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Friday, April 4, 2003

LDP unveils fundraising 'controls'

Panel seeks sum limit -- but also advocates greater donor anonymity


Staff writer

A Liberal Democratic Party panel unveiled a set of proposals Thursday that it claims will tighten controls on political fundraising, including setting a new 1.5 million yen limit on annual donations a party chapter can receive from a single corporation.

The political reform panel also proposed making it easier for contributors to remain anonymous to encourage more donations -- a move that experts say would make the flow of political funds more opaque.

Under the current Political Funds Control Law, donors' names must be made public when their total contributions to a local chapter exceed 50,000 yen in a year. The panel said that figure should be raised, although it did not give a specific amount in its draft proposal.

"The current disclosure standard is so strict that it tends to discourage corporations and individuals who want to donate," read the draft released by Lower House member Sadatoshi Ozato, head of the LDP team.

Following a spate of money scandals that led to the LDP's temporary fall from power in 1993, the Diet revised the funds control law in 1995, lowering the disclosure threshold from 1 million yen to 50,000 yen to improve transparency in political fundraising.

Asked why the LDP is trying to reverse the trend, Ozato merely said the party has "learned through experience" that many corporations are reluctant to donate money if their names are disclosed.

The LDP will later pitch the plan to its ruling coalition partners -- New Komeito and the New Conservative Party. The proposals will then be drafted into bills and submitted to the Diet, Ozato said.

In the past year, a spate of money-related scandals again rocked the ruling camp, including those involving former farm minister Tadamori Oshima, Lower House member Takanori Sakai and the LDP's local chapter in Nagasaki Prefecture.

In response to the public outcry over the scandals, New Komeito had called for tighter fund controls and originally proposed the 1.5 million yen cap on a contributor's annual donations.

However, some LDP members said that proposed limit will have little impact, as most contributors' annual donations to local chapters total less than 1.5 million yen.

In addition, there is no limit on the number of local chapters a political party can set up -- a loophole often cited by experts. Indeed, LDP "local" chapters have mushroomed to more than 7,100 -- roughly twice the number of municipalities in the country.

The four-page draft also says that donations from companies whose sales are partly generated by public works contracts should be limited.

But the draft did not give specific figures, which will be discussed Tuesday at the panel's next meeting.



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The Japan Times

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