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BMW donation to Merkel party sparks fears

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Photo: DPA
11:40 CEST+02:00
Anti-corruption campaigners called on German President Joachim Gauck on Wednesday to clamp down on donations to political parties from big business after Angela Merkel's CDU accepted nearly €700,000 from BMW.

NGO Transparency International appealed to President Gauck to tighten rules on political gifts after Merkel's party received €690,000 in donations from the Bavarian car maker's principal shareholders - while blocking tougher emission caps for vehicles at the European Union.

Tighter rules could include a cap on annual donations per person and a regulatory commission to oversee party financing, Edda Müller, chairwoman of Transparency International told newspaper the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday.

A maximum donation of €50,000 per person per year should be enforced to limit the influence of “particularly financially strong lobby interests,” she suggested. The proposal was greeted by other campaigners such as LobbyControl, as well as opposition parties, which have suggested a higher cap of €100,000 a year.

The calls for regulation of party financing came following the news that three members of the Quandt family, who together own 46.7 percent of BMW and are among Germany's richest people, gave the CDU €230,000 each on October 9th.

Coming two weeks after the election - and so not related to the campaign - the donations from Johanna Quandt, her son Stefan and daughter Susanne Klatten were published on the German parliament website, prompting concerns from politicians and campaigners.

Opposition parties said the timing of the donation looks suspicious. Just days after the BMW money landed in the CDU account, Germany fought stricter carbon dioxide emissions caps at the European Union. The CDU and Quandt family deny all accusations of improper influence.

"The donations are in no way connected to individual political decisions," a CDU spokesman said on Tuesday.

Yet opposition party calls for regulation continue to grow louder. Social Democrat environment expert Ulrich Kelber wrote on social network Twitter that the CDU had accepted the money without shame "from the profiteers of Merkel's resistance to climate protection measures."

“The timing of the donation shows [that] here not just a party has been bought, but a law,” said co-chairman of the Left party Bernd Riexinger in the Passauer Neue Presse.

READ MORE: Car lobbyist swerve derails EU emissions law

DPA/The Local/jlb

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