Political funding in Japan tops $359 million

Political funding in Japan tops $359 million
The National Diet building in Tokyo. Political funds obtained by Diet members totaled about ¥31.66 billion in 2014, surpassing the ¥30 billion mark for the first time in five years
PHOTO: AFP

Political funds obtained by Diet members totaled about ¥31.66 billion (S$359 million) in 2014, surpassing the ¥30 billion mark for the first time in five years, according to Yomiuri Shimbun calculations.

The figure reflects a 6 per cent increase from 2013. Political donations to legislators from corporations and other organisations also increased by a significant 24 per cent from that year.

The Liberal Democratic Party's return to power in 2012 was followed by an upward trend in the amount of political funding, spurred by renewed calls by the Japan Business Federation (Keidanraen) for donations from companies and other organisations in September 2014.

Diet members obtained a total of around ¥34.38 billion in political funds in 2009, when the LDP was in power until mid-September that year. The figure fell below the ¥30 billion range after 2009.

After wrenching power from the LDP in September 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan sought to increase political donations from private individuals - but an economic slump meant little growth in contributions from individuals. In 2011, the amount of political funds earned by legislators dropped to about ¥23.5 billion.

The figure recovered to about ¥29.96 billion in 2012 when the LDP reclaimed power from the DPJ, an amount that leveled off at about ¥29.82 billion in 2013.

The figure's return to the ¥30 billion mark in 2014 apparently shows that each Diet member was pressed to secure funding in preparation for campaigning in a House of Representatives election in December 2014. Another factor was a sharp rise in the amount of donations collected by bodies related to legislators from corporations and other organisations.

Political donations from companies and other organisations totaled about ¥4.23 billion in 2014, exceeding the ¥4 billion mark for the first time since 2008. The figure topped the total sum of donations from private individuals for the first time in six years. Private funding from individual donors totaled about ¥3.68 billion in 2014.

By party, the LDP earned an average ¥58.05 million per party legislator in 2014, up 12 per cent from the preceding year. For the leading opposition DPJ, the figure stood at ¥37.62 million - a year-on-year increase of 12 per cent. The Japan Innovation Party, another opposition party, earned an average ¥26.97 million per party member. Komeito, the junior partner in the LDP-led ruling coalition, chalked up ¥19.17 million, up 11 per cent from the previous year.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also serves as LDP president, topped the list of political party leaders with respect to their income, with about ¥180.03 million, followed by DPJ leader Katsuya Okada at ¥157.25 million.

The latest findings referred to those who had Diet seats as of the end of 2014. The figures were determined by adding up the sums of money entered in reports submitted by political fund-managing organisations of lawmakers and local chapters of political parties to the internal affairs and communications minister and election administration committees in Tokyo and 46 prefectures. The figures excluded money transferred among political organisations and party chapters.

The findings also excluded 44 lawmakers who did not have political party chapters or political fund management organisations in late 2014, as well as two individuals who did not submit political funding reports.

LDP strongest fund-raiser

The LDP flexed its muscles in the political world in terms of political fund revenues in 2014. Abe and many other party members were ranked high among political fund raisers, according to their reports of political fund balance sheets. The reports covered funds raised in Tokyo and Diet members' respective local areas.

On the other hand, the amount of funds raised by Ichiro Ozawa, coleader of the People's Life Party, fell about 30 per cent from the previous year. Most other opposition party lawmakers struggled to raise political funds.

Abe raised ¥180.03 million and ranked fifth among all Diet members. Through his political fund management organisation, Shinwakai, and the LDP's branch in the Yamaguchi No. 4 Constituency, Abe received ¥32.58 million of donations from individuals.

Koichi Sugiyama, a famous composer, donated ¥1.5 million to Abe. The total amount of donations from individuals to Abe was the fourth largest among all Diet members.

From companies and other organisations, Abe received ¥42.61 million. Nitori Holdings Co., a major furniture manufacturing and retailing firm, donated ¥4.8 million to Abe.

Abe collected a total of ¥61.96 million from three breakfast meetings he held in Tokyo.

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