Political finance


How are political parties and politicians funded in your jurisdiction?

Political parties in Germany have four main sources of funding:

  • membership fees;
  • donations from individuals or corporate entities;
  • contributions from the party’s office holders (who can be bound by the party’s statutes to pass on parts of their remuneration to the party); and
  • grants from public funds.

In 2009 (an election year), the total revenue of all parties represented in the parliament (CDU/CSU, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, FDP and Die Linke) amounted to €394 million, of which 32.5 per cent was public funds, 30.7 per cent membership fees, 22.8 per cent donations, and 14 per cent contributions from office holders. Political parties are also entitled to carry out business activities; however, this source of revenue is of minor significance.

Registration of interests

Must parties and politicians register or otherwise declare their interests? What interests, other than travel, hospitality and gifts, must be declared?

Political parties, as well as members of the parliament, must, to a certain extent, disclose contributions received, which applies to money and cash-value benefits. This is the only obligation that exists with regard to registering or declaring interests.

Contributions to political parties and officials

Are political contributions or other disbursements to parties and political officials limited or regulated? How?

There are no limits on political contributions or other disbursements to parties. However, for the sake of transparency, which is a key principle of German legislation on party funding, parties are subject to certain disclosure obligations. Contributions of more than €50,000 have to be reported immediately to the President of the parliament who subsequently publishes the amount and donor’s identity on the internet. A contribution of €10,000 to €50,000 has to be published only in the party’s annual report. Contributions below €10,000 do not have to be published. Political parties are not permitted to accept donations from specific entities, such as corporate bodies regulated by public law, party-related foundations or parliamentary groups, or donations that are granted as an anticipation of or compensation for economic or political favours or advantages. Donations from abroad are, in principle, permitted, however, exceptions apply, inter alia, to donations from the assets of German citizens living outside Germany or an EU citizen. The same exceptions apply to companies that are majority owned by German or EU citizens and to companies that have their main office in the European Union. A member of the parliament is, in principle, allowed to accept contributions, but only for his or her personal use and not on behalf of his or her party. Contributions exceeding €5,000 per annum have to be reported by the member to the President of the parliament, who, if the amount exceeds €10,000 per annum, will additionally publish the amount and the donator’s identity. Members of the parliament are free to engage in external activities without limitation, but any income above €1,000 per month or €10,000 per annum has to be disclosed to the public, together with the identity of the principal or employer, whereas the amount does not have to be explicitly quantified but grouped in one out of 10 categories between €1,000 to €3,500 and more than €250,000.

Sources of funding for political campaigns

Describe how political campaigns for legislative positions and executive offices are financed.

Only political parties are entitled to public funding of their campaigns in Germany. All political campaigns run by other organisations or individuals are subject to private funding, which is neither regulated nor limited. There are also no reporting requirements and, therefore, no searchable database on this information.

Lobbyist participation in fundraising and electioneering

Describe whether registration as a lobbyist triggers any special restrictions or disclosure requirements with respect to candidate fundraising.

The registration as a lobby association is voluntary and does not entail any specific restrictions or disclosure requirements with respect to candidate fundraising.

Independent expenditure and coordination

How is parallel political campaigning independent of a candidate or party regulated?

There is no specific regulation on political campaigning, independent of a candidate or a party. Such campaigning, as well as grass-roots campaigning, is, in principle, admitted.

In fact, there have been some examples of wealthy individuals organising and financing such campaigns. In 1998, the German entrepreneur Carsten Maschmeyer supported Gerhard Schröder’s candidacy for chancellor with an advertising campaign in Lower Saxony. German law does not restrict such campaigns or provide for an obligation to coordinate them with the corresponding party’s campaign. However, it is unclear whether such campaigning has to be qualified as a contribution to the party (by means of a cash-value benefit), which would entail the obligation to disclose it. Even if this is the case, such campaigning is, in principle, permitted and not subject to specific regulations.