• Politics & Government

Distrust Grows Over Japan Political Fundraising Scandal

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of the Abe faction are seen during a political fundraising party at a Tokyo hotel in May 2022.

Distrust is spreading among people who bought tickets for political fundraising parties organized by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe faction.

The faction allegedly kicked back quota-exceeding funds to some party members. Some lawmakers have declined to offer a public explanation, prompting anger among supporters, with some questioning how such funds were used.

Sales quotas

“I was surprised to learn that the political funds reports didn’t include my name among those who purchased party tickets,” said the president of a Tokyo company who supports House of Councillors member Seiko Hashimoto, who belongs to the Abe faction.

Hashimoto’s secretary repeatedly urged the company president to purchase tickets for the faction’s political fundraising parties. The secretary reportedly asked the president for his cooperation, saying it was difficult to meet the party’s ticket sales quota.

From 2019 to 2021 the president purchased 20 tickets annually, each with a face value of ¥20,000.

Under the Political Funds Control Law, the names of individuals or entities that buy tickets totaling more than ¥200,000 are required to be recorded in political funds reports. However, there was no mention of the president’s name in Hashimoto’s reports.

“It’s not possible to exchange business cards with lawmakers on the stage,” the president lamented. “It’s meaningless to [attend such events] just to drink a glass of water. I bought the tickets simply because the lawmaker seemed to be in trouble.”

Hashimoto is suspected of having received more than ¥10 million in excess funds from the Abe faction during the five years up to 2022.

“Politicians’ work shouldn’t involve meeting sales quotas,” the company president said. “They ought to use their time to carry out more meaningful political activities.”

“I’ll investigate the circumstances of the case, then explain the situation accordingly,” Hashimoto said.

Many people buy tickets for political fundraising parties due to their personal connection with lawmakers.

“I‘ve bought one or two party tickets when asked to do so, as I have contacts with many Diet members,” an executive of a Tokyo-based consulting firm said. “I intended to drop in on the parties if I could, and bought the tickets as a form of donation.”

‘Out of touch’

An Aichi Prefecture-based company executive who frequently purchased tickets for political fundraising parties held by House of Representatives lawmakers Yoshitaka Ikeda and the Abe faction voiced anger over recent events. The executive said Ikeda’s secretary should have provided an explanation, but has been uncontactable.

Ikeda, 57, a member of the Abe faction, is suspected of having received kickbacks totaling more than ¥40 million in connection with the allegations.

The executive was asked each year by the secretary to purchase tickets for political fundraising parties held by both the faction and Ikeda. For the faction’s parties, the executive bought five ¥20,000 tickets annually, transferring the funds directly to the faction’s bank account.

On several occasions, the executive attended faction parties held at a Tokyo hotel. “I didn’t think the buffet-style meals served at the parties were worth ¥20,000,” the executive said.

Earlier this month, alarmed by the allegations, the executive called the secretary who reportedly replied, “We won’t cause you any inconvenience.”

When the secretary was asked whether they had been interviewed by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, the secretary merely replied, “I can’t answer that question right now.” The executive subsequently lost contact with the secretary.

Ikeda has not been seen in public since the allegations came to light.

The fund management organization Ikeda represents revised its political funds reports as of Dec. 8, claiming that a total of about ¥32 million it had received from the faction between 2020 and 2020 had not been listed in the reports.

“If my money went directly into Ikeda’s pockets, what was the purpose behind my ticket purchases?” the executive asked. “[Those involved] should explain the reasons behind their spending. It’s unacceptable to merely make corrections, as it seems like they’re just attempting to hide deceptions.”