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Short of Campaign Funds

Posted July. 19, 2007 04:52,   


“Many people, little money….”

Each camp’s campaign in the primaries is desperately appealing for campaign funds. Presidential hopefuls from the liberal bloc (including the ruling Uri Party, a new party formed by former Uri Party members, and the Democratic Party) are not yet allowed to raise funds (up to 2.3 billion won) until they register as a candidate. For GNP candidates who are now running in the primaries, the situation is not that different.

A GNP member said, “No one dares to seek contributions from corporations because of the campaign fund scandal during the 2002 presidential election. This is my third presidential election campaign and I have never seen anything like this.” Let’s take a look at the situation of each camp.

- Lee camp: “People think we already have enough.”

Former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak’s camp, which is supposed to have abundant funds, is actually short of campaign funds. Because Lee’s real estate-related scandals erupted during the primaries, people began to perceive that Lee has a lot of money so he may not need contributions.

One of his campaign staff said, “We set a spending plan for funds on the premise that we would draw 2.3 billion won, the maximum amount under the election law, but the money was not raised. So far, we have raised less than 50 percent of our target.”

Accordingly about 100 full-time employees of the camp, except lawmakers and some female workers, are working without being paid. Chief promotion director of the Lee camp, Bae Yong-Su, who until recently served as the librarian for the National Assembly Library (a status equivalent to a deputy minister), said with a bitter smile, “I suddenly lost my income and I don’t know what to say about it to my family.”

Currently, the money shortage is made up for by candidate Lee and some lawmakers who have regular incomes. A lawmaker, who is a key member of the camp, sold his golf membership and another one sold an apartment. One of the staff said, “After we go through verification hearings, we will stage a huge fund-raising campaign.”

Park camp: “Less than one million won a day”-

Former party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye’s camp revealed most of its funds are either contributions from ARS or individual contributions. The donation cap for each ARS contribution is 10 million won, but most of the contributions are small amounts, around a thousand won, so the total amount raised from the ARS a day is more or less a million won.

One of the camp staff sighed, saying, “So far, we raised about 540 million won but most of the money is spent for our office rent, promotions (expenses for audio-visual materials for meetings with local party members), and publicity (posters, website management) so only about 100 million won is left.”

The camp predicts the fund shortage will be severe when campaign activities begin in full swing after the hearing scheduled for July 19 because of the added expenses for fuel for vehicles and wages for extra staff. It is said expenses for audio-visual materials for meetings with party members or publication events are usually over 10 million won.

Park’s camp is planning to disclose a list of daily income and expenses to the public after the campaign goes into full swing to link its strained cash flow to transparent campaign activities.

-Other hopefuls: “Hard to raise money.”

Other presidential hopefuls from the liberal bloc who did not yet register as candidates are either supported by their close friends or are spending their own money.

As for former Gyeonggi governor Sohn Hak-gyu’s camp, Sohn spent five to six million won from his own wallet and the rest comes from his camp staff’s pockets. One of the staff said, “Expenses spent by each of four departments come from each department. Our 30 full-time staff are all non-salaried volunteers.”

Furthermore, Sohn cannot raise funds before registering because he is not a lawmaker. The Movement for Advances and Peace, a Sohn advocacy group has 3,000 members who donate 100,000 won each and 30,000 supporters who donate 10,000 won each, but their donations are only allowed to be used as group activities and are banned from use as campaign funds under the current election law.

The situation is similar to former Uri Chairman Chung Dong-young as well because he is not a current lawmaker either. It is reportedly said that Chung also spent his own money and received 50 million won from his relatives to pay for the rent for his Yeouido camp office. Among about 30 employees, including eight paid researchers of the NaraVision Research Center, a think-tank, about 20 are non-salaried staff.

Former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan was loaned 100 million won to rent a camp office in Yeouido. One of his staff said, “He gets help from his alma mater, Yongsan high school alumni and other close acquaintances whom he began to know since he served as Prime Minister, Education Minister, lawmaker and other governmental posts.”