LDP, Komeito Agree on Draft for Political Funds Reform; Standard for Naming Party Ticket Buyers Still an Issue

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi, right, and his Komeito counterpart Keiichi Ishii exchange documents at the Diet Building on Thursday.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito agreed Thursday on draft revisions to the Political Funds Control Law.

In light of a series of political fundraising scandals involving LDP factions, the draft revisions propose tougher penalties and external auditing measures for Diet members, aiming to prevent the recurrence of such issues and enhance transparency.

Regarding the threshold amount for the mandatory disclosure of the names of fundraising party ticket buyers and the disclosure of how funds for political activity expenses are spent – both of which are pending matters – the two parties shared the recognition that the current rules on these matters should be revised, but they failed to present specific measures.

LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi and his Komeito counterpart Keiichi Ishii met in the Diet Building and agreed to aim to revise the law during the current Diet session based on the agreed draft revisions. After the meeting, Motegi said to reporters, “We will decide details such as the new threshold amount for the mandatory disclosure and compile a revision bill through discussions between the ruling and opposition parties.”

As part of measures to prevent the same kind of scandal from occurring again, the draft revisions require lawmakers to issue a written confirmation attesting to the accuracy of their political funds reports in order to clarify their responsibility for supervising their treasurers. In cases when a treasurer is punished for reasons such as not correctly reporting their political funds, the lawmaker would be subject to penalties including a suspension of their right to participate in elections if their confirmation is found to have been insufficient. If there are any unreported funds, the lawmakers would be required to pay the equivalent amount to the national treasury.

In order to ensure the transparency of political funds, the draft revisions include tougher external auditing of political funds reports. Specifically, the scope of items subject to external auditing would be expanded to include the revenues of political organizations, and political funds would be required to be deposited and managed in bank accounts. The revisions would also make it mandatory for lawmakers to submit and disclose their political funds reports online.

Regarding transfers of money between political organizations, such entities including support groups for lawmakers will face tougher standards for mandatory disclosure in political funds reports if they receive donations of more than ¥10 million a year from other political organizations affiliated with Diet members, such as local chapters of political parties. There are cases in which support groups for lawmakers and other organizations have received large donations from local chapters of political parties, and some observers point out that the use of such funds is not always clear. The revision takes such criticism into account.

The two parties failed to reach an agreement on the details of these pending matters as the LDP apparently wanted to leave room for negotiation in discussions between the ruling and opposition parties.

As for the threshold amount for the mandatory disclosure of party ticket buyers’ names, the draft revisions only state that it will be lowered from the current standard of “over ¥200,000.” Komeito called for the amount to be lowered to “over ¥50,000,” and the LDP insisted that the amount be “over ¥100,000.” No compromise was reached.

The two parties agreed to have lawmakers receiving political activity expenses from their political parties report how they have used the funds, but they did not go deeper into the issue.