[EDITORIALS]Reasonable campaign financing

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[EDITORIALS]Reasonable campaign financing

The details of political funds raised by lawmakers last year disclosed by the National Election Commission show that the revised political fund law has had a positive effect.
It shows that the practice of raising funds from a multitude of small-time donors and supporters is taking root. By collecting a small amount of political funds from a multitude of donors, the idea is to stop collusion between businesses and politicians. As a result, one lawmaker reported that he received about 92 million won ($92,000) in funds from 6,500 individual supporters. That is 14,000 won per donor, achieved through consistent efforts to recruit steady donors who give 1,000 won per month.
Last year, the total number of donors increased from 18,000 in the first quarter to 75,000 in the fourth quarter. The commission explained that while the average amount of political contributions decreased, the number of donors rose.
This system is not without faults. Among an estimated 4,000 high-end donors who gave 1.2 million won or more annually, 900 declined to state their professions. Dozens of legislators reported receiving 5 million won in political funds from housewives.
The challenge lying ahead of the new system is on improving its transparency as well as expanding the pool of small-time donors. Nevertheless, there are voices coming from the political community on amending the law to allow supporters to meet as had been done in the past. The reason is that politicians are short of funds.
But the commission’s papers last year show that lawmakers collected an average of 140 million won last year. That is a reduction from the average of 200 million won from the previous years, but is still a lot of money. The amount is not so small that lawmakers can persuasively argue that they will be tempted to take illicit funds. In reality, legislators earn an average of 20 million won a month if we count their pay and supporters’ donations. If lawmakers should continue to argue that that sum is still insufficient and ask for ways to collect more political funds, who would buy it?
The Political Reform Council, a National Assembly advisory council, said that it would present its opinion on whether the law should be amended one more time. We hope that they remain sensitive to public sensitivities and come up with a reasonable suggestion.
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