Political Funds Control Law Revision: Seize Moment as Turning Point for Politics Less Reliant on Money

Although the current political funds reforms leave much to be desired, once a decision is made on them, they must be implemented without fail.

However, if the reforms are actually implemented, it will naturally become difficult to raise funds and use money in the same way as in the past. The reforms this time should be a turning point to change political activities that rely on money. The ruling and opposition parties need to show their resolve and present specific measures for that purpose.

The House of Representatives passed a bill to revise the Political Funds Control Law with a majority of votes mainly from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, its coalition partner Komeito and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party). The revision bill was agreed upon after the LDP negotiated changes in the bill separately with Komeito and Ishin. It is expected to be enacted soon.

Six months have passed since a scandal came to light involving large amounts of money that were not recorded in the income and expenditure reports for political funds in connection with political fundraising parties organized by LDP factions. During this time, the public’s trust in politics has been significantly eroded. It is important for the ruling and opposition parties to make use of this amendment to the law to dispel distrust in politics.

The revision bill specifies that the threshold for disclosure of the names of party ticket purchasers will be lowered from the current “over ¥200,000” to “over ¥50,000.” This is intended to make it easier to ascertain the sources of funds. However, due to the lowered threshold, corporations and supporters could reduce the amount they purchase to avoid having their names made public.

The revision bill also takes steps toward a certain level of disclosure of the funds for political activities that are provided to lawmakers by their political parties. It requires that lawmakers who receive the funds state in their annual political funds reports how the money was spent across broad categories, such as “organizational activities” and “election-related matters.”

In the case of the LDP, funds for political activities have been used by the secretary general and other senior party members to bolster campaign support in key constituencies and pay for dinners with prominent persons whose names the LDP does not want to disclose.

While it is significant that various regulations were established, what is important is to steadily implement the reforms.

Until now, the Abe faction of the LDP, once led by the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has had difficulty raising funds and has created “hidden funds.” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, making light of the government’s ministerial code of conduct that calls for the prime minister and cabinet ministers to refrain from holding large-scale political fundraising parties, also repeatedly organized gatherings under the name of study sessions to collect funds.

However, this will not be the case in the future. Fundraising through the sale of party tickets will be constrained, and transparency will also be required for funds for political activities.

In addition, the factions that had provided their member lawmakers with political activity allowances, known as ice money in the summer and mochi money in the winter, have been dissolved. Lawmakers will no longer be able to rely on factions in that way.

In the first place, the alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law involving the factions would not have occurred if only the factions and lawmakers had recorded the exchanges of funds in their political funds reports. Many people must be disgusted with the fact that Diet members, who should set an example to the public, did not follow the basic rules.

It is essential for the ruling and opposition parties to present a new code of conduct for political parties that does not require much money.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 7, 2024)