Factions’ Fundraising Scandal: LDP Must Be Accountable for Allegations

Allegations surrounding political fundraising parties have come to light one after another, and distrust in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has only been increasing. The party needs to investigate the full picture of the allegations and explain the results to the public.

Concerning the problem that five LDP factions allegedly underreported their incomes from their political fundraising parties in their political funds reports, it is suspected that the Abe faction — the largest of them — failed to report income of more than ¥100 million and returned part of the funds to its members.

The Abe faction is said to have assigned each of its legislators a party ticket sales quota of several hundred thousand yen to several million yen, with tickets priced at ¥20,000 each. It then allegedly kicked back to the legislators the amount of sales in excess of the quota. These operations continued for at least five years, starting in 2018.

Legally speaking, this would have been no problem if the excess income, and the balance of payments regarding the kickbacks, were recorded in political funds reports. However, reportedly, there were no such records on either the faction side or the legislators’ side.

For that reason, there are suspicions that the funds in question were used for activities other than normal political activities, or for maintaining “hidden funds.”

Why were the funds not included in the political funds reports? What were the unrecorded funds used for?

Despite the various questions that have been raised, senior Abe faction members including Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, who was its secretary general during this period, have only stated that they would refrain from commenting on the issue in their role as government officials. Are they truly aware of the seriousness of the situation?

The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has been stepping up its investigation on suspicion that the Political Funds Control Law was violated by there being false statements or no statements. If a Diet member is caught and loses their job, it would be a major blow to the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kishida, who also is the LDP president, has instructed the factions to refrain from holding political fundraising parties for the time being. However, it is unclear what measures will be taken while they are refraining from the parties, and the LDP does not seem to be facing up to the issue.

In the first place, political fundraising parties have long been considered a “hotbed of hidden funds.”

The Political Funds Control Law requires that the names and addresses of those who donate cash in excess of ¥50,000 be made public.

On the other hand, in the case of political fundraising party tickets, only individuals or entities that purchase more than ¥200,000 per party are required to be recorded in political funds reports. It can be said that political fundraising parties are an easy way to collect funds that do not need to be reported.

To increase the transparency of political funds, revision of the Political Funds Control Law is inevitable.

One idea is to lower the threshold for mandatory disclosure of party ticket purchasers to ¥50,000, the same as the standard for donations. Another option would be to make false reports or failure to report strictly punishable to raise awareness of the seriousness of the issue among lawmakers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 7, 2023)