Conspiracy Chronicles series, no. 5
We are frequently told that these elections are the most expensive, per capita, in the history of the universe. Recently, I asked an opposition MP running for re-election how much he was spending on billboards and TV appearances.
“Well, I just can’t afford to spend the kind of money that others are spending,” he said wistfully. “I’ve got one big picture of myself on the side of a building, and that cost me a lot. The unipoles [large billboards on the side of the highway] are especially expensive, anywhere between $6000-9000 each, for the campaign season.”
Where’s all of this money coming from? In the case of March 14th, there’s an assumption among Lebanese that Saudi Arabia is footing the bill. What about for the FPM?
“Well, candidates are expected to finance their own campaigns, but also to make a contribution to the overall bloc. Of course, not everyone can pay the same amount,” the MP continued.
So how does the FPM pick up the slack? For enlightenment on these matters, I turned to my friend Hussein, who keeps a close eye on opposition relations.
“So what do you think, Hussein? Who’s funding the FPM campaign? Wealthy candidates? Rich Lebanese abroad? Qatar? Dubai? Iran?”
Hussein flashed one of his signature smirks. “Who’s funding it? Please… Obviously the Hizb is funding it.”
“Hizbullah is paying for the FPM campaign?”
“Of course. Do you think the FPM has that kind of money?”
“Ok… but how is that different from saying that Iran is funding it?”
Hussein gave me a weary look. “Iran does not fund Hizbullah. Whoever told you such a silly thing?”
“Umm… It doesn’t?”
“No. Iran, as a state, does not give us any money at all.”
“So where does your money come from?”
“The khums, of course.” (Hussein is referring to the one-fifth share of the spoils of war and other income, a kind of tithe whose payment is deemed a religious duty within both Sunni and Shiite doctrine).
“Ahh yes, the khums, how could I forget?”
“We don’t get our money from Iran, but rather from the worldwide Shiite community.”
“Ok, but it still is more or else channeled through Iran, right?”
“Not through the state. It’s channeled through the office of the highest religious authority (marja`).”
“Ayatollah Khamenei of course.”
“Ok, so let me get this straight. You are saying that the FPM campaign is not being funded by Iran.”
“Of course not. That would be preposterous.”
“Fair enough. So it’s actually being funded by the tithes collected from the worldwide Shiite umma via the intermediaries of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei and Hizbullah?”
“What, you don’t believe me?”
“Seems like kind of a stretch.”