Businesses, industry associations and wealthy donors upped their donations to German political parties in 2017, but two parties appeared to be favored above all others, according to German parliament figures released on Monday.
German law requires any lump-sum donation to a political party over €50,000 ($59,400) to be immediately disclosed to the Bundestag, which then publishes the figures and donor information online.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) received some €2.88 million ($3.4 million) in donations from major sponsors. The business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) led by Christian Lindner came in second with almost €1.9 million ($2.26 million).
The FDP more than doubled its donations this year compared to the last national election in 2013, when it crashed out of parliament, according to calculations made by watchdog group Lobbycontrol. The CDU’s donations were also up by a third during the 2017 election year compared to 2013.
How much did each party get from major donors in 2017?
- CDU: €2,881,537
- FDP: €1,896,512
- South Schleswig Voters’ Association (SSW): €482,050
- Greens: €373,000
- SPD: €350,000
By comparison, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign raised more than $1 billion.
The SSW is a regional party in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein that represents the interests of Danish and Frisian minorities in the state.
The CDU’s Bavarian sister-party the Christian Social Union (CSU) as well as the Left party and thefar-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) did not receive single donations higher than the €50,000 hurdle, and were thereby left off the list.
The parties all likely received smaller donations throughout the year. The CSU and the AfD also both logged large donations at the end of last year.
Lobbycontrol also warned that the lion’s share of information on this year’s party donations won’t be available until mid-2019 when each party releases its financial reports for 2017. By law, the parties are required to release information on donations of more than €10,000.
Read more: Anger at German AfD’s hidden campaign donors
Who are the donors?
The largest single donation came from United Internet CEO Ralph Dommermuth, who donated €500,000 to the CDU in May. Dommermuth’s United Internet is a Germany-based multinational internet services provider whose subsidiaries include 1&1 Internet as well as email providers GMX Mail and Mail.com.
German automakers made several appearances on the list. The Quandt family, who are major BMW shareholders, gave €200,000 to both the FDP and the CDU. Daimler also donated €100,000 to the CDU and to the SPD back in April. The car rental company Sixt also donated €55,000 to the FDP in July.
Speaking with dpa, one donor noted that the FDP’s free-market focus is particularly attractive to businesses.
“As the owner of a family business, I feel at home in the party and many of my business colleagues feel the same,” Hans-Georg Näder, the head of prosthesis manufacturer Otto Bock, told dpa. He donated a total of €200,000 to the FDP this year.
Industry groups including the Chemical Industry Association and Metall NRW (a federation of industrial and electrical companies in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia) were among the biggest “hedge betters,” with both splitting major donations between the FDP, CDU and SPD.
The SSW received all of its large, lump sum donations from the South Schleswig commission of Denmark’s culture ministry.
Call for more transparency
Watchdog groups like Lobbycontrol will be waiting anxiously for the parties’ financial reports when they arrive in 2019. Until then, the true scope of donations remains unclear and unknown to the public.
Lobbycontrol is pushing for a maximum donation amount of €50,000 to reduce the amount of political pressure that businesses and industry groups can exert on political parties.
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