Pressure mounts on Macron as campaign spending draws scrutiny
French opposition parties called Thursday for a review of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign spending after reports showed he obtained huge discounts from venues and service providers during last year’s presidential race.
Macron’s critics have seized on the revelations given his emphasis on public integrity and accountability during his campaign.
The latest came Thursday after France Info radio reported that Macron’s campaign got 75 percent reductions on rentals at two theatres for campaign rallies.
Both theatres are owned by Jean-Marc Dumontet, whom the report described as being close to Macron and his wife Brigitte.
For another event, the campaign rented another Paris venue, La Bellevilloise, for an evening rally at a cost of 1,200 euros ($1,400).
But France Info reported that the arts centre charged Socialist rival Benoit Hamon 4,838 euros for a comparable event.
Such rebates usually draw the attention of France’s campaign finance watchdog, the CNCCFP, since excessive discounts can be considered illicit campaign financing from corporate donors.
“Emmanuel Macron’s campaign accounts have been approved by the relevant authorities,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
‘Unusually big’ discounts
French daily Le Monde and investigative website Mediapart reported last month that CNCCFP auditors had noted “exceptional discounts, at times ‘unusually big’,” given to Macron’s campaign by event management firm GL Events.
For Macron’s first major rally in December 2016, Mediapart reported that GL Events shaved 10,000 euros off an equipment rental bill, charging just under 29,000 euros.
The CNCCFP ruled in May that the discounts were “acceptable” and did not constitute illicit financing.
“The auditors did not identify any irregularities and the commission approved their findings,” CNCCFP president Francois Logerot said at a press conference Thursday.
“Nobody is perfect, but our auditors carried out serious work,” he said.
Opposition groups have said they will lodge an official complaint seeking a new review of Macron’s campaign spending.
The commission “has not been able to fully and satisfactorily carry out its examination of Macron’s campaign accounts,” said Laurent Wauquiez, head of the rightwing Republicans party.
The claims of financial favouritism come as Macron’s chief of staff Alexis Kohler is facing a conflict-of-interest inquiry over his links to the Swiss-Italian shipping giant MSC.
As a senior civil servant before Macron’s election, Kohler worked closely on matters involving the shipyard STX France, of which MSC is a major client.
MSC was founded by billionaire cousins of Kohler’s mother, and Kohler himself joined MSC as finance director in 2016 while continuing to work as an advisor on Macron’s campaign.
Macron’s office has dismissed the allegations of wrongdoing against Kohler.
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