Champagne Sarkozy – Presidential Campaign Extravagancies Revealed

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Following some comprehensive detective work, an article in L’Express revealed the expense accounts of two candidates of the 2nd round of the 2012 Presidential Election – with some eyebrow-raising results…

Hollande may have won the election, but when it comes to big spending, it’s Sarkozy who was the hands-down champion. So revealed the enquiry by L’Express weekly, who found that Sarkozy’s assertion at the end of his 2012 presidential term that he had turned a page and was no longer the “bling-bling” president was not held up by the evidence available.

Nicolas Sarkozy was known for his extravagances and his close relationships with very wealthy people that saw him get invited onto yachts, go out for meals at Fouquet’s or stay in luxury villas in far-flung corners of the world.

But after availing of the public right to delve into the thick dossiers of expenses during the 2012 presidential campaign (one that failed for Sarkozy), it was the more mundane expenses that were really eye-popping.

From Sarkozy’s side, the accounts submitted to the Conseil Constitutionnel were in superb order: they were compiled in expert fashion by a top-class accountancy firm at a cost of €200,000. From Hollande’s side, the dossier was an altogether more ramshackle confection, made up of hundreds of invoices submitted in some disorder and bandied together at a level that was just about acceptable to the Conseil by an accountant that charged €90,000 for his work.

As for blowing out big, Sarkozy proved himself more than capable. For the record, Hollande was guilty of at least two examples of crazy spending – namely an €11,000 bill for going to see former tennis ace and current pop star Yannick Noah at Le Bourget and a whopping €236,376 on opinion polls.

For a start, Nicolas Sarkozy was clearly keen on choosing the right music for his triumphal entrances to rallies; something that sounded like a winner was coming, something that made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when the trumpets sounded and the cymbals clashed.

In order to achieve this effect that he saw as vital to getting votes, Sarkozy forked out €86,112 to his friend and publicist Jean-Michel Goudard, who in turn hired composer Laurent Ferlet to produce a bombastic piece of work that sounded like “mixtured of Bolero by Ravel and the Indiana Jones theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

And what about Hollande’s grand entrance soundtrack? According to L’Express, his signature theme was something a lot less striking but which had a far smaller bill too – a mere €12,000 was all he spent on music to get voters in the mood.

Another interesting detail was the issue of flag-waving at the big rallies. One of the most famous ones was a meeting on the 11 of March 2012 when Sarkozy entered the hall to his €86k-triumphal music and a veritable sea of French tricolours waving eagerly in the crowd.

That'll cost you: supporters waving shiny new flags at a Sarkozy rally in March, 2012

That’ll cost you: supporters waving shiny new flags at a Sarkozy rally in March, 2012

One might have assumed that these flags were handed out to delegates and then gathered up at the end of the day for use at the next meeting. It turns out, however, that that was not how things were done on the Sarkozy campaign trail and that particular night’s supply of flags cost €3,900. New flags had to be made and handed out for waving at the other meetings (€2,526 for one rally, where they also spent €5,892 on umbrellas).

Both candidates called on the services of consultants who were richly rewarded but Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t hesitate in using professionals in the consultancy game whose pay slips appeared in the accounts: €16,911.31 per month for the campaign director; €17,700 for the advisers; €6,510.84 for a press officer.

In sharp contrast, the smaller bills coming in from the Hollande side make for somewhat amusing reading: The Socialist Party of the Loire sent in a note for €1.15 for the printing of 100 stickers and the Ain chapter of the party sends in a bill of €29.83 for the purchase of “fruit juice and fizzy drinks”.

Some of the other sumptuous expenses of note: It was a well-documented fact that Nicolas Sarkozy made ample use of chartering about 30 jets and a helicopter for getting about in his 2007 campaign. In the 2012 show, however, he came up with an altogether more practical and more expensive solution for his electioneering transport arrangements: he simply hired a private jet from Dassault Falcon Service for €386,474.72 between the 16th of April and the 6th of May.

François Hollande used a private flight three or four times – most notably on the evening of his final victory. At the time, there was quite a lot of fuss made of it in the French press when the newly-elected president used a jet to get from his home in Tulle in the south-west to the Place de la Bastille in Paris where thousands of euphoric supporters were awaiting him.

Hollande arrives in Paris in triumph. Even though much was made of his use of a private jet après-victoire, accounts show that he was nowhere near the Sarkozy level of spending

Hollande arrives in Paris in triumph. Even though much was made of his use of a private jet après-victoire, accounts show that he was nowhere near the Sarkozy level of spending

All of this Bling-Bling style is something that the people in France used to find a little repugnant with Sarkozy but people tend to forget these things quickly enough – particularly when you have the most unpopular president in history running your country. All the talk in the media over the last year or so has been of Sarkozy making a triumphant return for the next election in 2017.

If that happens, the French public will be treated once more to a show of power-spending on a grand scale by the one that has been dubbed “Sarko l’Americain” for his results-oriented flamboyant style.

For the growing legions of thousands of French voters who look upon Sarkozy as a some kind of saviour to arrive in style (probably in a private jet) in 2017, it is worth noting that this particular saviour actually managed to raise taxes and the national deficit during his five-year tenure as president. He’s also the only politician to made it to the second round of a presidential election who, in spite of the accountancy expertise on hand, saw his accounts invalidated by the National Commission because he mixed up his candidate expenses with his presidential ones.

He’s also the only politician who dared to go seeking contributions from sympathisers and UMP party supporters (in what the press sarcastically dubbed the “Sarkothon”) to allow him to settle an €11 million debt that he had accumulated and he’s the same president who, by the way of claiming tax relief on the declaration of gifts, saw his campaign reimbursed by the hard-working French taxpayer.

These days, French media is full of representatives of the Right lecturing the Left on how they should be saving public money, whilst Nicolas Sarkozy is being presented as the solution to the country’s ills. Yet the evidence would suggest that someone who accumulates fabulously extravagant bills with the money of other people is not the man you want to have running your country. Presumably in politics, personality goes a long way…

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