Merkel party fined EUR1.2 m: parliament

23rd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The German parliament on Thursday fined Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party more than 1.2 million euros (1.6 million dollars) for violating campaign contribution laws.

The Rhineland-Palatinate state chapter of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had admitted Monday to accepting an illegal donation of more than 400,000 euros in 2006 from the party's own state parliamentary group.

"The legal consequence of this infraction is a fine that is three times the amount of the illegally obtained contribution," the Bundestag lower house said in a statement, announcing a decision by its speaker, Norbert Lammert.

The CDU's Rhineland-Palatinate parliamentary group said Monday that it had paid fees to consulting firms advising CDU candidates ahead of a state election in 2006.

By assuming the costs using its own publicly funded budget, the parliamentary group saved the party the expense.

The Bundestag said that the move amounted to an illegal donation to the CDU and fined the party 1,203,252.96 euros.

The scandal is expected to become an issue in the campaign for the next state election in March amid an ongoing criminal investigation.

A sprawling slush-fund affair rocked the CDU in the 1990s and tarnished the legacy of then chancellor Helmut Kohl.

At the height of the scandal in 1999, Merkel wrote an editorial in the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calling for Kohl to come clean on the origin of the funds and for the party to break with its murky past.

She became the party's leader the next year.

© 2010 AFP

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