BERLIN – Calls for greater transparency following lobbying scandal

27-year-old Christian Democrat MP and rising star, Philipp Amthor, undertook lobbying work for a US firm while in office.

In response, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens are demanding a formal explanation from Amthor, as well as an official register of lobbyists, something that the conservative CDU/CSU union has long been against.

On Friday (12 June), Der Spiegel released the draft of a letter Amthor had sent to the economy ministry led by CDU counterpart Peter Altmaier in October 2018.

In the letter submitted on Bundestag letterhead, he asked Altmaier to support IT company, Augustus Intelligence, of which Amthor is reportedly the director and in which the young MP owns 2,817 stock options.

Amthor was ultimately successful in arranging a high-level meeting for the company in November 2018. Der Spiegel also found records of expense trips and hotel stays that Amthor undertook on behalf of the company. 

Amthor says that he reported his work to the Bundestag and that he had since ended his work with the company.

“I have made myself politically vulnerable and understand the criticism. It was a mistake,” he admitted, adding “I am not for sale.”

Altmaier said he intends to start an investigation of the allegations within his ministry and the Christian Democratic leadership in the Bundestag also intends to have a discussion with Amthor.

Criticism from the other side came swiftly, as the SPD and Greens demanded a full and formal explanation of the 27-year-old’s work with Augustus Intelligence.

“It is not enough to simply talk about a mistake and try to get on with business as usual. That is unacceptable,” said MP Katja Mast, vice-chair of the SPD parliamentary group. 

The incident has also reignited calls for a register of lobbyists, an idea which the CDU/CSU have long opposed.

SPD party vice-president Kevin Kühnert told Der Tagesspiegel on Sunday (14 June) that the Christian Democrats should “end their years of blockade,” saying the party must “dispel the suspicion that it is preventing the lobby register and full transparency on supplementary income only because its members of parliament have a special inclination to engage in supplementary activities.” (Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de

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