Japanese Lawmakers Begin Talks on Political Funds Control

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Diet Building in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Japanese lawmakers began discussions Friday on revising the political funds control law in the wake of a high-profile slush funds scandal involving the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Lawmakers from both ruling and opposition camps expressed their views on revising the law at the inaugural meeting of the special committee on political reform in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament.

While the LDP and opposition parties agreed on the need for lawmakers to have greater responsibility for political funds control law violations, they adopted different views on how to hold them accountable. The two sides also clashed over whether to continue allowing political donations by companies and organizations, and policy activity expenses.

On whether to introduce a guilt-by-association system to hold lawmakers responsible for failures to include funds in political funds reports prepared by their staff, Keitaro Ono of the LDP urged for clarification on lawmakers’ responsibility for supervising those in charge of accounting.

Ono suggested that lawmakers should be required to prepare a document confirming that there are no errors in their political funds reports. If the lawmakers fail to check their reports properly and their accounting officials are penalized for unreported funds, the lawmakers should be slapped with civil rights suspensions, he said.

Hirofumi Ryu of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan said that lawmakers and accounting officials should have “shared responsibility.” He said that lawmakers, not just their accounting officials, should be required to sign their political fund reports. Ryu suggested that civil rights suspensions should be imposed on lawmakers for any cases of unreported funds due to willful or gross negligence.

The CDP, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the Japanese Communist Party all called for a ban on corporate and group political donations, and policy activity expenses.

Yasuhiro Nakagawa of Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, urged that the breakdown of political activity expenses be disclosed.

While LDP’s Ono was open to discussions on political donations and policy activity expenses, he stressed the need for comprehensive talks that also cover topics such as the transparency of political activities by labor unions. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, which is the umbrella body of labor unions in the country, backs the CDP and another opposition group, the Democratic Party for the People.

Tetsuya Shiokawa of the JCP proposed that the special committee be tasked with uncovering the entire picture of the LDP’s funds scandal.

Shinji Nagatomo of the DPFP suggested establishing a third-party organization to come up with policy proposals about political funds.

The special committee on political reform in the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of parliament, will meet on May 10.