A bill to revise the Political Funds Control Law pushed by the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito is likely to be enacted during the current Diet session. Ostensibly it is aimed at bringing more transparency into mandatory political funds reports, but the bill is weak and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shown no leadership to improve it.

Since administrative and regulatory reforms minister Genichiro Sata resigned in December over accounting irregularities by one of his political support organizations, money and politics has been a major issue. The most recent and shocking incident was the suicide in late May of agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka, the target of criticism over a dubious report on utility expenses by his political fund management organization.

Under the bill, political fund management organizations will be required to attach to their reports all receipts for payments of 50,000 yen or more for operating expenses covering office, utility, furnishings and expendable supplies. They will also be prohibited from acquiring land and buildings.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan had submitted a much stricter bill, requiring all political organizations, except political parties, to attach to their reports all receipts for payments of 10,000 yen or more for operating expenses and prohibiting them from acquiring not only property but also stocks and bonds. In an effort to compromise, the DPJ expressed its readiness to raise the minimum expenditure requiring submission of receipts to 50,000 yen in its own bill. Nevertheless, the ruling coalition rejected this proposal.

Diet deliberations have made clear the LDP’s reluctance to revise the law. Under the bill, it will not be difficult to reassign expenses to other organizations or to divide payments into small amounts, thus hiding where money went. The coalition’s argument that a tough law will restrict political activities is merely an excuse to continue “business as usual.”

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