EA battered top candidate: Alice Weidel, who is supposed to lead her party into the federal election campaign with AfD leader Tino Chrupalla, has been caught up with her donation affair. You have to accept that the party should lose almost 400,000 euros due to financial processes surrounding today’s AfD parliamentary group leader.
The Berlin Administrative Court under its President Erna Viktoria Xalter dismissed a complaint by the party against a payment notice from the Bundestag administration on Wednesday, thus de facto ruling that the AfD would be deducted exactly 396,016.56 euros from the state party funding as a sanction in Weidel’s donation affair.
For Weidel, who has many opponents from various camps in the Bundestag faction and in the Baden-Württemberg regional association led by it, the decision means a considerable weakening. You must expect to be confronted again and again with the financial transactions in public before the Bundestag election and also in the many internal party disputes.
The affair is one of the most dubious in West German party history. Between July and September 2017, when Weidel was the top candidate in the federal election campaign at the time, 17 individual transfers totaling almost exactly 132,000 euros were received in the general business account of their Lake Constance district association. Purpose was in each case “Election campaign donation Alice Weidel Socialmedia”. The money came from Swiss accounts of the Swiss pharmaceutical company PWS.
However, as it turned out at the beginning of 2019, it was not the donor. Rather, according to a list that PWS sent to the AfD and this to the Bundestag administration, 14 individuals should have donated. But they also immediately declared that they had not paid. Some are said to have given their names as a kind of straw people in exchange for money.
When the PWS managing director was asked about the origin of the money in 2019, he stated that he had made the payments to the AfD account on behalf of a friend, whom he did not want to name. He does not know whether the 132,000 euros came from this friend or not from another person. The Constance public prosecutor is currently investigating the origin of the money.
According to WELT’s payment notice from the Bundestag administration from November 2020, the documents of the public prosecutor’s office indicate that “Henning Conle, a German-Swiss real estate billionaire, is now the actual donor”. But so far has not commented.
The party’s handling of the donation was such that in the Bodensee district association, the money was transferred to another AfD account soon after it was received, to which Weidel and the district treasurer had access. In April 2018, more than six months after receipt, the money was repaid to PWS; In November 2018, the AfD transferred around 8,100 euros to the Bundestag administration as a precaution.
The party does not deny that the origin of the money is a serious problem and that accepting an anonymous donation from non-EU countries is prohibited by law. On the one hand, however, it is denied that one is responsible for the problem. And on the other hand, that it was a party donation.
Rather, it was, argued the AfD legal representative Christoph Basedow from the office of the AfD member of the Bundestag Enrico Komning on Wednesday, a “direct donation” to Weidel personally. Such a personal donation from the donor’s free will is not subject to party law.
Weidel as the top candidate, the “AfD incarnate”
The Bundestag administration countered this by stating that the actual donor was not aware of any will. In addition, after receiving the money, the AfD did not consider it a “direct donation”. Incidentally, during the receipt of donations in the 2017 federal election campaign, a purely personal donation to Weidel via the party account was also unthinkable because Weidel was the “AfD incarnate” as the top candidate Representative of the Bundestag administration, Christian Kirchberg, said on Wednesday.
The court also saw no “direct donation”. Something like this are “only those donations that are used directly – without going through the party coffers – to a party member for his own political purposes,” says the press release on the decision.
In the case of Weidel, however, the benefits “remained within the control of the party” even after the transfer to another account. The intended use (“campaign donation Alice Weidel Socialmedia”) does not stand in the way, because there are also earmarked party donations. In addition, the AfD has the donations not returned immediately, as prescribed, but only months later.
The court allowed an appeal. Already on Wednesday afternoon, the AfD federal treasurer Carsten Hütter said that he would recommend an appointment to the party’s federal executive board. Because you stick to the legal opinion that it was “a personal candidate donation” for Weidel as a direct candidate at the time in the constituency of Lake Constance.
Weidel himself, however, did not address this question in a statement on Wednesday. Rather, WELT said that it was “a unique event in the history of the Federal Republic” that “a young opposition party for donations that have been repaid in full and from which no benefit has accrued will be punished with the maximum penalty”. And that “at the beginning of a federal election campaign”.
In the AfD, Weidel was not the only one to whom donations from Switzerland were directed. In the spring of 2016, one of Weidel’s toughest opponents today, the other party leader Jörg Meuthen, as the top candidate of the Baden-Württemberg AfD in the state election campaign at the time, received campaign aids in the form of flyers and posters worth a good 89,000 from the head of the Swiss advertising agency Goal AG, Alexander Segert Euro.
The Bundestag administration assessed this as an illegal party donation and imposed a sanction payment in the usual three times the amount of 269,400 euros. The Berlin administrative court under judge Xalter dismissed a lawsuit by the AfD in January 2020.
On Tuesday of this week, Meuthen and the AfD were covered with a new charge of further payments from Switzerland. “I know about it,” said the former party leader and today’s non-attached member of the Bundestag, Frauke Petry, to the ZDF magazine “Frontal 21” and the research center “Correctiv”, “that Jörg Meuthen steers illegal donations from Henning Conle past the official party committees into illegal channels has, among other things, to support the party’s social media presence. “
The money, so Petry further, “probably flowed through the Swiss Goal AG”. She shared her information with the Bundestag administration, said Petry, who left the AfD immediately after the 2017 federal election.
The report cites a mail from Meuthen from 2016 to a former social media employee of the AfD, who had previously sent Meuthen a concept for the party’s more effective appearance on Facebook and Co. Meuthen replied that the concept made it clear “what would still be possible with more money and manpower”. He passed the ideas, according to Meuthen, “on to our potential supporters”.
However, so far there is no evidence of cash flows, senders, recipients or uses. Meuthen denied Petry’s claims. Petry could comment on the subject on Friday when she presents her new book “Requiem for the AfD” in Berlin.