Cleaning Out the Stables

German language media translated for TVR's Media Monitor

A Matter of Character, 12 Oct.

by Michael Völker

The new lobbying law [in fact, a draft which is yet to tabled in parliament, ed.] isn’t a good law, but it can still be praised because it’s much better than no law. The new regulations will neither end corruption nor improve politics, but they are a step in the right direction. Lobbyists will have to join a register, and those who actually do, can face nasty penalties if they don’t stick to the rules.

The fact that the regulations for the Chamber of Employees (Arbeiterkammer) and the Association of Industry (Industriellenvereinigung) are a joke is acceptable; it doesn’t touch the core of the problem. The problem, rather, are those “lobbyists” who don’t even enter the register, but who purchase consent and pursue profit maximisation on their own account. And the greater problem still are those civil servants and politicians who are receptive to those “lobbyists”.

Equally, the new lobbying register does not address lack of decency. If indeed minimal moral standards in politicians’ characters have to be enforced by law, then much more is needed: then party finances need to be completely disclosed, parliamentarians must declare their side incomes, and the allocation of government advertisements has to be made public.

Yet sadly the protracted debate on these matters illustrates all too well where the standards of political morals currently stand.


Salzburger Nachrichten

Transparency – and its End, 18 Oct.

by a.k.

Will a law for the disclosure of party finances also include arms-length and federal state organisations? What sounds like a technical detail is in fact the crux of transparent party financing that is now being demanded by all sides. Indeed, this would be pointless if the federal parties could continue to receive dubious cash flows via their arms-length organisations.

Recently, the Speaker of the National Assembly Barbara Prammer (SPÖ) told Salzburger Nachrichten that she wanted a “complete disclosure” of party finances. The ÖVP club secretary Karlheinz Kopf has repeated his view in Vorarlberger Nachrichten that “associations and company constructions” should also be subjected to disclosure.

Kopf was alluding to the “Association of Viennese Workers’ Homes” (“Verband Wiener Arbeiterheime”). While the name hardly suggests it, this is a powerful concern owned by the Vienna SPÖ. Among other things, the firm has a share in Austria’s largest housing cooperative Sozialbau (27,2%), and is the single owner of Echo Medienhaus, a publishing company with a quasi monopoly on all publications associated with the city of Vienna.  Additionally, the SPÖ has an indirect minority share in Vienna’s largest advertising poster company, Gewista.

The Vienna SPÖ can make a nice pocket money through “cooperations” with its companies. In how far such company constructions will be subjected to public disclosure remains unclear. Contrary to the SPÖ, the ÖVP has no corporate empire, but instead has affiliated institutions such as Raiffeisen Bank, the Association of Industry, etc.

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