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Lawmakers Courting Small Donors

Posted November. 26, 2005 07:19,   


It was reported yesterday that main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) lawmaker Suh Sang-kee collected funds from the largest number of people up through late October of this year.

Suh received 73 million won from a total of 11,100 people, which comes out to an average donation per person of 6,643 won, according to a detailed report on funds that lawmakers received, which was released by the National Election Commission yesterday.

GNP representative Hwang Woo-yea, who topped the list last year, collected 92 million won from a total of about 6,500 people. This means one person donated 14,000 won on average.

For lawmakers ranked second to 10th, the average amount of money per person decreased drastically from 40,000 to 160,000 won last year, to 10,000 to 70,000 won this year.

Last year, lawmakers could occasionally collect a sizable sum of money thanks to the general election, and the fund collection limit lawmakers can collect was 300 million won.

However, since the limit was cut to 150 million won and the economy has been sluggish this year, lawmakers have had a more difficult time raising funds.

On top of that, it is impossible to enjoy support from corporations due to the revision of the Political Fund Act. In response, lawmakers have sought to obtain as many supporters who can donate small sums of 100,000 won and less as possible.

In particular, the political sector is drawing up various measures, publicizing the benefit that one who donates 100,000 won or less can take back more than the fund one paid from the year-end tax adjustment as a tax deduction.

Lawmaker A’s office recently sent a New Year’s message recorded by his own voice to members of his district and his 3,000 supporters by telephone.

However, the number of people who heard the whole message without hanging up stood at less than half the target audience. The lawmaker’s office, which believed that the people who heard the whole message is a demographic that shows a relatively high level of loyalty to the lawmaker, called them one by one again. The lawmaker’s office said to them: “If you pay 100,000 won in cash to the support fund by the end of this year, you will be able to retrieve 110,000 won early next year.”

Lawmaker B’s office held a general meeting attended by supporters recently. During the meeting, the lawmaker did not raise funds, but participants finalized the meeting after reaching an agreement that they will pay 100,000 won each, and take back 110,000 won later. After the meeting, many joined up, paying 100,000 won through the lawmaker’s website and supporting accounts.

Lawmaker C’s office joined a bank branch taking charge of card services and made supporters pay funds through its website by using their credit cards like Internet shopping malls allow customers to pay with their credit cards. The lawmaker’s office publicized, “If you donate with your credit card, you will be able to retrieve more than you paid.” It says that if you pay 100,000 won, you can take back up to 148,500 won later. However, for those who donate through credit cards, if one wants to enjoy the year-end tax adjustment, one should pay by the end of this month.

Officials of the bank sector said that with many publicizing this benefit, the number of lawmakers who use the credit card settlement system doubled from 25 earlier this month.

Ruling Uri Party lawmaker Im Jong-seok’s aides said, “The worth of supporters who pay a small sum of money constantly has increased,” adding, “We send Im’s position reports and columns written by him to supporters who made small donations through e-mail and cell phone text messages every week.”

In-Jik Cho woogija@donga.com cij1999@donga.com