The publicity was huge. On Thursday 9 Feb., a "Corruption Clubbing" went down at Volksgarten, a trendy inner-city venue by the Hofburg. "Come dressed as finance minister, police officer, Peter Hochegger…" or any other lobbyist or politician currently under investigation by the public prosecutor for alleged bribery.
If this fancy dress party had been hosted by Transparency International, the public attention it received would have been a great coup. But it wasn’t. The organiser was the Austrian Green Party. The host listed on the invitation was no other than Gabriele Moser, the Green MP serving as the supposedly independent chair of an on-going parliamentary inquiry tasked with "clarifying allegations of corruption" against a number of high-level officials.
The invitation to the clubbing suggested a less balanced brief: Moser and Peter Pilz, the other Green member of the inquiry committee, were pictured wearing hunting costumes. Nestled above, among a wreath of leaves, was their suggested target: former finance minister Karl Heinz Grasser. His ironic halo of innocence only supported the worrying subtext: that Austria’s Greens took the notion of "innocent until proven guilty" with a wink too.
On public radio Ö1, Moser explained herself: There was no conflict between her independence as chairperson and her implied Schadenfreude as club host because "I’m not the chairperson for 24 hours a day."
Even if Moser is as good at compartmentalising as she claims, her answer misses the point. As chairperson, it is her foremost task to uphold the credibility of an inquiry that has no legal powers, but only moral authority. The inquiry is intended to restore public trust in Austria’s disgraced political system.
That chance may now be lost.