The latest data published by the Ministry of the Interior on political party assets showed the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) made NT$3.5 billion (US$121.5 million) last year, with stock dividends accounting for almost NT$2.9 billion, making up more than four-fifths of the party’s total earnings.
The ministry’s data showed that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) promises to clean up the KMT and its assets have been nothing but a lie.
Getting rid of stolen party assets was a major goal for Ma when he first took over as KMT chairman in 2005; he pledged to dispose of all contentious assets, cease operating for-profit corporations and make the party “asset-free” by 2008.
He reiterated this promise in 2006 and said the party would no longer depend on its assets to cover election spending. The promise was mentioned again in 2009 when Ma was re-elected as party chairman, as he said the party would present “final solutions” to its assets problem and donate the proceeds of the sales to charity. Those promises, as it turned out, were empty words. Most of the proceeds from the sale of party assets were used to cover personnel expenditures and office rent, which was more than half of the KMT’s annual spending of NT$2.6 billion, according to the ministry’s data. So far, no proceeds from the sales have gone to any charities. KMT sources also confirmed that the party paid to set up Ma’s re-election campaign office and took care of campaign staff salaries
How could an “asset-free” KMT make NT$2.9 billion last year through stock dividends? According to information the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) released last week, the KMT earned the stock dividends via its remaining party asset — Central Investment Holding Co.
The company and its spin-off, “Hsinyutai Co,” invested NT$18 billion in the local stock market last year and received NT$2.9 billion in dividends, the information showed.
Central Investment Holding, with a net worth of about NT$20 billion, is the last of the party’s assets.
The KMT has failed in four attempts to sell Central Investment Holding via public bidding since 2006, blaming the global financial crisis for the failed sales. After Ma took over as president, he defended his administration’s efforts to resuscitate the economy. Under an improved economy, however, the bidding process for Central Investment Holding remained stalled.
Illicit assets are a historical burden that Ma and the KMT must face. If Ma was determined to get rid of the party’s stolen assets and do away with the KMT’s “black-gold” image, he should donate stock dividends obtained from those illicit assets and depend solely on donations and party fees for election spending.
He should also fulfill another promise he made in 2005, to facilitate the passage of the political party act (政黨法). The act, one of the four so-called “sunshine laws,” is aimed at banning political parties from operating or investing in profit-making enterprises, including television and radio stations. Passing the act would prove the Ma administration’s resolution to address the issue of party assets and help the KMT earn more public trust.
Using party assets to subsidize election campaigns gives the KMT an unfair advantage over its main rival, the DPP, whose total income last year was only NT$626 million.
If Ma and the KMT fail to take action to get rid of party assets, the KMT can hardly claim to hold the moral high ground.