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Fri, Oct 19, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Candidates struggle to fund campaigns

CONTRIBUTIONS Taiwan's faltering economy is hurting the bottom line for candidates in the year-end elections and many are looking to trim spending on campaign activities

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The sagging economy has hurt most candidates' efforts to stage campaign activities for the year-end elections, as major political contributors are running short of cash.

"We've raised less than one tenth of the donations we had in the past," prospective KMT legislator-at-large Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) said, adding that candidates' "personal connections" with contributors and their "prospects for winning elections" were deciding factors in the success of fund-raising.

Huang said that whether the party was in power also had an impact on the effectiveness of fund-raising.

"Some major industrialists, whom the KMT had kept a good relationship with, diverted their donations [from the KMT] to the ruling DPP and A-bian," Huang said.

Some of these industrialists would like to further conceal the fact that they made contributions to the former ruling regime, if they had in fact made any, Huang said.

Since there are more than 500 slated candidates in total this year, the demand for political donations has increased and some conglomerates have decided to rule out fund-raisers.

"From now on, the United Microelectronics Corp (聯電) will no longer fund any political activities; neither political parties nor any individual candidate," the corporation's chairman Robert Tsao (曹興誠) said last Sunday while attending a science award ceremony where President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was also on hand.

"Realizing corporations' difficulties, we have long stopped asking for donations from them," KMT legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) said. He added that most of his former contributors were actually from small and medium-sized businesses, which he said have fallen victim to the current economic downturn.

Ting added that things were made worse by the fact that the KMT curtailed funds for its candidates this year to nearly one fifth of former levels.

Party relationship

Former KMT legislator Wang Tien-ging (王天競) said the party had once given him NT$10 million to NT$20 million to run for public office, saying that "the closer candidates' relationship with the party's headquarters is, the more money will be reserved for them. Some were even given NT$30 million to NT$50 million."

Wang is now running as an independent candidate after the People First Party (PFP) failed to nominate him and said that he is suffering from the most difficult time ever for fund-raising.

Meanwhile, KMT Secretary-General Lin Feng-cheng (林豐正) is reported to have admitted that "the party is short of campaign funds this year" since its assets have depreciated greatly.

As frustrating as Tsao's remarks may be to candidates, some election hopefuls are turning to other possible channels for small donations. Others plan to curtail their campaign spending.

PFP spokesman Liao Tsang-song (廖蒼松) said the party plans to launch fund-raising hotlines soon -- asking supporters to make donations over the telephone at NT$100 per call. The party hopes to collect funds from enthusiastic supporters, Liao said, adding that the party has long lacked a suitable mechanism for fund-raising.

Liao said that the PFP usually counts on the connections of party officials, including its chairman, vice chairman and department directors, to solicit votes and funds, but he added that "their former connections don't seem to work now" due to economic woes.

The PFP, along with the New Party and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), also sticks to traditional channels for accepting donations by opening bank or postal accounts.

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