Business organization's decision to tap political donations is anachronistic folly -- Akahata editorial, December 15

Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) Chairman Okuda Hiroshi has spoken of a plan to establish guidelines to help invigorate political donations by corporations as well as creating a fund raising body. The idea is that the business organization will take up the role of intermediary between corporate donors and politicians/political parties, a role its forerunner organization, the Japan Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), gave up in 1993. It's apparently aimed at bolstering business circles' political clout.

Seeking to exert greater influence on politics

Keidanren, which was often referred to as the "headquarters of business circles," used to decide on the amount of each member company's donations relative to their capital. It gave a large amount of corporate donations every year to the Liberal Democratic Party and others. This is how it used money power to maintain a grip on politics.

In 1993, it stopped playing the role of intermediary between corporate donors and the LDP due to the severe public criticism of the cozy relationship between the business circles and the LDP.

Why does Nippon Keidanren resume such a controversial job? Okuda is outspoken in his remarks about it at press conferences and on other occasions. In a magazine interview he said, "I'm in favor of corporate donations. I don't side with the thinking that political donations are useless. I believe it necessary to help politicians who promise to make efforts to carry out useful policies for us, instead of funding particular political parties. This should be the way to increase our say in politics."

Clearly, Nippon Keidanren intends to use money it collects from its member firms to increase its influence on politics. How brazen it is for the business organization to openly seek to increase influence on politics with money!

Although Okuda dismisses the charge that his plan means a revival of the organization's role of intermediary between corporate donors and politicians, Nippon Keidanren is actually going to provide guidelines and establish a new body to ask corporations to donate money. This clearly shows that the business organization will take up the role of giving corporate money to political parties.

Okuda said that donations should be given not only to political parties but to politicians who will carry out useful policies. This is no different from corporations bribing politicians in return for a favorable treatment.

Okuda's statement in favor of corporate donations giving corporations a larger say in politics and his rejection of the charge that such donations are useless is really anachronistic.

To begin with, providing funds in support of activities of political parties and politicians is part of the people's right to participate in politics. Corporations have no right to make political donations no matter what their economic power may be. For-profit firms donate money to politicians in return for particular legislation in their favor. Such donations amount to bribery.

Even a government panel on political donations has for the last 50 years repeatedly discussed a ban on political donations by corporations and other organizations, which led to banning direct corporate donations to politicians. The government and the ruling parties have had to consent to tighter regulations on corporate donations.

The LDP and some other political parties are trying as much as possible to use loopholes by forcing corporations to buy fundraising tickets and by creating many "new party branches" as a means of receiving corporate donations. All attempts to increase corporate donations must be stopped.

Ban corporate donations

The need now is to take steps to completely prohibit corporate political donations. Especially donations from public works project contractors must be made illegal immediately in order to root out recent scandals involving political bribery.

Yamasaki Taku, LDP secretary general, has welcomed Nippon Keidanren's new fundraising policy. But he should know that such an attitude of counting on corporate donations is a shame on our country in which sovereign power supposedly resides with the people. (end)