While in recent days....the SPD Party of Germany has suddenly surged and passed by Merkel and the CDU Party in public opinion polls....there are two problems that Martin Schulz of the SPD (their chancellor candidate now) has facing him. Both are ethical problems which can't be resolved easily.
Problem one came up the first day or two when he became the new vice-chancellor of the Merkel coalition government....having arrived from prior job at the EU (the President of the Parliament there in Brussels).
The first issue involves a tax-free allowance paid to each member of the EU of 304 Euro per day of attendance (typically 4-to-5 days a week). For over a year....Schulz took the 304 Euro per day....each and every day (7 days a week)....tax-free as the laws allowed. Some will say that he was working seven days a week in some capacity. Others will argue that this was NOT the norm prior to his arrival at the position. What this adds up to is roughly 2,400 extra Euro a month, and probably more on periods of vacation (when it's not authorized).
It's a stupid problem....if you ask me.
The second issue is more interesting. There's this guy....Markus Engels, who is a long-time associate of Schulz and closely associated with past campaign activity.
Engels ends being hired by Schulz as a contractor. He was supposed to be based primarily out of Berlin and be some kind of liaison although no can explain the details of this job in any real summary. If Merkel wanted to chat with Schulz....she could have just picked up the phone and called....why have some liaison in Berlin, unless the guy is a political player for the SPD? The problem is....this was a EU position and not supposed to be political in nature.
Then you come to this odd issue...you only get tax-free status as a EU contractor, if you were living in Brussels. Engels wasn't living in Brussels.....he was living in Berlin....so all of the income should have been German-taxed. His salary? Well....the base salary was 5,200 Euro a month for this multi-year contract. But Engels was given an expense account....roughly 16,000 Euro a year (tax-free) to cover his living expenses (probably the apartment).
What work was Engels doing? The SPD Party is trying to defend all of this....but it does have an appearance of fake-work for fake-pay, which gets Germans all upset and disturbed. The part where it's tax-free pay? Oh, that really gets some of the working class folks upset.
Here's the other thing....no one can say that Engels is the only one who got this special deal. There is some rumor of four other folks with special deals.
It's hard to say that these two episodes will just wash away or disappear. Eventually, someone will ask about what work Engels was doing and no one will be able to present much to show value for a guy who was making 75,000 Euro a year.