The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) breached administrative neutrality by spending more than NT$100 million (US$3.3 million) — NT$52.51 million last month alone — on newspaper advertisements to promote Ma’s re-election campaign, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday.
“While Ma has been promoting his frugality, the president has no trouble spending taxpayers’ money, judging by the way government agencies are spending their public relations budget,” DPP spokesperson Kang Yu-cheng (康裕成) told a press conference.
The money the government has spent on ads in the past three months could fund school lunches for 14,500 children from poor families for an entire semester, she said.
Last month, the Ministry of Economic Affairs was the top advertiser among government agencies, with 51 advertisements, followed by the Council of Agriculture’s 21 and the Ministry of the Interior’s 12, DPP spokesperson Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said.
Government agencies placed a total of 181 newspaper ads over the past three months, Chuang said.
DPP spokesperson Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) also criticized the council’s Fisheries Agency for demanding that local fishery organizations endorse Ma in a newspaper ad, adding that the party would file charges against the agency of violating the Public Servants’ Administrative Neutrality Act (公務人員行政中立法).
Chuang said the Ma administration was abusing public resources for the benefit of his campaign.
Government agencies’ involvement in campaigning for Ma with public funds has been “astonishing,” Chen said. “The incumbent administration should win votes and gain people’s confidence by doing their jobs, not by placing advertisements.”
Citing an example of a suspected form of vote-buying, Chuang said participants at an event organized by New Taipei City’s (新北市) Jhonghe District (中和) on Sunday received NT$100 convenience store coupons, while only candidates from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) were invited to speak.
The New Taipei City Government and Jhonghe District chief Chiu Chui-yi (邱垂益) said that they had adhered to principles of administrative neutrality, with Chiu adding that the coupons were not issued to the general public, but only to borough chiefs and environmental protection volunteers at the event.
DPP New Taipei City branch chief Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡) yesterday filed lawsuits against Chiu and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫), charging them with vote-buying, corruption and violation of administrative neutrality.
Additional reporting by staff writer