Political Funds Control Law: Ruling, Opposition Parties Must Cooperate to Realize Legal Revisions

Although political parties may be acting with the next House of Representatives election in mind, simply competing with each other to show the appeal of their positions on reform efforts to the public is unlikely to restore trust in politics.

Political funds are a common foundation that support lawmakers’ political activities, regardless of whether they are in a ruling or opposition party. It is time for the ruling and opposition parties to cooperate with each other for the realization of legal revisions.

A special committee of the lower house has begun deliberations on bills to revise the Political Funds Control Law. In addition to the bill by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the committee will discuss a bill jointly submitted by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party for the People, as well as a bill by Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), among others.

Public distrust in politics has been increasing in the wake of the scandal over political fundraising parties organized by LDP factions. It is important to enhance the transparency of political funds and clarify the responsibilities of Diet members.

Each party has agreed to strengthen penalties for lawmakers in cases of irregularities in the handling of political funds.

The LDP has made it mandatory for lawmakers to confirm that the person responsible for accounting has properly created reports regarding the income and expenditure of political funds. If the accounting staff is punished for failing to include the information in the report, or for other reasons, and the lawmaker did not adequately confirm the situation, the lawmaker will lose their status as a Diet member.

On the other hand, the CDPJ and the DPFP stipulate that if a lawmaker fails to include donations exceeding ¥1.5 million from a political organization to the lawmaker in their political funds report, they will be fined and lose their status as a Diet member.

Under either of these bills, it would be difficult for lawmakers to excuse themselves by saying that they had left everything in the hands of their accounting staff.

The LDP has proposed lowering the threshold for the disclosure of the names of purchasers of political fundraising party tickets, which is over ¥200,000 per occasion under the current law, to over ¥100,000, while coalition partner Komeito, Ishin and the DPFP have proposed lowering the threshold to over ¥50,000.

Meanwhile, a bill to ban political fundraising parties and donations from corporations and organizations, submitted solely by the CDPJ, appears to be merely playing to the gallery to put the LDP in a disadvantageous position.

When the system of public funding for political parties was introduced in 1995, organizing political fundraising parties and accepting donations from companies and organizations were permitted.

How is the CDPJ going to continue its political activities if lawmakers have cut off the means to raise funds?

It is unusual that the ruling parties could not finalize a bill even though the LDP and Komeito had discussed revising the law.

Komeito may have been wary that it would lose support if it made easy concessions to the LDP. However, if the ruling parties were to split on the vote on an important bill, even if it is a lawmaker-initiated bill, the ruling coalition’s relationship of trust could be shaken.

Only one month remains before the current Diet session ends. The political parties need to hold discussions for consensus building so as not to jeopardize the realization of legal revisions, which is the key goal, by competing with each other over their own positions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 23, 2024)