China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 10, 2015
Executive Summary: Shih Ming-teh wants to abolish public subsidies for election candidates. He thinks many candidates run not to win office, but to enrich themselves by pocketing the campaign subsidies. He thinks the law should be amended to cease feeding "political fat cats". In fact, this newspaper pubished an editorial on February 1, calling for just such a measure. Ko Wen-je, the newly elected mayor of Taipei, admitted that he intended to run in order to collect 10 million dollars in subsidies and pay off the mortgage on his father's house. Ko's admission provoked a firestorm. Ko Wen-je's wife was forced to apologize on Facebook and admit that her financial calculations were "inappropriate".
Full Text Below:
Shih Ming-teh wants to abolish public subsidies for election candidates. He thinks many candidates run not to win office, but to enrich themselves by pocketing the campaign subsidies. He thinks the law should be amended to cease feeding "political fat cats". In fact, this newspaper pubished an editorial on February 1, calling for just such a measure. Ko Wen-je, the newly elected mayor of Taipei, admitted that he intended to run in order to collect 10 million dollars in subsidies and pay off the mortgage on his father's house. Ko's admission provoked a firestorm. Ko Wen-je's wife was forced to apologize on Facebook and admit that her financial calculations were "inappropriate".
Each candidate receives 30 dollars in subsidies for every vote cast in his hame. The system was designed to enable candidates without financial resources to run for office. That way the election returns rather than the candidate's wealth would determine the outcome. Alas, the result has run counter to the original intentions.
During the election process, candidates with the most momentum are able to raise the most funds. They receive the most votes, therefore receive the most in publicly funded subsidies. By contrast, disadvantaged candidates, who are the most in need of assistance, receive the least. Often they fail even to meet the minimum threshold for subsidies. They receive nothing. The entire process becomes a "robbing the poor to pay the rich" legal farce.
This contradiction was particularly glaring in last year's Taipei mayoral election. Ko Wen-je and Sean Lien, the two candidates with the most momentum and the most fund-raising ability, received 25 million dollars and 18 million dollars each. The other five candidates were not eligible for campaign subsidies. They even failed to get back the 2 million dollar deposit required to run. These gilding the lily campaign subsidies must be laid to rest!
According to Article 43, Paragraph 3 of the "Public Officials Election and Recall Law", the campaign subsidies received by county and city election candidates ought not be used to establish charitable foundations or pay off mortgages. Doing so may not be illegal, but it is unreasonable. Shih Ming-teh took note of Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen's campaign subsidies. He said they may not be illegal, but nevertheless warrant close scrutiny.
Under ROC law, presidential and vice presidential elections differ from other public official elections. The Presidential And Vice Presidential Election and Recall Law covers the former. The Public Official Election and Recall Law covers the latter. Their provisions differ. For the former, Section 41, Paragraph 2, specifies that subsidies should be turned over to the nominating parties. For the latter, the provisions differ.
Legally speaking, the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Law and the Public Official Election and Recall Law differ. In the former, the political party that nominates the candidates receives the subsidies. In the latter, the individual candidate receives the subsidies. As such, presidential and vice presidential campaign subsidies should be turned over to the political parties rather than the candidates. Practically speaking, it is more reasonable to grant subsidies to the political parties. Unless the presidential candidate is an independent, the political parties expended large sums on campaigns. For the parties to receive the subsidies is consistent with the spirit of party politics.
Ma Ying-jeou received 430 million dollars in campaign subsidies for his second presidential election campaign. He turned it over to the Kuomintang. Chen Shui-bian received 340 million dollars in campaign subsidies for his second presidential election campaign. He turned it over to the DPP. Frank Hsieh gave 20 million dollars to his campaign committee, and 140 million dollars to the DPP. Turning campaign subsidies over to the political party that nominated the candidate is the more reasonable approach.
By contrast, according to DPP news director Wong Chung, following the 2012 presidential campaign, Tsai Ing-wen used her campaign subsidies to establish a "Xiaoying Education Foundation". Such an approach is not merely unreasonable and unjustifiable. It is probably also illegal. Ma, Chen, Hsieh and others refrained from using their campaign subsidies to establish foundations in their own name. Tsai's actions were clearly petty and selfish. Ma, Chen, and Hsieh turned their funds over to their respective political parties. Tsai, by contrast, established a foundation bearing her own name. Ma, Chen, and Hsieh's actions were more consistent with the spirit of party politics. The law clearly stipulated that subsidies should be turned over to the candidates' political parties, Tsai Ing-wen on the other hand, pocketed the money, then used it to establish her own private foundation. This may not be a breach of trust, but it is clearly a violation of the law, and a display of insufficient respect for the law.
