Rooting out illegal fund-raising

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Rooting out illegal fund-raising

The ongoing investigation into charges against President Lee Myung-bak’s elder brother and aides for pocketing bribes from mutual savings bank owners is raising suspicion about fundraising and spending in the conservative election camp during the 2007 presidential race. The prosecutors so far insist they won’t associate the investigation with fundraising during the last presidential election even though they have summoned Lee’s elder brother Lee Sang-deuk and ruling party Representative Chung Doo-un. But it is the prosecution’s duty to seek out illegality, no matter where it may be.

Prosecutors sought arrest warrant for the presidential brother on suspicions of illegally receiving money from Lim Suk, chairman of the now-suspended Solomon Savings Bank in 2007 prior to the presidential election. Chung is accused of arranging a discreet meeting between the two. Chung told reporters that soon after his party’s primary elected Lee Myung-bak to run in the presidential race, he was approached by Lim, who wanted to offer a donation. Chung said he sent Lim to the brother.

The 300 million won ($263,700) Kim Chan-kyong, chairman of Mirae Savings Bank, confessed to have handed over to the elder Lee could also have been spent on candidate Lee’s campaign. Kim Deok-ryong, former lawmaker of the ruling party who worked on Lee’s campaign, arranged the meeting between Kim and Lee.

Despite this evidence, prosecutors said they were worried about extending the probe into presidential campaign funds for fear of becoming embroiled in politics. But their explanation is hardly persuasive.

The elder Lee is suspected of doing fundraising after his brother was picked as the presidential candidate for the Grand National Party in August 2007. Choi See-joong, a former communications official, who, along with the elder Lee, served as one of kingmakers, admitted to using some of the 800 million won he received from property developer Pi City to finance Lee’s campaign.

Illegal fundraising in presidential campaigns is a tradition that must be rooted out. Politics have become disproportionately costly and unproductive and chained to corruption. Money is the source of these problems.

As such, bribery suspicions relating to key presidential aides cannot be separated from the official presidential campaign. Prosecutors are responsible for following the evidence where ever it may lead - even if it involves some risk they’d rather avoid.

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