Donations to Independence Party Surpass Legal Limit

Bjarni Benediktsson, Independence Party chairman.

The Independence Party received donations well over the legal limit from a single entity in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Kjarninn reports that most of the excess contributions come from businesses in the ownership of a single family, which also owns the largest share of the publisher of Morgunblaðið newspaper.

The Icelandic National Audit Office has requested the Independence Party refund the contributions of ISK 1.4 million ($11,500/€10,100), the majority of which were received from companies in the ownership of the so-called Ísfélag family, or companies in the ownership of Guðbjörg Matthíasdóttir and her relations. Companies in the family’s ownership made contributions to the Independence Party that went ISK 500,000 ($4,100/€3,600) over the legal limit in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The party has reimbursed the related companies for their excess contributions in 2017, but has yet to return excess contributions from prior years.

Maximum contributions raised

Between 2013-2017, Icelandic law stipulated that a single legal entity could not exceed contributions of ISK 400,000 ($3,300/€2,900) per year to any political party. The regulation also states that distinct legal entities under shared ownership are considered as one “if the same party or the same parties own a majority of the share capital, initial capital, or voting rights in both or all legal entities.” The limit was increased to ISK 550,000 just a few days ago, but the regulation pertaining to related legal entities remains. Whether the new or the old limit is considered, the contributions from the Ísfélag family to the Independence Party between 2013-2017 exceeded what law permits.

Contributers own Morgunblaðið publisher

Companies connected to the Ísfélag family have just under a 30% share in Árvakur, the publisher of Morgunblaðið newspaper. The family got involved in the paper when it bought Árvakur alongside a group of parties, mostly related to the fishing industry. A few months later, the new owners appointed Davíð Oddsson, former chairman of the Independence Party, as the paper’s editor, a job he still holds today. Since Árvakur changed ownership in 2009, its shareholders have invested over ISK 1.4 billion ($11.5m/€10.1m) in the publisher, which has lost around ISK 1.8 billion ($14.8m/€13m) during the period.

District Court Denies Klaustur MPs’ Request

Bára Halldórsdóttir.

The District Court of Reykjavík has denied four MPs’ request to question witnesses as evidence in the case of the infamous Klaustur recording, RÚV reports. The Centre Party MPs requested permission to carry out questioning of individuals connected to the bar where the recording was made as evidence for a potential lawsuit against Bára Halldórsdóttir, who made the recording in secret and submitted it to media.

The MPs’ barroom conversation rife with sexist, ableist, and homophobic remarks toward colleagues has been the talk of local and international media since it was first reported on by Stundin. A recent poll showed a majority of Icelanders want the six MPs who were present to resign.

The MPs now have several options moving forward. They could appeal the District Court’s ruling to the Land’s Court, or file a private lawsuit against Bára. They also have the option of pressing charges for the publication of the recording via police. The group has already filed a formal complaint to the Data Protection Authority in the case, asserting that the recording constituted a violation of privacy.