Japan's Upper House begins debate on political funding reform bill

The Upper House of Japan's Diet has begun discussing a bill to revise the political funds control law, one day after the legislation cleared the Lower House.

An Upper House special committee met on Friday. The main ruling Liberal Democratic Party submitted the bill, which was compiled following a funding scandal involving some of the party's factions.

The LDP's Suzuki Keisuke told the committee that political funds serve to guarantee freedom of political activities, but lawmakers should always straighten themselves up and aim for politics that does not require huge spending. Suzuki said the LDP has reflected sincerely on the scandal, drafted effective steps to prevent a recurrence, and submitted the bill to ensure transparency.

The LDP has amended its original bill to incorporate demands from its coalition partner Komeito and the opposition Japan Innovation Party.

The bill mandates that lawmakers create a document to confirm the contents of their political funds reports. This is to introduce a system of "guilt by association."

The minimum threshold for disclosing the names of those who purchase fundraiser tickets will be lowered to 50,000 yen, or about 320 dollars. The current minimum is about 1,280 dollars.

Lawmakers will be asked to report how and when the policy activity funds provided by their party were used. They will be required to disclose the receipts and other relevant documents 10 years later.

Debate in the Upper House is expected to focus on ways to ensure transparency in policy activity funds.

The Constitutional Democratic Party and other opposition groups have criticized the LDP bill.

They say the legislation calls for the launch of a third-party body to monitor the funds but does not specify when the entity would be established or what authority it would have.

The Upper House ad hoc committee will also discuss bills submitted by some opposition parties, including one that seeks to fully ban companies and organizations from purchasing fundraiser tickets or making political donations.