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Democrats’ €500 million treasure safe from minority’s divorce

by Mariolina Sesto

The split within the Democratic Party, between its more conservative, former DC spirit and the left-wing, Communist one has also prominently featured the issue of “family heirlooms” as subject of debate.

In early February [2016] the PD Democrats wondered what would have happened to the contents of the party’s safe had there been a split.

We’re talking of 68 foundations owning 2,399 buildings, 410 works of art and an estimated value around €0.5 billion (though there are no official figures in this regard).

The party’s former treasurer, Ugo Sposetti, who devised the foundations and is close to Massimo D’Alema, one of the leaders of the minority that broke away from the party, has decided not to quit the PD. Thanks to this decision, the “treasure” or “tesoretto” as it’s known, will remain securely locked away in the party’s safe and will not be split between those in favor of Matteo Renzi and the minority.

Real estate and works of art

Said 68 foundations are spread all over Italy; the Enrico Berlinguer Association tops the list (the complete list may be found on the association’s web site, at www.enricoberlinguer.org).

The old DS federations – DS being the political party whose dissolution led to the present PD – transferred their goods to these foundations.

That’s how the present foundations got to own old party headquarters, onetime People’s Houses [Casa del Popolo, similar to Maison du People in France, Volkshaus in Germany and Volkshuis in Holland], palazzos and buildings donated by activists – even industrial sheds.

If it weren’t for their names, these foundations would not be any different from those belonging to banks, for instance. Their names, however, openly reveal what they stand for: Sardinians have named one after Enrico Berlinguer; in Alessandria, they’ve picked Luigi Longo, the last secretary to have safeguarded strict Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy; Milan chose Elio Quercioli, former deputy mayor, member of Parliament and a prominent figure in the old nomenclature.

Then there’s the works of art: among them, paintings by Renato Guttuso, Mario Schifano and Renato Marino Mazzacurati. Not forgetting old relics, mementoes and heirlooms: flags, antique furniture, plates – a heritage of priceless historical value, as well as the purely economical.

Public funds

The greater the gap dividing Renzi and his supporters and the so-called “PD minority,” the more tempting this treasure becomes to the Democrats; and it could not be otherwise, at a time like this, when there is a shortage in funding of parties. Electoral reimbursements are now almost completely replaced by financing through citizens’ 2‰ donations on income taxes.

True enough, PD was awarded 50% of available funds for two years in a row, amounting to approx. €6.5 million a year, but in order to get this money, voters need to be persuaded to give 2‰ of their IRPEF, and if parties continue to lose appeal, citizens are not going to do so; in fact, between 2015 and 2016, there’s been a decline in options for all parties, including PD.

PD offices’ rents

Considering the situation, the present party treasurer, Bonifazi, is reluctant to accept having to pay rent on PD offices to the foundations; and even more reluctant after receiving the eviction letters sent to the offices that fell into arrears last year.

Those buildings – according to the party – are donations by former activists and therefore property of the Democrats, not private foundations.