LDP to Lower Disclosure Threshold for Fundraising Party Ticket Purchases; Also Considering Ban on Faction Involvement in Cabinet Picks

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a political reform headquarters meeting on Tuesday at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party intends to lower the mandatory reporting threshold for the names of those who buy fundraising party tickets from the current over ¥200,000, as a scandal over the parties rocks LDP factions. As for faction reforms, the LDP is looking at prohibiting factions from involvement in appointments for cabinet and other posts, according to party sources.

How to handle political funds and factions has been the focus of discussions at the political reform headquarters set up within the party by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also LDP president.

As for disclosures on party ticket buyers, LDP coalition partner Komeito has called for all ticket purchases over ¥50,000 to require the public release of the buyer’s name and other information. The LDP hopes to finalize the number through talks among the ruling and opposition parties and pass a bill to amend the Political Funds Control Law at the ordinary Diet session to be convened on Jan. 26.

Under the current rules for donations, information including one’s name and the amount gifted must be reported if the money exceeds ¥50,000 per year. The lack of transparency around sales of fundraising party tickets has been pointed out to be a breeding ground for fraud, and the LDP views a tightening of regulations as inevitable.

The political funds law is a piece of lawmaker-initiated legislation enacted in 1948, and in a 1994 amendment, the threshold above which the names of fundraising party ticket buyers must be disclosed was lowered from over ¥1 million to over ¥200,000.

Komeito is also advocating for a guilt by association system, in which lawmakers would be hit with such penalties as suspension of their civil rights if their treasurers are found guilty. The ruling parties are expected to hasten coordination on this point.

Regarding factions, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and others who do not belong to the groups have called for them to be dissolved. Many in the LDP believe that the latest scandal happened because the factions placed too much emphasis on political appointments and fundraising activities. The LDP is planning to stop the practice of factions submitting lists of members recommended for cabinet reshuffles and party executive posts. A proposal to ban this practice in the party’s governance code is gaining favor.

LDP factions have voluntarily suspended political fundraising parties. Some have proposed banning fundraising parties by factions and stopping the distribution of funds by factions to their members.

Kishida reportedly intends to review the faction issue from both appointment and funds perspectives, and make factions return to their roots as “policy groups” where lawmakers gather to hone their policies. Kishida is likely to make a final decision on whether to take the nuclear option and dissolve the factions after assessing the situation within the party, as well as public opinion.

The political reform headquarters held a meeting on Tuesday open to all LDP Diet members. “We must deepen discussions in order to regain the public’s trust,” Kishida said at the meeting, which was attended by about 150 members. The headquarters is expected to finalize a midterm report as early as Jan. 25.