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Monday 21 April  
Lauren Comiteau's picture
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Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Details revealed of foreign funding for Wilders’ Freedom Party

Published on : 11 September 2012 - 4:56pm | By Lauren Comiteau (photo: flickr)
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Populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been receiving financial support from American anti-Islam groups, a Reuters investigation revealed on Monday. While that information in itself is not new, the details provided in the Reuters report are, and they beg the question why the domestic Dutch media have seemingly ignored the fine print concerning Wilders’ finances.

“Campaign finance is a relatively new subject...it hasn’t been a big issue,” says Marc Chavannes, political columnist for NRC Handelsblad. “All of us could have looked deeper and deeper into the story but didn’t.”

Although he admits that’s a hard grasp for people steeped in the American political tradition—a country also in the midst of a national campaign—and says that some reporters have indeed looked into Wilders’ finances, as a whole, Chavannes says, the Dutch media didn’t pay much attention.

The Netherlands goes to the polls tomorrow and Wilders’ Freedom Party is currently in fourth place in the polls, trailing neck and neck front-runners: the Labour Party and the liberal VVD and the Socialist Party.

Most Dutch journalists and many voters are aware that Wilders has received funds from right-wing extremist sympathisers in the US who support his cause of countering Islamic influence in the West. But it’s the details of what they’re paying for and how they’re paying it that the Reuters report exposed.

The details

According to Reuters, the Philadelphia-based, pro-Israeli think tank Middle East Forum funded Wilders’ legal defense during his 2010-2011 hate speech trial, sending money directly to his lawyer Bram Moscowitz. Wilders was acquitted of those charges last year. 

Another American sympathiser, David Horowitz, who founded the conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center and edits FrontPage magazine, paid Wilders for speaking engagements and also paid some $1,500 for police protection and more for accommodation for Wilder’s Dutch bodyguards. Horowitz also said US funders helped Wilders raise money for his legal battle against a British ban on visiting the country in 2009. He won that case, too.

While the Middle East Forum won’t say how much it paid Moscowitz, and Moscowitz himself says that information is privileged under client confidentiality, Wilders says he receives donations from defenders of freedom of speech. “I do not answer questions of who they are and what they have paid,” he said in a statement. “This could jeopardize their safety.”

Grey area

It is not illegal for politicians to receive outside support in the Netherlands. But because Wilders’ does not accept accept government funding as other Dutch parties do, he does not have to disclose his finances. Legislation forcing all parties to reveal their sources of income is currently before the Dutch parliament.

The Freedom Party, which won 15 percent of the popular vote at the last elections in 2010 has never revealed any details of how it is funded. And despite the popular suspicion that he’s being funded from abroad, such rumours have until now never been substantiated by tax filings or confirmed by those making the payments.

“Politicians get some leeway to attract outside money,” says Chavannes. “It has to become more of an issue. It’s a grey area that the media don’t like to delve into.”

Show me the money

One issue the Dutch media are focusing on now is the 4,000,000 euro that former PVV members say was allocated to them but hasn’t been accounted for. Parliament members of all Dutch political parties get 165,000 euro each year for expenses.

In the US, meanwhile, where campaign financing is always in the spotlight, it is illegal for non-profit organisations like the Middle East Forum and the David Horowitz Freedom Center to directly fund political candidates and parties.

Both groups have denied doing that as far as Wilders is concerned. But by law, they are allowed to finance policy debates. Where that line is drawn may well become the subject of future discussion as journalists both here and across the pond take up the issue.

 

Discussion

SandraV 15 September 2012 - 2:40pm / Nederlands

I have have learned to not trust any politicians lately. All they do is lie lie lie! Left, right, center, who gives a crap where they get their funding at this point because they are all the same in the end. Crooks!

Bashy Quraishy 13 September 2012 - 2:33am / Denmark

Unfortunately, this is not Breaking News for people like us who have worked with the issue of racism, discrimination, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe. The tragedy is that when we tried to point out this fact to public, the media would not accept our input and even progressive forces would hesitate because of the sensitivity around the identity of people supporting Wilders and many other racist politicians, namely some of the businessmen with Jewish background.
It is also strange that some misguided Jewish intellectuals have made alliances with far right lobby in the west against Islam and Muslims because they consider the issue of Israel as more important then fighting fascists and even anti-Semitics in the West.
I just hope that the majority of decent Jewish people would take a distance to such bigots and xenophobes, who are giving a bad name to the people with Jewish roots. This disclosure that some Jewish groups are supporting Islamophobic and racist politicians will no doubt give extra ammunition to those few dark forces among my own Muslim communities who very wrongly blame Jews for all the ills in the world.

user avatar
knirb 15 September 2012 - 8:50pm

" those few dark forces among my own Muslim communities who very wrongly blame Jews for all the ills in the world."
Goodness me! Have you been living in Denialsville? Anti-Semetic propaganda and general bigotry are shamelessly overt and rampant in Islam.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQeKevfC94o

sofaman 12 September 2012 - 2:25pm / United States

Ms. Comiteau does an amazing job of ignoring the fact that The Netherlands' government receives hundreds of millons of euros (from outside governments) in order to fund mass immigration. It's the usual lazy-minded charges of racism, but the people have voted Mr. Wilders in, as a means of counter balancing a policy forced on them by outside governments. Sure, let's have all politicians refuse outside contributions, but let's start by having The Dutch people decide their own fate as well.

Kant 11 September 2012 - 8:04pm

Left, right, top or bottom attack, any politicians who is on the payroll of foreign institutions is not having the best interests of this country at heart.

Paul Williams 11 September 2012 - 6:28pm / Netherlands

Why do you call Wilders a "Populist Dutch politician", the guy and his followers are Fascist and Racists. Which by the way is endemic in Dutch culture.

Michael Hckett 11 September 2012 - 5:23pm / Netherlands

Why does it matter where he gets his funding from?

Another left-wing attack.

Anonymous 13 September 2012 - 12:28am

No Mr. Michael Hckett, it has nothing to do with the left-wing. It has to do with a Dutch politician who has been serving the agenda of the powerful Israeli lobby, and Israeli national security, not the national security of his own homeland. It has to do with a Dutch politician who has been spreading the poison of hatred, fanning the fire of racism and painting an ugly face for beautiful Holland. And Yes, it does matter who fund him? How about if it is revealed that anti-Jewish or anti-Christian Dutch politician is receiving funding from Saudi Arabia?

Anonymous 14 September 2012 - 6:33pm

No, he has been telling the world of the hatred which has been spread by a religion of hate. "Holland" has shown it's ugly face to the victims of this hateful religion. "Holland" needs more people like Wilders.

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