A donation scandal involving EU-election campaign financing leads to a complaint by Social Democrats against Barbara Kolm
Barbara Kolm (FPÖ), vice president of the Austrian National Bank (OeNB), has been accused by the Social Democrats (SPÖ) of making illegal campaign contributions to the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformers (ACRE) in 2018. ACRE, a conservative European parliamentary group, is highly critical of the EU, whose platform emphasizes “individual liberty, national sovereignty, limited government, free trade, family values” and, what the group calls “the devolution of power”.
Kolm, an economist, has since 2000 been director of the Friedrich A. v. Hayek Institut and has served in various official capacities for the Freedom Party, until this week junior coalition partners in the government. The SPÖ submitted their documentation with prosecutors in Vienna on May 8, the daily Kurier reported, accusing Kolm and others of fraud, breach of faith and misuse of funds. No official charges have been filed, but SPÖ managing director Thomas Drozda has called on her to step down from all bank functions until the case is clarified.
Around €88,000 in contributions were reported as coming from Kolm associates, although one, alleged donor, Peter Takacs told Kurier he had given no money. The evidence suggests Kolm had intentionally evaded campaign finance rules that prevent European parties from accepting more than €18,000 per year from any single donor. According to the complaint, the contributions enabled ACRE to qualify for EU matching grants that require a 15% party share, raised through contributions or membership fees.
Barbara Kolm sees the allegations as a “transparent election maneuver,” she told Kurier, adding: “I will certainly not be dragged into the dirty campaigning. The opposition wants to get at the FPÖ, which has nothing to do with this issue.”
EU authorities have already announced that they will look into the case, according to the Wiener Zeitung, and the Vienna public prosecutor announced its own investigation on May 12. An OeNB internal investigation found that Kolm had not violated her contract – a limited finding which does not address the facts of the claim. “This is Kolm’s private affair,” said OeNB President Harald Mahrer.
Kolm had been slated as potential FPÖ nominee for the post of National Bank President, the weekly Profil reported in August 2018. With the end of the coalition, it’s not clear what will happen.