It was a memorable event that took place a few days ago in Berlin. The German Energy Agency (DENA) had invited to the farewell party for its managing director Andreas Kuhlmann. He would have liked to have been at the helm of the state-owned company for even longer in the German energy transition. But the Social Democrat Kuhlmann had once come into office under an SPD economics minister, Sigmar Gabriel. The current landlord Robert Habeck and his energy state secretary Patrick Graichen (both Greens) initiated a new appointment to the top job last year. A decision they are likely to regret today.

Christian Geinitz

Business correspondent in Berlin

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Julia Löhr

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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The trial, from which a close friend of Graichen emerged victorious, has brought Habeck the biggest crisis of his term of office so far. For weeks, the "best man affair" has dominated the public debate, the question of why Graichen, as a member of the search committee for the job, concealed his relationship with candidate Michael Schäfer (Greens) for so long. The affair also brings the already known connections between the management level of the ministry and climate protection organizations back into the public eye. More and more details about the green network are becoming known, the opposition speaks of "clan economy". The Greens are looking anxiously at the state elections on Sunday in Bremen. In the polls, it went rapidly downhill for them recently.

"The Greens started with the moral claim to make everything better," says Wolfgang Muno, a political scientist at the University of Rostock. "Now it turns out that they are not different at all, but a party like any other." A party that, when in government, assigns key positions not only on the basis of qualifications, but also on the basis of party membership and personal affiliation. A party that uses every lever to push through its political agenda. "One would have expected such behavior from the CSU," says Muno, "but not from the Greens."

Think tanks want to exert influence on politics, the economy and society

The green network has three levels that are interwoven: a personal, a substantive and a financial one. A key figure on a personal level is Rainer Baake. Twenty years ago, he was a civil servant state secretary to the first Green Federal Minister for the Environment, Jürgen Trittin. His personal assistant at that time: a certain Patrick Graichen. In 2012, Baake became director of the new organization Agora Energiewende. Graichen followed him, first becoming Baake's deputy, later director. Until Habeck brings him into his super ministry for economic affairs and climate protection as state secretary.

The model of think tanks such as Agora Energiewende originated in America. What they have in common is that they want to exert influence on politics, the economy and society. So they are not observers or independent scientists, but actors. Their design aspiration pursues one goal. Written as associations, foundations or non-profit limited liability companies, they do not want to be classic lobby organizations. However, they certainly are and appear in the EU's transparency register as well as in the lobby register of the Bundestag. "Whether someone from Agora Energiewende or from the BDI gets a state secretary post is ultimately the same," says political scientist Muno. "In both cases, it is lobbying. Lobbying for climate protection is also not good per se, and lobbying for economic interests is bad. It's always a question of perspective."