LDP Considers Making Lawmakers Pay Total Unlisted Funds Into National Treasury; Scope of Measure May Expand

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to incorporate a clause in its draft proposal for amending the Political Funds Control Law that would force politicians to pay into the national treasury the same amount of money they are deemed to have unscrupulously unreported in their political funds report, party sources have revealed.

The party is considering expanding the criteria for finable offenses and more strictly holding lawmakers accountable for supervising the people in charge of their political organization’s accounting in an effort to strengthen penalties against lawmakers.

The LDP will hold a task force meeting of its Headquarters for Political Reform as early as Monday. It plans to consolidate opinions within the party and reach a conclusion by the end of the week.

The idea currently being floated is to make those in charge of accounting and lawmakers who were handed criminal penalties pay. In a series of political fundraising scandals, a secretary of former LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai was convicted of failing to report fundraising income totaling about ¥35 million in the faction’s political funds reports in violation of the Political Funds Control Law. The sources said cases such as this are expected to be subject to the envisaged measure.

However, some party members have reportedly claimed that the measure should be applied not only to cases resulting in criminal penalties but also those deemed to have been malicious.

The envisaged measure to “seize” unreported political funds is intended to address criticism that “politicians are using hidden funds to fill their own pockets.”

Others, however, argue that paying political funds into the national treasury may violate a clause found in the Public Offices Election Law. Accordingly, the LDP will work out the details of the plan, including by ensuring consistency with current election law.

Under the Political Funds Control Law, once punishments have been finalized, lawmakers will suffer such penalties as losing their right to vote and run for office as well as lose their jobs. But the current law limits politicians’ liability to situations where they failed to exercise due care in both the “selection and supervision” of accounting staff, for which it may be difficult to establish proof.

The LDP is considering holding politicians liable if they are negligent in either “the selection” or “supervision” of accounting staff, a proposal made by its junior coalition partner Komeito. Detailed wording is expected to be determined from now.

The LDP’s reform plan will also incorporate proposals to strengthen third-party audits of political funds reports and enhance the reports’ transparency through digitalization, such as through online submissions, according to the sources.