German political scandal fodder for Internet game

German political scandal fodder for Internet game

Players take aim at Kohl by throwing briefcases of money

April 24, 2000|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BERLIN -- Tens of thousands of Germans are taking out their frustrations regarding a growing political scandal by playing an Internet game that lets them star as bribe-paying culprits.

"Attack of the Cash Cannon" spoofs the crisis in the Christian Democratic Union brought on by disclosures last fall that the party's longtime leader, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, had accepted at least $1 million in illegal contributions.

The "Spendenaffaere" is mired in parliamentary investigative hearings going nowhere as key figures in the donations scandal have refused to come clean about where the money came from or what the secret contributors expected in return. Kohl, holding his word of honor above the law, has vowed never to reveal the names of those who filled his slush funds.

Rather than fretting over the scandal's damage to Germany's democratic credentials, the inventor of the game, which can be downloaded from a Web site, has given Kohl detractors a novel means of venting their anger.

Against a backdrop of the historic Brandenburg Gate, alleged CDU bribe-takers flash briefly onto the computer screen. Players win points -- and a place in the Hall of Shame as an illegal donor -- by launching briefcases full of cash at these characters with the click of a mouse. Each turn lasts 2 1/2 minutes, and the most successful player as of Thursday had racked up more than 11 million points to top the list of virtual donors.

Hitting Kohl -- whose shirt is emblazoned with a Burger King logo meant to celebrate his girth and imperious nature -- with a briefcase earns the player 100,000 points each time. The next-most-valuable strike, worth 75,000 points, can be made against Hesse state Gov. Roland Koch, apparently for his keeping his elective office despite allegations of corruption.

Easier targets offered by Munich game designer Thomas Maier include former Interior Minister Manfred Kanther, worth 50,000 points and depicted in full Prussian military regalia, and Kohl's successor as CDU leader, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who is worth a mere 25,000 points. Both men were forced to resign their party jobs for having handled tainted money.

To make the game even more sporting, Maier has included two figures who have upheld the integrity of German politics throughout the crisis, newly elected CDU leader Angela Merkel and parliament Speaker Wolfgang Thierse, now a nonpartisan figure but formerly aligned with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party. The accidental launch of a bribe-stuffed briefcase against either of these forces of purity will cost the player 50,000 points or 250,000 points, respectively.

Each figure flashes on the screen for only a couple of seconds, then fades away whether or not the player has delivered a suitcase.

"The politicians don't disappear, rather they lie low and wait for your next contribution," the game's instructions explain.

"Attack of the Cash Cannon" opens with Kohl impersonator Thomas Freitag shouting to his accusers, "I don't know where the money comes from," and it ends with an invitation to check your score against those of other players who have recorded their point totals as German marks on the Web site, The site title translates roughly as "Moolah Land," invoking a slang word for money -- bimbes. Uwe Maier-Siebel of Bensheim, Hesse, has created a rival site,, which depicts a cartoon image of Kohl dreaming of stacks of marks. But Maier-Siebel complains that his Internet company's dearth of manpower has prevented him from developing a more elaborate parody.

"Bimbeskanzler is such a great story because it is tragic and comic at the same time," says Maier-Siebel. "We need to be able to laugh at this more, but mine is a typical German story in that I don't have enough workers even to do the jobs we're paid for."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.