While "Kohl-ed" (editorial, Jan. 27) slaps the wrist of Helmut Kohl for accepting $1 million in illegal donations on behalf of his party, Germany's Christian Democratic Union, it misleadingly suggests that power first corrupted Kohl during the tail end of his 16-year chancellorship. In fact, Kohl's meteoric rise was greased by the even greater sums that illegally lined the pockets of the CDU and its coalition partner, the Free Democrats.
The primary benefactor was the multibillion-dollar conglomerate, the Flick Group, coincidentally the only major German firm to refuse reparations to its wartime slave laborers.
Although the web of venality uncovered by Der Spiegel was tangled, two of its threads stood out. One linked Flick to Kohl's predecessor atop the CDU, Rainer Barzel, via $700,000 he received for phantom legal services after handing the CDU chairmanship to Kohl.
A second thread linked Flick to two Free Democrats who succeeded one another as Germany's finance minister. They were paid for two favors.
The first favor was the $175 million tax waiver they granted Flick following the sale of Daimler-Benz to Deutsche Bank. The second was the Free Democrats' withdrawal from its governing coalition with the Social Democrats and ensuing formation of a coalition government with the CDU.