Journalists at the newspaper Novaya Gazeta have discovered patterns in several Moscow City Duma candidates’ financial statements that only make sense if they were prepared by the same people. A new investigative report looks at paperwork submitted by 282 of the 290 candidates registered for September’s elections. (The documents were published on the City Election Commission’s website.)
Novaya Gazeta identified 23 templates that were used to complete the financial statements, all with their own matching formatting, fonts, and phrasing. In some districts, every registered candidate — both party nominees (usually Communists) and the ostensible independents — used the same template. The journalists note that independent candidates who conducted public signature drives did not rely on common templates in their paperwork.
Some records from different candidates even show the same amounts in donations, both from the individual candidates themselves and various legal entities. Different candidates also say they spent identical amounts of money on their signature drives. For example, the pro-government candidates Natalia Pochinok and Maxim Shingarkin both say they spent exactly 84,400 rubles ($1,300) on collecting endorsements, and another three candidates each spent exactly 1.96 million rubles ($30,200) on the same thing.
According to Novaya Gazeta, these patterns and overlapping data strongly suggest that a handful of “command centers” are coordinating the campaigns of many Moscow City Duma candidates on both sides of the race. “The elections in general are beginning to look like a massive special operation to get the right candidates into office,” the newspaper concludes.