LDP Report Reveals Many Lawmakers Were Aware of Illegality of Undocumented Funds; Some Claim to Have Followed ‘Faction Orders’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Lawmakers gather at an executive meeting of the Budget Committee of the House of Representatives at the Diet building on Thursday.

Many lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were aware of the illegality of undocumented funds, according to a report released by the LDP on Thursday concerning their factions’ alleged violation of the Political Funds Control Law. The report was made based on interviews with members of relevant factions involved in the ongoing political funds scandal.

Some lawmakers considered not reporting kickbacks from political fundraising party revenues problematic but ultimately followed “faction orders” and did not attempt to rectify the situation.

“I didn’t use the money because it felt wrong.” “I thought the money would be like a slush fund, so I left the full amount untouched.”

The report presents such anonymous statements by lawmakers who did not use the kickbacks received from their factions. Thirty-one, or about 40% of the 85 of those interviewed, responded they did not use the funds they received as kickbacks. The most common reason, cited by 13 lawmakers, was because the money was dubious.

Eleven members, all belonging to the Abe faction, were aware that they did not list kickbacks received in their political funds reports.

Lawmakers explained, “The faction’s secretariat told us there was no need to report the money and I believed it” or “Based on the faction secretariat’s explanation, I thought it’s legal to not state [the money].”

Some listed the funds in their political funds reports in a different category.

A member of the Abe faction, also known as the Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, said, “I kept the money in an account with Seiwa Ken’s name on it so there would be no suspicions.” This lawmaker claimed to have offered Hiroyuki Hosoda, former speaker of the House of Representatives and a former faction leader, to return the money and expressed concerns to late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who headed the faction.

On the other hand, another lawmaker said, “Members cannot do anything out of line when instructed by their faction.” As a result, the practice of kickbacks and not reporting them continued for many years under the factions’ initiatives.

Regarding the undocumented kickbacks, the report pointed out that factions failed to fundamentally rectify the situation despite a fair number of members questioning or feeling uncomfortable about them. In 2022, even though there was a move to correct the issue within the Abe faction, it ended up keeping the practice alive. Regarding this, the report said, “The possibility cannot be denied that senior members at that time had been aware of the problem to some extent.”

Opposition parties uniformly criticized the LDP after it presented the report during an executive meeting of the lower house’s Budget Committee.

Kenta Izumi, the leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, pointed out how the report lists the amounts of kickbacks and their uses anonymously and said, “The survey was tailored to suit the interests of the party and the report did not include the crucial details.” He stressed to reporters, “It is far from the truth of what the public wants to know.”

Opposition parties are calling for explanations from relevant lawmakers at the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics of the lower house. Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, said to the press, “Prime Minister [Fumio] Kishida should take leadership.”