[EDITORIALS]Lawmakers’ false complaintA recent survey revealed that, contrary to what some politicians say, lawmakers receive enough campaign money to carry out their political activities without difficulty. The survey was conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo, and those questioned were not ordinary citizens, but the lawmakers themselves.
Of the legislators who responded to the survey, 44.8 percent said they weren’t getting enough campaign money, but said the deficiency wasn’t so great that it impaired their ability to do their jobs. And 17.2 percent of the lawmakers said their funds were sufficient. Only 34.4 percent claimed that a lack of funds kept them from carrying out their activities to the full. As for the annual limit on fundraising, 69.6 percent of the lawmakers said the ceiling should stay where it is.
These results are suggestive. First of all, they disprove the assertion among political circles that current campaign finance law is so strict that it creates enormous obstacles to political activity. The survey shows that it is only a few legislators who cry out loudly that they can’t function because of a lack of money. This is revealed by the fact that more than 60 percent of lawmakers spent less than 50 million won ($49,300) last year, while only about 15 percent spent more than 200 million won. Therefore, the claim that the fundraising ceiling should be raised, along with the limit to what a donor can contribute, has lost persuasive power.
It is pathetic to see some of the details of politicians’ expenditures. Some spent nearly half the amount they raised on maintaining local liaison offices. Many of them spent the money for private purposes, such as payments for alumni association fees, traffic fines and bouquets for weddings and funerals. There is one legislator who bought a car with money from his campaign fund, but reported it as his personal property. It is not persuasive for lawmakers to complain that their campaign funds are insufficient while they frequently dine at hotels and luxury restaurants. Korean politicians are only stingy about spending money on policy development.
If it is the consensus of the legislators that they don’t get enough money but that the defeciency isn’t extreme, then the National Assembly’s Political Reform Council should reconsider its plan to revise the Political Fund Act. Changing the law in a way that goes against the will of most people, and most lawmakers, is not reform; it is change for the worse.