The Economist reports that two junior ministers from the French government have resigned over expense report discrepancies like $15,000 Cuban cigars and $147,489 for a private jet to fly to “a conference devoted to the penniless victims of the Haiti earthquake.” Now scandals regarding the acceptance of illegal campaign contributions have touched French Labor Minister Eric Woerth and even President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy scandal allegedly involves L’Oréal heiress
Various media sources are claiming that Eric Woerth and his wife may have known about alleged tax evasion perpetrated by Liliane Bettencourt, L’Oréal heiress and the richest woman in Europe. At various dinner parties thrown by Bettencourt, it is apparently common knowledge (according to NPR) that the hearing-impaired 87-year-old heiress would distribute envelopes filled with cash to her “friends” who may have needed to borrow money fast to boost their political currency. Considering that Mrs. Woerth also works for Bettencourt in a money management venture, the blind eye turned to Bettencourt’s alleged tax evasion and the allegations of hundreds of thousands of dollars in what could amount to political bribes are particularly damning. In the final act of “Sarkozy Scandale,” President Sarkozy supposedly accepted nearly $200,000 in envelope money while he was still mayor of Neuilly, a well-to-do Paris suburb.
French law only allows up to €7,500 in individual contributions
Fraud is taken very seriously in France, indicates The Economist. If a politician were to accept more than €7,500 (just under $10,000 USD), authorities take notice. Nicolas Sarkozy and Eric Woerth have denied any wrongdoing, as has Bettencourt. Yet the denials do little to protect the current regime from public scorn. The Sarkozy scandal is one more indication that his reform efforts may have tightened the belt for the working class – just in time for the global recession – while maintaining a decadent status quo for the elite. The European Union has cracked down on banker bonuses; shouldn’t special attention be paid to politicians who may be on the take?
Political charisma and insincerity
In a move that may be too little, too late, President Sarkozy has taken the ax to the perks typically granted French politicians. Perhaps he’s looking to prove to those beaten down by the sagging global economy that he understands their plight. However, numerous critics find that once the engaging, even alluring presence is set aside, Nicolas Sarkozy is failing to connect with and serve the voting public. If his alleged need for extra cash (for himself and his cabinet members) and supposed connection to any cash advance services of Liliane Bettencourt are any indication, then Mr. Sarkozy’s scruples have a price.
More on the biggest crisis of Sarkozy’s presidency: