Der Spiegel reported this weekend that Substantia AG, owned by one of Germany's richest men, August Baron von Finck, gave €1.1 million to the FDP in donations between October 2008 and October 2009, one of the biggest ever sums the party has ever received.
The Finck family is co-owner of the Mövenpick group, which operates 14 hotels in Germany. The value added tax (VAT) for hotel stays was reduced from the normal rate of 19 percent to 7 percent in one of the first actions of Chancellor Angela Merke's new centre-right government. After the September 2009 election her conservative Christian Democrats formed a colation with the pro-business FDP as junior partner.
The hotel tax reduction was also strongly supported by the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democrats, which the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported received donations totalling €820,000 from the Finck family shortly before the 2008 Bavarian state election.
Former FDP heavyweight Hildegard Hamm-Brücher told Der Spiegel the party was making policy for its ‘clients' rather than for the general population. “It is involved with the taxation questions of a particular class, that is all. If it does not change this course, it will get 10 percent of the vote at the next election.”
Elmar Wigand from the lobby watchdog group LobbyControl, told the magazine, “With the entry of the FDP in the government, the company lobbyists have increased their influence.”