Chancellor Angela Merkel has been struggling to defend herself against allegations that she had been "bought" by Germany's car industry following disclosures that the carmaker BMW had donated almost €700,000 to her conservative party.
The owners of BMW, the wealthy Quandt dynasty, which owns 46.7pc of the concern, is reported by German parliamentary administrators to have transferred €690,000 to Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Party in early October.
Significantly, the substantial donation came only days before Monday's decision by European environment ministers to give in to German demands to scrap an agreement to cap car emissions after Berlin argued that the measure would adversely affect its car industry and lead to job losses.
Georg Streiter, Ms Merkel's deputy spokesman, countered opposition claims that the donation raised suspicions that she was in the pay of the car industry.
"Of course the government is not open to being bought," he said. "This was a party political donation, not a donation to the government."
Mr Streiter said Germany would work for a "balanced result" on emissions which answered concerns of both carmakers and environmentalists.
But criticism continued to flood in. Transparency International demanded that President Joachim Gauck set up a commission to reform party political funding.
"Lobby interests seem to be having an increasing influence on politics and this is destroying political culture," said Transparency president Edda Muller.
LobbyControl, an anti-lobby group, said that the "biggest donation" in Germany's 2013 election year came less than a month after polling.
"It raises the question whether the Quandt family deliberately kept its support out of the election campaign," said spokeswoman Christina Deckwirth.
Yesterday, the disclosure provoked withering criticism from opposition parties: "This is the most blatant case of purchased policymaking in a long time," said Klaus Ernst, an MP for Die Linke. "BMW's got Merkel in the bag. No-one has done it that openly before," he added.
Meanwhile, Ms Merkel's options for forming a new government are narrowing after talks with the Greens ended with both sides unable to agree on how they might form a coalition.
Mrs Merkel's conservative bloc meets with its other centre-left rivals, the Social Democrats, for coalition talks today.
Mrs Merkel's bloc won 41.5pc of the vote in elections. A coalition with the Social Democrats, who won 25.7pc of the vote, seems her most likely option. (© Independent News Service)