The CDA received 1.2 million euros from millionaire Hans van der Wind, who is involved in the party as a fundraiser. That became known last night and raises questions: are these kind of donations normal in the Netherlands? Will a donor get anything back for that amount? And is it just allowed to do this?
To start with that last question: yes, such a donation is legal. The Political Party Financing Act requires that all donations from EUR 4500 should be passed on to the Ministry of Interior. There‘s no donation ceiling.
There are considerable donations to parties more often, but “for Dutch concepts this is a huge amount,” said political scientist (and former PVDA party chairman) Ruud Koole in theCCEIT Radio 1 Journal.
Last March, it was about a similar issue. Then entrepreneur Steven Schuurman announced that he donated 1.3 million euros to two political parties: D66 (1 million euros) and Party for the Animals (350,000 euros). He was open at the time about his motives. Schuurman invested the amount because he wants a solution to the climate crisis, he told Trouw.
Inside party influence
Now the situation is different. Van der Wind is not a donor with a distance to politics. According to the CDA, he has been giving to the party for fifteen years. But in the meantime, he is also chairman of the party’s fundraising committee and was part of the campaign team. According to the CDA, donors have “in no way been able to influence the party‘s content rate”. Van der Wind himself says he’s donating “because the ideas appeals to me”.
But Koole comments on that. “As a donor, he will not have formally influenced the party‘s course. But if you’re a member of the campaign team at the same time, you just have an influence of course.”
Legally, you can‘t get back for a donation to a political party. “If you want a position in the election program in exchange for the donation, or a person as the leader of the party running a particular course, there is bribes,” says Koole. “Then there’s fraud. That can‘t be.”
fact that Van der Wind has bought influence with his donation cannot be demonstrated now, says André Krouwel. He is a political scientist at the VU University in Amsterdam. “But there are two things I notice about this donation: the influential role of this donor at the CDA, and the timing of the donation.”
The entrepreneur indicated last November that the donations at the CDA were not good after Hugo de Jonge was elected as party leader. However, he decided to do something about it himself until Wopke Hoekstra took over the baton. According to Pieter Omtzigt, the donations affected Hoekstra’s policies. With his ‘New Deal’, CDA plans became more beneficial for entrepreneurs.
“The donation came just before the election. As a result, he no longer had to be passed on to the Interior Ministry at that time,” says Krouwel. “For example, if Omtzigt‘s note hadn’t come out on Thursday, the donation would not come out until next year. It seems that an attempt has been made not to associate that donation, and the donation of €247,000 by the Dutch Entrepreneurs Climate Foundation, with the elections.”
“Time is always in favor of power. People have short memory, forget a lot,” says the political scientist. “Everything on the long track is beneficial. If no direct relationship is visible, such a donation is difficult to post afterwards.”
Openness or donation ceiling
Both political scientists see such a huge donation as a problem just before the election, but do not seek the solution in the same corner. Krouwel advocates for further openness. “In Austria, Sweden and Germany they have laws. Members define policies. That cannot be changed after a donation. There is full transparency about income and expenditure. We don‘t know what the money is spent on here.”
Koole is for a donation ceiling. “The best thing would be if parties get a lot of small gifts. Then you have some kind of financial roots in society. What you need to avoid is that big lenders give so much money that they actually gain access to political power.”
“Politics are based on one voice per person anyway,” says Koole. “That was introduced so that the big money would have less influence. Without a ceiling, you’ll let the big money influence anyway.”