Party Finance and Political Corruption

By Robert Williams | Go to book overview
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5
Court and Parties: Evolution and
Problems of Political Funding in
Germany

Thomas Saalfeld


Introduction

In the 1980s and 1990s the funding of (West) German political parties has attracted considerable public and scholarly attention. 1 To some extent, this is a result of the nature of the topic and a number of highly publicized scandals including allegations of serious corruption. As Peter Lösche puts it, '[p]olitical finance is a fascinating subject. It contains the stuff of detective stories. It smells of corruption individuals or interest groups buying access of favorable legislation, perhaps bribery of a member of parliament or even of a small party.' 2 From the 1950s to the 1970s, 'high-level' political corruption 3 was not an important issue on the Federal Republic's political agenda. Compared to the scandals elsewhere in the Western world, 'the mostly local scandals in West German construction industries and city authorities seemed of minor magnitude.' 4 Since the 1980s, it has been argued, 'the self-image of legality and propriety has been tarnished. Scandals over party financing and over business failures connected to the political parties have followed one another.' 5 It is difficult to establish whether high-level corruption has become more widespread since the 1970s, whether there is just greater public awareness and sensitivity, or both. Definitions of the 'acceptable' and 'corrupt' may vary considerably across countries and time. Given the 'normalization' of (West) Germany's democracy, which has generally resulted in a more critical attitude towards politicians, 6 a related redefinition and reduced tolerance of corrupt practices is not an implausible proposition.

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