Clemente Mastella, ex-minister of justice and the man who brought down Prodi's government, isn't just a consummately self-regarding politician. He's also a newspaper editor. Like all Italian parties, UDEUR, Mastella's gang of hangers-on, cronies and relatives, has the right to its own state-financed newspaper, to ensure that the information available reflects all points on the political spectrum (yes, right). It's called Il Campanile (The Belltower) and it costs the Italian taxpayer the tidy sum of €1,331,000 each year. Of the 5,000 copies printed each day, 3,500 never leave the printers while the others are binned by news kiosks. A newsagent near the House of Deputies claims never to have sold a single copy.
But the money has to be spent somehow. Let's see how: among the employees of Clemente Mastella, editor, is Clemente Mastella, journalist. Cost: €40,000 a year. Then there are travel expenses, because a newspaper needs to keep its finger on the local pulse. Annual cost (2005): €98,000. Most frequent beneficiaries: Sandra Lonardo Mastella (wife, and under investigation for collusion), followed by Elio and Pellegrino Mastella (sons). You can't fly everywhere, of course, so Pellegrino needs to fuel his Porsche Cayenne. He does it at the family's local petrol station. Cost (charged to Il Campanile): €2,000 every month. That's nothing compared to the money spent on public relations: €141,000 a year, plus €22,000 on gifts like chocolate and nougat from a small town in Clemente's home territory, Summonte, the birthplace of Mastella's sister-in-law and her husband, UDEUR deputy Pasquale Giuditta.
The main offices of Il Campanile are in Rome, in a rented building that used to belong to the state. Its new owners? Pellegrino and Elio Mastella.
At the last elections, UDEUR won 1.4% of the vote.
(My thanks to Susanna for passing this information onto me, and to Mauro Montanari of Corriere d'Italia/news ITALIA PRESS, who put it all together.)