Criticism of the Chancellor candidate: “Scholz is not called Teflon-Scholz for nothing”

Criticism of the candidate for chancellor
“Scholz is not called Teflon-Scholz for nothing”

By Thomas Schmoll

For months, the opposition and the Union have been accusing the Federal Minister of Finance of an information policy that is a “scandal within a scandal”. They see themselves confirmed because its department has banned the Bundestag from publishing documents.

“Go ahead, don’t hide anything, be actively at the forefront of enlightenment and make sure that everything is cleared up.” With this announcement in July 2020 – immediately after the Wirecard bankruptcy – Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz put himself at the head of those who wanted to shed light on the scandal.

If politicians of the opposition are reminded of the quote, they just shake their head. They certify that the SPD candidate for Chancellor “walls until they drop”, as Kay Gottschalk of the AfD put it, the chairman of the Bundestag committee that examined the Wirecard debacle. But even the Union is of this opinion – and not just since its Chancellor candidate Armin Laschet weakens in the polls. For months, Matthias Hauer, chairman of the CDU in the investigative body, whistled on the coalition discipline. He says: “The minister is not called Teflon-Scholz for nothing.”

Last week, the opposition and the Union were once again confirmed. They were outraged that the departments of Scholz and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, also a member of the SPD, prohibited the Bundestag from publishing all documents classified as “only for official use” in the final report of the Wirecard investigation. In a mail to the committee, which has, the Ministry of Finance certifies that it has been “very generous” in releasing quotes in relation to witness interviews and “especially the deviating” assessments of the opposition. That must be enough.

Hauer wrote letters of protest to Scholz and Maas demanding that the instruction be withdrawn. Hauer believes that it is understandable not to release individual files that might affect the rights of third parties. “But there has never been a blanket blocking of all documents for a final report.” The Chancellery agreed to the publication of all documents, the Ministry of Economic Affairs forbade the release of a single document. “Scholz, on the other hand, has even forbidden the publication of a newspaper article that is on the Internet.”

Opposition threatens to have a second U-Committee after the election

From the point of view of Lisa Paus, who sat for the Greens in the U-Committee, the information policy of the minister has become “a scandal within a scandal” – at the expense of “the many thousands of small investors who were damaged and who lost their savings in the Wirecard bankruptcy lost “. After the publication of the “Wambach Report” was stopped by the Federal Court of Justice, plaintiffs could not use the documents of the Ministry of Finance as evidence, says the Green MP. That is “unbearable”.

EY (formerly Ernst & Young) protested against the disclosure of the report named after special investigator Martin Wambach. The group had checked the Wirecard balance sheets for years and, despite concerns, approved all deals. The U-Committee moved before the BGH, which rejected the matter without deciding on the matter. Because the body no longer existed formally when the application for approval of the report was received by the BGH in full. The Bundestag wants to lodge a complaint with the BGH.

Gottschalk describes it as “bigoted” and “bullshit to the power of two” that the SPD is taking action before the BGH so that the Wambach report can be published, but Scholz himself is keeping files under lock and key. However, the process could become an own goal for the Social Democrats. They had insisted on ending the taking of evidence as far away as possible from the date of the federal election in order to take Scholz out of the line of fire. The Union gave way. Now the opposition is threatening a second U-Committee on Wirecard. The CDU and CSU do not rule out approval either. That means: The probability is very high that a Chancellor Scholz would be confronted with another Wirecard investigation, even if the FDP or the Greens were involved in the government.

Why did Hamburg want to forego 90 million euros?

Jens Zimmermann, SPD chairman in the committee, calls all criticism of Scholz and the announcement of a second U committee “election campaign noise”. The allegations against the candidate for chancellor have shrunk to charges of political responsibility. The minister did everything that was asked of him. “Full transparency was not just an empty phrase.” Scholz does not personally decide on the surrender of files.

The FDP MP Florian Toncar disagrees – and also includes the scandal surrounding dubious cum-ex deals at the Hamburg-based Warburg Bank. The tax authorities of the Hanseatic city waived in 2016 – at that time Scholz was first mayor there – 47 million euros in allegedly due tax back payments. A further 43 million euros were only demanded from the private bank in 2017 after Hamburg received an instruction from the Federal Ministry of Finance, which was headed by the Christian Democrat Wolfgang Schäuble at the time. Scholz rejects the suspicion of any influence. As before, however, it is unclear: Why is a federal state willing to let 90 million euros go by the rags?

“As with Wirecard, Scholz could not contribute anything significant to the clarification,” says Toncar. The Social Democrat had “claimed enormous gaps in memory”. Hauer asked Scholz about the Warburg Bank in the Bundestag. “He just didn’t answer. I then accused him of disregarding parliament – that didn’t interest Scholz.” The minister always only admits what has just become publicly known.

“Scholz is completely calm there”

It sounds different with Zimmermann: “If you ask Scholz the same question 20 times in different variations, he will answer in 20 different variations. To label the minister as brittle and hypothermic is not just accepted by him. “He’s made it his trademark. He has no problem being underestimated because he knows that it’s more of an advantage in politics.”

Toncar, as he says, “has no idea what is really going on in Scholz”. This is “extremely closed and flirted openly with the fact that no one finds out what makes him tick”. The FDP politician cites an appearance by the minister in front of the Bundestag finance committee as an example. There Scholz reported last year about a meeting with Christian Olearius, co-owner of the Warburg Bank, on November 10, 2017 – two days after the instruction from Schäuble’s house. Olearius had asked for the interview.

According to Toncar, the SPD politician said he, Scholz, hadn’t said anything about it before Olearius. “A banker comments on tax payments in the double-digit million range and Scholz remains silent – I did not believe that,” recalls the FDP MP. Then Scholz replied “with a meaningful smile”: “Everyone who knows me knows that I am perfectly capable of not showing what attitude I have in a conversation.”