Go to contents

Interest Groups Using Smaller Donations

Posted December. 02, 2005 07:02,   


Controversy is arising over the way some interest groups and corporations donate small sums of money to specific lawmakers in order to lobby the lawmakers to enact laws or block legislation.

Some point out that the tax deduction system for small donations, which was introduced under the banner of pursuing the public’s participation to politics and a no-money politics, has deteriorated into an interest groups’ expedient for lobbying.

Examples of collective small donations-

Aides of a representative belonging to the Finance and Economy Committee of the National Assembly were recently surprised in the process of checking donors’ identifications after being asked to issue receipts for year-end tax adjustments from those who made small donations. About 50 insurance consultants donated 100,000 won each to their representative’s supporting accounts. Aides of the lawmaker viewed that these people made donations in return for the fact that the time of allowing banks to sell insurance products was put off at a Finance and Economy Committee meeting early this year. An aide said, “At the time, related associations instructed insurance firms to make insurance consultants donate some money each, citing that up to 100,000 won in political donations can be fully retrieved at the end of the year.”

The Korean Nurses Association (KNA) posted names, supporting groups and bank accounts of lawmakers who belong to the Health and Welfare Committee of the National Assembly on its website in order to encourage the public to donate some money to them. The KNA also posted certificates of donations on its website.

The KNA’s attempt is seen as a part of its movement to carry through the Nurses Act that ruling Uri Party lawmaker Kim Seon-mi, who belongs to the Health and Welfare Committee, proposed. This bill was designed under the pretext of clarifying the sphere of nurses’ work by separating parts related to nurses from the existing Medical Law.

Aides of a lawmaker belonging to the committee said, “After nurses donate 100,000 won each and send certificates of donations to the KNA, the KNA collects those documents, visits an office of lawmakers, and receive receipts in a lump sum.”

As for some lawmakers who belong to the Agriculture, Forestry, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Committee of the National Assembly, about 20 to 30 employees reportedly donated 100,000 won each at the order of the heads of the agricultural associations in those lawmakers’ constituencies.

A representative of the committee said, “Despite the fact that I did not ask for some donations, about 30 employees of the agricultural association in my district donated 100,000 won each.”

Controversy over expectations of something in return-

An official with the National Election Commission pointed out that even if small donations by interest groups are not legally problematic, such activities can be considered as expedient donations through which donors expect something in return.

It can be said that if one donates 100,000 won and less, one can take back 110,000 won at year-end tax adjustments through additional deduction, as a result, taxes paid by the sweat of the public’s brow, not an individual’s private money, have been used for specific interest groups’ lobbying activities.

Taking this into consideration, some lawmakers either do not receive small donations at all or give them back to donors. But most think that those donations are matters of no importance, saying that this money is not big, so we don’t need to worry about it.

“The system that says that if one donates 100,000 won, one can take back 110,000 won later is problematic,” said a politics professor. “It is necessary to revise the system by scaling down the rate of tax deductions for political donations and limiting collective donations.”

Kang-Myoung Chang woogija@donga.com tesomiom@donga.com