Since the notice could not be served to the offender at their address at Glinškova ploščad 9, the Court of Audit informed the 8th of March Institute (Inštitut 8. marec) of the offence of financing a referendum campaign from unauthorised sources by publishing a public notice on its website about a week ago. The parcel that was sent to the Institute’s address was returned to the sender, with the mark “moved – new address unknown,” the Court of Audit pointed out. The case is being pursued because the 8th of March Institute, which is run by Nika Kovač, did not transfer the money it obtained for the campaign from unauthorised sources (from legal entities and from abroad) to charity within 30 days. The law provides for a fine of between €6,000 and €20,000 for such an offence. The law also imposes an additional fine of between €1,500 and €4,000 on the person responsible. The person responsible was Nika Kovač, who recently became the head of the Strategic Council for the Prevention of Hate Speech under Prime Minister Robert Golob.
On Friday morning, I asked the 8th of March Institute for a response and more detailed explanations about the alleged violation of the law and their not picking up the mail, but so far, they have not responded to my request. They have, however, published my question on the Internet and have posted a commentary on what has happened. Like so:
“Today, we received a question to our e-mail from Peter Jančič, from which we learned that there was a public message on the Court of Audit’s website about the failure to deliver the Court of Audit’s mail to us, stating that we had supposedly “moved” and that our new address was unknown.”
For politicians or their organisations to not respond to journalists but instead post the journalist’s question on a social network and comment on it is an interesting approach that actually constitutes an abuse of communication. It is not a good idea to ask them anything because they immediately inform everyone else about the content, but they do not answer.
It is good, however, that they read my question, and so found out about the public announcement. It was published just over a week ago. They say they did not know about it before.
The 8th of March Institute is linked to the ruling parties, was founded by the Minister of a Solidarity Based Future, Simon Maljevac (the Left party – Levica), and has been crunching out propaganda for the current ruling parties for the last few years.
The Court of Audit explained to me that they are not allowed to disclose the details of the procedure to the public. When asked which campaign the accusation referred to, Boštjan Novak, adviser to the President of the Court of Audit, replied only: “The Court of Audit, as the offence authority, is establishing the facts and collecting the evidence necessary to decide on an infraction.”
According to the Agency of the Republic of Slovenia for Public Legal Records and Related Services, the private institution set up by Minister Maljevac has participated in two referendum campaigns in recent years. They took part in the campaign before the 2021 Water Law referendum, when they declared expenses of €2,963, which they claim were paid in their entirety from their regular account, which also received money from abroad. In 2021, the Guerrilla Foundation from Berlin paid them €30,000, which they explained was also due to the fact that they had successfully managed the signature collection process for the referendum, in which they ultimately achieved victory.
However, the law prohibits legal persons from financing referendum campaigns. Any financing from abroad is also prohibited. The 8th of March Institute also took part in the campaign on the RTV law last year, when they spent €42,065 to promote the replacement of the entire leadership of RTV Slovenia, which their government is trying to achieve, in order to appoint a loyal management team. The report claims that most of the money, €37,165, was raised through voluntary contributions, while €3,340 was transferred to charity because the money was from unauthorised sources.
Receptions to thank the donors for their help before the elections
After the last elections, Nika Kovač was invited to the National Assembly for a reception by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Urška Klakočar Zupančič (Freedom Movement), and the Prime Minister, Robert Golob (Freedom Movement), who are also the Vice-President and President of the Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda), respectively. Kovač’s political activism and the help of the 8th of March Institute in the run-up to the parliamentary elections last year helped the Freedom Movement party take power from Janez Janša‘s Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS). Kovač did not officially register her campaign for the parliamentary elections.
In the past, the Court of Audit found a similar violation, where the campaign organiser did not transfer money from unauthorised sources to charity, in the case of the campaign financing of Marjan Šarec, whose campaign was financed in an illegal manner by Martin Odlazek‘s media outlets with large discounts. Branko Kralj, the former Secretary-General of the List of Marjan Šarec, was unwilling to donate €6,968 to charity, most of which he received in the form of a huge discount from the company Svet24. This forced him to write a special response report.
I asked the 8th of March Institute for a response before publishing the article. Here is what I wrote:
Dear Sir or Madam,
The Court of Auditors has publicly announced that you are alleged to have committed an offence by failing to transfer the money you obtained from unauthorised sources for the referendum campaign to charity. They made the offence public because they were unable to serve you with the notice. The parcel was returned to them marked “moved – new address unknown”.
I would like to know whether your Institute has actually moved, why you did not collect the Court’s mail, and how you will respond to the offence notice.
Spletni časopis (Online newspaper)
I have not received a reply so far. However, they have posted my question on the web and commented on it there. This is what they wrote on Twitter:
“Today, we received a question to our e-mail from Peter Jančič, from which we learned that there was a public message on the Court of Audit’s website about the failure to deliver the Court of Audit’s mail to us, stating that we had supposedly “moved” and that our new address was unknown. To avoid any confusion, we are responding publicly. We regularly collect our mail. We never had any trouble with that in the past. This is where we differ from certain politicians. At our address, our mailbox is clearly marked, however, we never received a notice of a parcel. Most of all, it is unclear to us how the postman came to the conclusion that we have moved or changed our address.
The article setting out the fine that could be imposed on the 8th of March Institute and Nika Kovač reads as follows:
“(1) A fine of between EUR 6,000 and EUR 20,000 shall be imposed on the organiser of the election campaign – a legal person, a sole proprietor and a self-employed individual who, having been given contributions from unauthorised sources, fails to allocate them for humanitarian purposes within 30 days of the date of receipt (Article 14(5) and (6), in conjunction with Article 14(10)).
(2) A fine of between EUR 1,500 and EUR 4,000 shall be imposed on the responsible person of an organiser who commits the offence referred to in the preceding Article.”
However, Article 14 states:
“(5) State authorities, local authorities, legal persons governed by public law, bodies governed by private law, private persons and individuals engaged in an independent activity may not finance an election campaign, unless otherwise provided by law. Legal persons governed by private law whose establishment is not for profit may make contributions to the referendum campaign.
(6) An election campaign organiser may not raise funds for an election campaign from foreign natural and legal persons. A campaigner for elections to the European Parliament may raise funds for an election campaign from contributions from nationals of Member States of the European Union under the conditions and in the manner applicable to domestic natural persons under this Law.
(10) Contributions made to an election campaign organiser in contravention of this Law, shall be transferred by the election campaign organiser to organisations working for humanitarian purposes, as defined in the law regulating humanitarian organisations within 30 days of the date of receipt.”