This newspaper supports Shih Ming-teh's proposal. The law should be amended. Campaign subsidies should be abolished, At the very least, they should be eliminated in presidential and vice presidential elections, county and municipal elections, and legislative elections. These single member district elections "rob the poor to give to the rich" most flagrantly. Campaign subsidies should be abolished. The law should be amended to specify that presidential and vice presidential campaign subsidies be turned over to the political parties that nominated the candidate. This will eliminate all ambiguity and ensure that candidates who comply strictly with the law by turning over their subsidies to their respective political parties are treated fairly. Subsidies for presidential and vice presidential campaigns, county and city campaigns, and all single member district campaigns, should be turned over to the political parties that nominated the candidates. Only this is consistent with the spirit of party politics.
Tsai Ing-wen, Hung Shiu-chu, James Soong, and all other presidential candidates should announce tha tthey support Shih Ming-teh's proposal. They should support this proposal out of concern for fiscal responsibility, as well as antipathy toward "political fat cats". They should do so even more because the system as it exists today, clearly runs counter to the original intent of campaign subsidies.
許多候選人志不在勝選，只想透過選舉補助款中飽私囊， 應修法剷除「政治肥貓」。事實上，本報早在今年2月1日社論中即 已提出此議，當時剛剛當選台北市長的柯文哲透露， 打算將競選補貼款中的一千萬還清父親借他的房貸。 此語一出社會譁然，柯文哲的妻子不得不在臉書道歉， 表示這是她的「不當想法」。
最後卻領到最多的公費補助。反而， 最需要補助的弱勢候選人能領的補助金愈少， 甚至未達到最低得票門檻，就完全領不到補助，變成「劫貧濟富」 合法謬劇。
最有募款能力的柯文哲與連勝文分獲2500萬元、1800萬元競 選補貼。其他5位參選人不但沒有資格領取競選補貼，連200萬元 競選保證金都拿不回來，錦上添花的競選補貼，可以休矣！
縣市長類型選舉的競選補助款由候選人個人領取，且未規定用途， 因此無論成立基金會做公益或拿去還房貸，雖然「不合理」，卻無「 不合法」。但施明德點名馬英九、蔡英文等人的競選補助金流向， 卻可能有不合法問題，應該細究。
與其他公職人員選舉的法律是不同的。前者規範於《 總統副總統選舉罷免法》，其他則規範於《公職人員選舉罷免法》。 在競選補貼的部分，二者的規範也有別，前者的競選補貼，依該法第 41條第2項規定，應由該推薦之政黨領取，與後者的規定不同。
公職人員選舉罷免法》區別，規定有政黨推薦的候選人由政黨領取， 而非如其他公職人員選舉由候選人個人領取，由此觀之， 總統副總統的競選補貼， 在立法上應有意讓之歸屬於政黨而非候選人。從競選實務來看， 由政黨領取也比較合理，因為總統大選，除非是獨立候選人， 極大經費是由政黨支出，由政黨領取，較符合政黨政治精神。
陳水扁二次總統大選競選補貼共3.4億元，全數由民進黨運用； 謝長廷選舉補助款2千萬元回撥競選總部，1.4億元由民進黨運用 ，將競選補貼交由推薦政黨領取並運用是較為合法的作法。
補助款成立「小英教育基金會」，這樣的做法， 於情於理於法恐皆未合。於情，相較於馬、陳、 謝等人皆未把總統大選補助款成立個人名義的基金會， 蔡的作法顯得不夠大器；於理，馬、陳、謝把經費交由政黨調用， 比蔡拿去成立基金會更符合政黨政治精神；於法， 法律既明定由政黨領取，蔡英文卻挪之為其基金會用途， 雖未必能謂為背信，但至少與法扞格，對法的尊重顯然不夠。
至少拿掉總統副總統與縣市長、立法委員等單一名額的選舉補貼， 因為這些單一名額選舉的「劫貧濟富」效應最強。 若不廢除競選補貼，則應修法明定總統副總統競選補貼歸屬政黨， 避免留下模糊的解釋空間， 這對嚴格守法把競選補貼交給政黨的候選人不公平。 不只總統副總統，縣市長等單一名額選舉的競選補貼也應交給政黨， 以落實政黨政治精神。
應明確表態支持施明德這項政見。除了從「政府財政」或「 政治肥貓」的角度支持這項提議，更重要的是這個補貼制度， 已違反了競選補貼的初衷。