[EDITORIALS]Campaign probes must go onPreliminary investigations of political funds used in the recent National Assembly elections are under way. This is in preparation for the investigation of the reports on the accounts of campaign funds that will take place on May 15, a month after the elections. The regional election commissions are examining whether any voters were mobilized and if candidates made any illegal donations.
But the investigations have been drawing criticism from the legislators-elect because they face the possibility of losing their seats if they are fined more than 3 million won ($2,570) on charges of exceeding the spending limit by more than half a percent or of tampering with accounts. This has led to accusations that the election commission is trying to invade the privacy of candidates; for example, by examining donations to churches. The parties are considering forming legal teams in response to the investigations.
Despite the complaints, the investigations must be done thoroughly. We remember there were last-minute controversies in close-call districts over giving out money, providing entertainment and amassing large crowds with cash. So it’s more likely that the candidates that won in those areas inaccurately reported or even failed to report their expenses. The commission must use all of its powers, including the power to request documents on financial transactions, to look into suspicions.
The same goes for donations. If the candidate has offered donations to a religious institution that the person did not attend regularly, that also should be included in the investigation, because the election commission considers that political donations.
Through detailed investigation, the commission must add the additional cash it discovers to the reported election funds. This will help spread the word that those who buy their way into office will lose their positions.
If illegal political spending is ignored because the elections are over, political reform will be hard to manage. So this is an opportunity for a big step in introducing clean politics to Korea.
With by-elections coming up on June 5, a crackdown now will teach potential candidates a lesson in cleaner politics before they begin campaigning.