Shame on lawmakers

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Shame on lawmakers

The National Assembly, which opened after a long period of idleness due to partisan conflict, is already in hot water following a farcical attempt to make political fund-raising easier. Politicians from both sides of the aisle decided to shelve the controversial bill only after President Lee Myung-bak hinted at a presidential veto.

The National Assembly’s Public Administration and Security Committee hastily rubber-stamped the bill, which would have set free six of their colleagues who were indicted under charges of receiving illegal political funds. It would have also removed restrictions on lawmakers from collecting lobby funds. The bill reeked of closed-door political conspiring. Committee members of both ruling and opposition parties passed the bill without even a public debate.

Despite the uproar over the legislative move, floor leaders of the two parties had hinted that they would put the bill to a vote this month, implying they were willing to pay the price of bad publicity for the sake of enlarging their political coffers and pardoning legislative peers. The same party members who failed to come to a consensus on major issues of national security managed to form a united front on this self-serving interest.

The leadership of the ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party only backed down after the president hinted at a veto to prevent it from reaching the National Assembly for a vote. Presidents have so far exercised their veto power 68 times since the government was established in 1948.

The independent legislative branch brought about its own humiliation of being forced to halt its legislative action after opposition from the president. The floor leaders and chairman of the committee in question should take the blame for another blow to the legislature’s dignity.

The bill must be axed not only because of the content, but also because of the sneaky way in which it was passed in the subcommittee.

If the law on political fund-raising needs to be revised, it should be thoroughly debated through the National Assembly’s committee that deals with political reform. But the timing is bad, as lawmakers are awaiting court rulings for pocketing lobbying funds from an interest group - a move that is currently banned by law.

Any revision to the law must be examined and discussed by the next parliament. Korean voters should also keep these self-serving politicians in mind when they head to the polls next year.
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