Diet Begins Deliberations on Political Funds Law Revisions

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Diet began substantive deliberations Thursday on bills submitted respectively by the ruling and opposition parties to revise the Political Funds Control Law.

In the wake of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s “slush fund” scandal, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, also LDP president, aims to realize revisions to the law during the current ordinary Diet session, set to end in June.

With the opposition camp increasingly critical of the LDP-proposed bill, however, there is no clear path in sight for the passage of revisions.

At the day’s meeting of the Special Committee on Political Reform of the House of Representatives, Keisuke Suzuki of the LDP stressed, “The most important thing is to thoroughly implement measures to prevent a recurrence [of similar problems].”

The LDP bill, which calls for requiring lawmakers to attach a letter of confirmation to their political funds reports, “would introduce a system that involves direct checks by lawmakers and completely eliminates [room for] excuses,” Suzuki said.

The LDP bill would also tighten rules for disclosing information about buyers of tickets to fundraising events, requiring such disclosures for those who buy more than ¥100,000  per event, against the current threshold of ¥200,000 .

The proposed ¥100,000 threshold “will be easy to understand as a standard,” said Hisayuki Fujii, another LDP lawmaker.

Regarding so-called policy activity funds, Suzuki noted that the LDP bill would require the use of such funds to be specified by category in political funds reports. “This will be a strict process in which any mistakes could be recognized as a law violation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Michiyoshi Yunoki of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan called for the abolition of policy activity funds themselves. Yunoki asked the LDP why it opposes the disclosure of receipts for payments from such funds, arguing that the LDP seems to be keen to protect the “freedom of slush funds.”

Opposition parties are also calling for a ban on donations from companies or other organizations. But the LDP’s Suzuki claimed that such donations “have never distorted policy decisions.”