The ruling and opposition camps have reached a long-overdue compromise over a revision of the Political Funds Control Law. It represents improvement on the lukewarm revision, which was made into law earlier this year by the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition. In fleshing out the compromise, both camps must do their most to ensure transparency in politicians’ use of funds. Political organizations have long been required to attach to their reports copies of all receipts for payments of ¥50,000 or more for political activities. The revision made by the ruling coalition also made it compulsory for politicians’ fund management organizations to attach to their reports all receipts for payments of ¥50,000 or more for operating expenses, excluding personnel costs.

Under the new compromise, political organizations are to make public in principle all receipts, excepting those for personnel costs. Receipts for payments of ¥10,000 or more will be submitted to the internal affairs ministry or the prefectural election management commission while receipts for payments of less than ¥10,000 will be kept by political organizations.

Those receipts, however, will not be made public automatically. Those who want to see receipts for payments of ¥10,000 or more must go through the procedure set by the Freedom of Information Law. One wonders why this step is necessary.

The ruling and opposition camps are also considering imposing conditions on disclosure of receipts for payments of ¥10,000 or less. One possible condition reported is that political organizations will not make receipts public if the request for their disclosure runs counter to public order and morals. Such conditions should be clear and reasonable, since ambiguous conditions will hamper the disclosure of receipts.

In December 2006, administrative and regulatory reforms minister Genichiro Sata resigned over a political fund scandal and in late May 2007, agriculture minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka killed himself over a similar scandal. Political parties should waste no time in improving the political funds law.

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