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Slush fund? France reports on 'reserve' cash

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Slush fund? France reports on 'reserve' cash
French lawmakers revealed on Friday how the spend €90 million per year in tax money. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP
15:35 CET+01:00
A report released on Friday showed French lawmakers spent thousands in tax payer money last year on things like fishing and baton twirling clubs. The revelations come from a first ever accounting of a unique French parliamentary power.

For decades members of both chambers of French parliament have had at their disposal a sizeable pile of money that, with a minimum of hassle, they can hand out to organizations or towns of their choosing (including their own) each year.

The parliamentary reserve, at its called, was €90 million last year for the National Assembly, which on average came out to €130,000 per MP depending on his or her seniority. They spent €81.6 million of it in 2013.

Yet until a new report came out on Friday that accounted for each euro, there had never been a public explanation of how the money was being spent, French magazine Challenges reported. Yet the parliamentary reserve was first established as a practice in the Assembly in 1958.

According to the National Assembly website "These subsidies, offered by MPs, help finance investment in local projects...and also support the activities carried out associations."

In fact, many French institutions do benefit from the cash. For example, France’s Conseil d’Etat, the government’s top legal advisor got €250,000 from the president of the Assembly, who in addition to his €520,000 slice of the reserve last year and wielded €5.5 on behalf of the assembly. There was also much money put towards new gymnasiums or schools. 

But is all the money really being used how the rules intended? Here The Local looks at some of the strange, funny and potentially problematic recipients of the cash.

  • Deputy Laurent Wauquiez of conservative UMP party, gave a €1,000 subsidy to a car modification club (Raucoulestuning). He handed the same amount to a baton twirling club.
  • UMP Deputy Eric Ciotti, an apparent fan of the French lawn game pétanque,  gave out €11,000 to six clubs who specialize in the game.
  • Deputy Claude Bartolone, a socialist and assembly president, gave €100,000, on behalf of the assembly, to the Danielle Mitterrand Foundation. The human rights group was founded by the wife of former socialist president François Mitterrand.
  • Deputy Gilbert Collard, a member of far right party National Front, gave €40,000 to an organization that, according to media reports, is run by someone who worked with his electoral campaign. 
  • UMP Deputy Jacques Myard gave €1,000 to a fishing association called "L'épuisette du Vésinet" or the Net of Vésinet, which is a small northern France town.

  • Deputy François Sauvadet of the Nouveau Centre party gave €107,000 to Vitteaux, the town he represents. The sum amounts to about €100 per resident of the tiny east France village.

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