Centre Party MP’s comments spark campaign finance row
MP Timo Kalli (Centre) told the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) on Wednesday that he would repay campaign contributions from three different donors. Kalli has benefited from large contributions from at least two companies, the wood processing company the Ruukki Group and the private investment company Ajanta, as well as from Kehittyvien maakuntien Suomi; the name of the organisation suggests that it is dedicated to advancing the economic prospects of developing areas in Finland.
YLE reported that Kalli got EUR 20,000 from the Ruukki Group, and EUR 10,000 from each of the other two major donors.
Kalli caused an uproar last week when he admitted on television that he had violated the legislation on disclosure of political campaign finances. He said that a Member of Parliament is not under obligation to obey a law whose violation does not carry any penalties.
Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Greens) told Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday that a committee on amending the law on campaign finances will be set up within two weeks. She hopes that new legislation might be ready in time for the election campaign for the European Parliament next year.
Brax also noted that Kalli was not the only MP whose disclosure of campaign contributions violated the law by concealing sources of substantial donations.
Brax wants changes to the law that would require more than the present level of disclosure - the naming of all contributors who give more than EUR 1,700.
Justice Minister Brax feels that Members of Parliament should be required to disclose in greater detail who has donated campaign money, and how much.
Preparations for reform of political campaign contributions are largely based on recommendations by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). GRECO issued a report last year criticising Finland’s rules for campaign finances. The focus of the criticism was on MPs’ vague disclosures of campaign finance.
The Ruukki Group is a listed company that has tried to set up a pulp mill in Russia. Its main owners include investor Kai Mäkelä.
The chairman of Kehittyvien maakuntien Suomi, Vaasa lawyer Pekka Lind, would not say on Wednesday what the purpose of the company was, nor would he disclose the financiers or members of the association.
“Its purpose is to promote national well-being in different ways.”
Ajanta is a company owned by investor Ari Salmivuori. The company organised the deals that made Icelandic investor Thor Björgólfsson the largest single owner of the telecommunications company Elisa.
In the most recent development in this fast-moving story, it was claimed on Thursday that Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre Party) and the Speaker of Parliament Sauli Niinistö (National Coalition Party) had each received a EUR 10,000 campaign contribution from Kehittyvien maakuntien Suomi, just as Kalli had done.
Environment Minister Paula Lehtomäki (Centre Party) has also received substantial donations from the same three sources as Kalli. All were over EUR 1,700, but Lehtomäki apparently did not disclose the names or sums.
Transport & Communications Minister Suvi Lindén (National Coalition Party) is reportedly yet another recipient of campaign funding money from the association.
This story seems likely to develop over the next 24 hours and we will return to it tomorrow.