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Thursday, April 22, 2004

Gloves come off as rival LDP factions fight for cash


Staff writer

The two largest intraparty factions of the Liberal Democratic Party broke a long-standing taboo Wednesday by holding fundraising parties on the same evening in Tokyo.

Members of the largest faction, led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, have charged that the faction led by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori organized the clash intentionally to damage the already-weakened Hashimoto faction by forcing LDP supporters to show loyalty to either of the two factions.

The Mori faction, to which Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi belonged before taking office, has recently increased its influence within the party.

Meanwhile, rival factions, most notably that led by Hashimoto, have been troubled by infighting.

"I don't think anybody plotted this, but through coincidence, (the Hashimoto faction) is holding a party right now," said Fukushiro Nukaga, LDP policy chief and a senior member of the Hashimoto faction.

Nukaga was asked to deliver a speech at the fundraising event held by the Mori faction at Akasaka Prince Hotel in Chiyoda Ward.

The Hashimoto faction's fundraising party was held at Tokyo Prince Hotel in Minato Ward, a 15-minute drive from the Akasaka hotel.

Although neither faction disclosed how much they actually raised at Wednesday's events, fundraising parties are becoming increasingly important occasions for LDP faction leaders.

Revisions to the Political Funds Control Law over the past decade have made the business of fundraising trickier.

Thousands of LDP supporters -- mainly representatives from corporations and industry groups -- buy 20,000 yen tickets for the parties in question, where only light meals and drinks are served.

A May 2002 party held by the Mori faction raised 217.4 million yen, accounting for 67.3 percent of the faction's total income for the year.

The Hashimoto faction likewise heavily depends on its own fundraising parties.

According to a political funding report submitted by the faction to the home affairs ministry, the Hashimoto faction raised 257.6 million yen at a party in 2002, which accounted for 63 percent of the group's total annual income.

Some participants at the two parties appeared to be perplexed.

"(Each faction) now must be busy counting its participants," said a 62 year-old man who runs a construction consulting company in Tokyo.

"I had the same number of people attend at each party."

But the company owner, like many other participants from the construction industry, added that he has cut back on the firm's political donations due to the government's rapidly shrinking public works budget.



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The Japan Times

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