The Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner had to justify himself against serious lobby allegations in the past few days. During the coalition negotiations, he is said to have been in close contact with Porsche CEO Oliver Blume. Where are the limits of advocacy and how burdensome are such allegations? FOCUS Online spoke to lobby expert Hartmut Bäumer.

FOCUS Online: The Federal Minister of Finance, Christian Lindner, recently found himself in need of explanations because he is said to have kept the Porsche CEO up to date on the subject of e-fuels “almost every hour” during the coalition negotiations. Is such an exchange still lobbying or does it go too far?

Hartmut Bäumer: The matter must be cleared up promptly. At the moment I can’t say whether it really happened as described in the ZDF program “Anstalt”. If that’s true and there was actually so much contact, then such an exchange is clearly going too far. Politicians and especially ministers must not become the extended arm of companies.

Is it “normal” in itself that companies have very direct access to politics?

Bäumer: Access per se is normal, yes. But that only works in moderation and only if it is communicated openly and honestly. We need even more transparency in lobbying in the future. Conversations like the one between Lindner and Blume must be documented in the future. In other words, it must at least be clear when and how they will take place. That is why we are calling for the so-called legislative footprint, which makes visible the concrete influence of lobbyists on certain laws. The traffic light promised that he should come – we are curious.

After all, Blume – albeit inadvertently – spoke openly about his contact with the finance minister. Is it common for this to be discussed so openly?

Bäumer: No, that went extremely unfavorably on both sides. It is not surprising that Blume promotes the interests of his company. However, the fact that Lindner grants this exclusive access is problematic. It remains to be seen whether someone like Blume should become VW chairman. Because anyone who has so little understanding and feeling for how a democratic society and politics should work should not lead such a global company.

Would you say that Blume deliberately boasted?

Bäumer: Of course, yes. It was like a little boy trying to make himself important. As if he wanted to show the others what he knows or, in this case: who he knows well.

How bad would you say the damage done to the finance minister is?

Bäumer: If the talks took place like this, then Lindner reveals that he too lacks sensitivity to the broad masses of society. This is poison for trust in clean and transparent political decision-making processes – here a minister-designate at the time has to fulfill a special responsibility.

Would Lindner then have crossed a red line?

Bäumer: Such an exchange always has a taste. And if Lindner, as Blume said, was in constant contact with him, then that is highly questionable – precisely because confidentiality was agreed among the coalition partners during the talks. Lindner shouldn’t make an exception for a single company in its favour.

Blume spoke of a direct influence. Lindner is said to have negotiated an exception clause that keeps the use of e-fuels open for Porsche boss Blume in the coalition agreement with the traffic light.

Bäumer: If that was the case, that’s going too far for me. No one should be able to exert direct influence.

Is the lobbyists’ great moment when the government is talking about support for the economy on a weekly basis?

Bäumer: Challenging political situations – be it Corona or the bank crash – are always the heyday of lobbying. Whenever there is a lot of money flowing, there is a lot to influence.