receive any services from SALK within the framework of the 2023 Riigikogu election campaign and how much did it pay for them?
Second, if the political party has paid SALK for its services, it is requested to submit documents to provide proof of those payments.
Third, if the political party has not paid SALK for the services received in relation to the Riigikogu elections, does it plan to do so and to what extent?
An article published in Estonian newspaper Eesti Ekspress on June 6, discussed SALK's activities prior to this year's Riigikogu elections. In particular, its apparent support for political parties with liberal worldviews, in the form of research, consulting and video advertising.
The data from some studies was publicly available. Other data however was shared specifically with particular political parties and/or party members, including the Center Party, Isamaa and Parempoolsed, said head of ERJK Liisa Oviir, in a document sent to the political parties.
According to the ERJK, if parties have received survey data and advice based on it from SALK, this is a service, which they are required to pay for. If not, it would be considered a benefit received free of charge, that is, a donation made to the party by a legal entity.
The ERJK's letter to Isamaa, which is similar in content to those sent to the other parties, states that the Eesti Ekspress article revealed some current Parempoolsed members, who were previously with Isamaa, had been able to access SALK data related to Isamaa supporters.
The letter sent to the Center Party states that SALK has given the party advice on how to proceed with the issue of Estonian-language education.
The document, which is signed by Oviir, explains that, under the Estonian Political Parties Act, a 'donation' means a financially assessable benefit, including a service, but not voluntary work, voluntarily given by a natural person who is a citizen of the Republic of Estonia or has the permanent right of residence or the status of a long-term resident in Estonia out of their assets to a political party or a member thereof for the purpose of supporting the activities of the political party.
The same law also states that donations by legal entities are prohibited.
The responsibility for identifying a donation rests with the political party that received it. This means identifying the legality of the donation, assessing its value and declaring it in a corresponding report. In the case of a prohibited donation, the party is responsible for returning it to the donor or, if this is not possible, instead transferring the donation to the state budget.
Editor: Michael Cole