Accounting Irregularities: Far-Right NPD Party Seeks to Avoid Paying Fine
Germany's far-right NPD party has been trying to dodge paying a 1.27 million euro fine it was slapped with in December for accounting irregularities. The party is painting itself as a victim of parliamentary discrimination and is challenging the penalty.
Germany's National Democratic Party (NPD) has been in the red for years, and a recent decision by the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig to slap it with a hefty fine because of accounting irregularities could mean bankruptcy for the radical right group if the country's parliament, the Bundestag, tries to collect the fine quickly. The party is currently pulling out all stops to try to avoid paying.
"We're doing everything we can to not pay," NPD Treasurer Andreas Storr has said, flat out, adding that the party has not "offered any concrete payment plan" to the federal parliament, even though it said in mid-December, when the fine was announced, that it wanted to work out an "appropriate" payment plan.
But in a letter to the Bundestag on Jan. 8, the NPD demanded that all public monies owed to the party under the country's laws relating to the funding of political parties continue to be paid to it. Like all other parties represented in the state or national parliaments, the NPD is entitled to collect 85 cents for every vote it receives in elections at the state, federal and European Parliament levels -- for up to 4 million votes. For any votes exceeding that figure, the party gets 70 cents each. In order to qualify for the payments relating to the European or Bundestag election, a party has to gain at least 5 percent of all votes. For the state election payments, that hurdle is 1 percent. Additionally,the party is entitled to receive 38 cents for every euro on every member contribution or donation received, with a ceiling of 3,300 in each instance.
Last year the public funds provided to the NPD amounted to 250,000 per quarter. The final figures for what the NPD can expect for this year will be made available at the end of this month. Treasurer Storr said he's offered the Bundestag administration a debt certificate backed by NPD-owned property valued at roughly the same amount as the public funds the party gets.
Attempts to Ban Party a 'Special Burden'
To explain his actions, Storr pointed to costs associated with the upcoming federal election in September and the upcoming European Parliament vote in 2014. The NPD, he said, must remain a functioning party.
On top of that the NPD has to spend some 400,000 annually for legal and office costs associated with the ongoing attempt to get the party banned, he said. Storr said this represented a "special burden" and that money "for the political fight could not be taken away" from it.
A look into a new NPD financial report for parliament obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, shows just how dependent the party is on public money. In 2011, the party, which has been described by Germany's domestic intelligence agency as "anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic," received 1.32 million in public funds -- an increase of nearly 147,000 over the previous year.
That money accounts for 41.9 percent of total NPD income -- an increase from the 38.5 percent seen in 2010. Still, the party continues to lose money and posted debt of 950,000 in 2011.
The highly indebted right-wing extremists suffered a further setback on Sunday in state elections in Lower Saxony, where they failed to clear the 1 percent hurdle they need for further state funding. Despite weeks of campaigning in the state, the party garnered only 0.8 percent of the vote, far off NPD officials' expectations and significantly lower than the 1.5 percent achieved in 2008.
Storr said the party expected to lose 150,000 in public funding as a result of its failure in the state over the next five years.
The party had campaigned under the slogan, "Get Out of the Euro," but this backfired, according to Julian Barlen of the group Endstation Rechts, a group that fights the radical right. "The NPD took a big risk in Lower Saxony and started an enormous publicity campaign. It cannot support this long-term" he said.
That's why NPD leaders are fighting on all fronts. They are trying to sue to obtain a payout of 1 million from their former accountant's liability insurance. The party is also trying its luck with the German Constitutional Court, where it is seeking to challenge a provision in German law that mandates the doubling of any fines for accounting offenses on official party financial filings to the state. A Leipzig court found that the erroneous sum in the NPD filing had been 635,000, but under German law that fine was automatically doubled to 1.2 million.
Despite all this the NPD has been anything but conciliatory to Bundestag members. In a letter to the parliament, party leaders accuse their Bundestag colleagues of being prejudiced against them in light of efforts to get the party banned. Now the NPD is calling for the decision on its penalty payments to be transferred to the German Federal Court of Auditors.
The Bundestag has already told the extreme-right party it is out of luck, saying there is no legal basis to move the venue and that parliament reserves the right in to enforce the fine.
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