Battle Lines

MICHAEL PROBST/AP

Schröder bailed out the Philip Holzmann construction company, but its troubles still dog him

With less than six months to go until the Sept. 22 general elections, many politicians in the city of Cologne who are affiliated with Gerhard Schröder's ruling Social Democratic Party decided not to hand out the traditional Easter eggs this year. "They were afraid," an unnamed SPD official told the local Express, "people would throw them at them."

You can't blame Cologne's pols for feeling a bit shell-shocked. In the opening days of last month, two prominent party operatives admitted running an illegal campaign-finance scheme. Then one of Schröder's trademark successes — the 1999 rescue of 150-year-old...

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