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Sun, Aug 12, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Economic hardship reaches to those on campaign trail

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The sluggish economy has taken a toll on the war chests of incumbent lawmakers seeking reelection in December, with many tightening their belts in the run-up to the poll.

DPP Legislator Lin Chung-mo (林重謨), who is seeking a second term from the northern district of Taipei City, said he has raised NT$2 million in campaign funds, NT$10 million short of the total amount he estimates the campaign will need.

"A friend who contributed NT$50,000 without a murmur three years ago would only chip in NT$20,000 this time around," Lin said, adding the donor owns a small firm in his constituency.

As a common practice among DPP office seekers, Lin derives a sizable portion of his treasury from selling tickets to dinner parties.

"In the past, it was not uncommon for supporters to purchase 10 tickets valued at NT$20,000 each. ... Today such generous donors are hard to find," he added.

Lin, who spent almost NT$13 million in 1998, said he would cruise into a second term with an estimated 45,000 votes if he could raise NT$17 million in the run-up to the poll three and a half months away.

Ironically, he attributed his cash shortage in part to the transfer of power last year.

"Now that the DPP has won the presidency, many calculate we will have access to public resources, thereby less sympathetic to our campaign," Lin said. "That is simply not true."

For candidates who do not plan to buy TV commercials, assorted campaign outfits and propaganda materials such as flags, vests, caps, flyers, pamphlets and name cards and ad hoc campaign crews account for the bulk of their expenses.

People First Party lawmaker Feng Ting-kuo (馮定國), said he is to set up eight campaign offices in different parts of Taichung County and hire over 100 part-time workers.

"In Taipei, candidates need only to appear on TV programs and briefly attend public events, as constituents there tend to rely on electronic media to form their voting decisions," Feng said. "But in Taichung where bonds with local opinion leaders are important, a larger staff is necessary."

Although a two-term lawmaker, Feng said he has never brought home his NT$170,000 per month salary but has set it aside for future re-election bids.

"I've been in the process of raising funds for quite a while, but the amount still lags far behind the ultimate goal," Feng said, declining to elaborate.

His previous two campaigns brought in individual donations of between NT$1,000 to NT$3,000 at this point in the campaign.

"With an honest campaign, I think I can make do," Feng said, putting the final tab at NT$10 million. He does not expect any financial help from his party which was only founded a few weeks after the presidential election last year. To retain his seat, he hopes to garner 35,000 votes.

By contrast, KMT Legislator Chen Horng-chi (陳鴻基), though saying he also feels the pinch of the economic downturn, has no plans to give any fund-raisers. A supporter has promised to loan him an apartment to work as campaign headquarters and pay for the decoration.

"Indeed, many supporters this year have put on a wait-and-see attitude," said Chen, who is running for a seat in the southern district of Taipei City, dubbed the most hotly contested battlefield.

In 1998 he opened three campaign offices in the constituency and raised some NT$4 million in campaign funds by this time. "Voluntary donations amount to NT$250,000 thus far," Chen said, adding that he plans to spend half as much as his previous two campaigns that cost him NT$14 million.

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