Why are presidential campaigns so expensive

It's an expensive summer for Leon Hahn. He can barely pay the rent. But there is no money for dinner with his girlfriend in the restaurant, and there is no need to think about vacation. There are unpaid bills at home. And if his old Renault Clio has to be repaired before the election, Hahn has a problem. The 26-year-old, who finished his studies just under a year ago, wants to join the Bundestag for the SPD on Lake Constance. And that's expensive.

Very few politicians want to talk about it publicly. Neither do the parties; they respond slowly, sparsely or not at all to inquiries. Anyone who wants to join the Bundestag has to dig deep into their own pockets. The parties expect their direct candidates to pay for a large part of the campaign themselves. The SPD party executive supports each constituency with 7,000 euros, plus savings from sub-districts and district associations. But that is often not enough. Not for Leon Hahn either, the young politician has to bear part of the costs himself. A burden.

Sometimes direct candidates even invest up to 70,000 euros in their election campaign. This is shown in a study by the political scientist Marion Reiser from the University of Lüneburg. For her investigation, she interviewed more than a hundred applicants and district chairmen from the CDU, CSU, SPD and Left Party. Almost all candidates indicated in the study that they had used private funds.

Can only the rich get into the Bundestag?

A large poster costs more than 200 euros, a letter to all first-time voters in the constituency costs several thousand euros, plus events and information stands - that adds up. That is why the financial possibilities are even decisive when it comes to the question of who will be a direct candidate in a constituency, says political scientist Reiser. Whereas content-related or ideological aspects played a "subordinate role" in the nomination process, says Reiser.

This makes it particularly difficult for young people starting their careers and for people with low incomes to get listed. They are also underrepresented in the Bundestag. Only one in 630 MPs is under 30. There are more than a hundred civil servants and self-employed in Parliament, but only three housewives and one worker.

The direct candidates from the CDU and CSU receive no financial help at all from the federal and state parties. If there is money, it is from the district and local associations. However, they often have no financial means to support the candidates, says the Munich CSU district manager Frank Gübner. It must be clear to every candidate that he is sitting on a large part of his expenses. "As a candidate in a hotly contested constituency, you can quickly get the price of a mid-range car." So can only the rich get into the Bundestag?

The CDU sees no need for action. "There is no need to change anything in the tried and tested form of the election campaign organization," the CDU headquarters in Berlin said on request. And the press office of the SPD announced that it was "not uncommon" for the candidates to participate financially in the election campaign.

However, it should be the task of the parties to finance the election campaign of their direct candidates, says political scientist Tim Spier from the University of Singen. Because they have the necessary funds for it. The state party funding was intended primarily as a reimbursement of election campaign costs, i.e. as support for the candidates. But the parties were gradually looking for additional sources of income - such as the participation of the candidates.