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2015年2月28日 (土)

社説:大臣とカネ 「知らない」では済まぬ

February 28, 2015(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: 'Ignorance' no excuse for ministers' political funding scandals
社説:大臣とカネ 「知らない」では済まぬ

A string of political funding scandals have hit ministers in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the wake of Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Koya Nishikawa's resignation.

The government is trying to weather the storm by insisting the ministers were "unaware" that state subsidies were being paid to the entities that made questionable donations to their party chapters. The administration is, in other words, pleading ignorance, and we cannot ignore this paper-thin excuse.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) branch offices headed by Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki and Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, respectively, accepted political donations from a logistics firm that had recently received government subsidies.

The Political Funds Control Act bans companies and organizations from making political donations within a year from a subsidy announcement.

Government subsidies derive from taxpayers' money, and for subsidized companies and organizations to make donations could constitute funneling some of that tax money to politicians.

This goes to the heart of potential collusion between politicians and industries.

Nishikawa resigned his portfolio over a similar donation scandal.

The Political Funds Control Act bans politicians from accepting contributions from donors they know to be subsidy recipients.

In other words, politicians cannot be accused of violating the law as long as they are unaware of the subsidies.

Mochizuki and Kamikawa have thus emphasized that they had no idea about the subsidies going to the logistics company, and that the donations were not illegal.

The political funding scandals, however, surfaced after news organizations checked publicly available political funding documents and reported on them.

It shouldn't have been difficult for the politicians themselves to learn of the problems in advance.

If the political funds law provides a seedbed for negligence among politicians and is harnessed merely as a source of convenient excuses, the law should be made stricter so that such donations are held illegal even if politicians were "unaware" of certain subsidies.

Hakubun Shimomura, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, is accused of possibly violating the law after his support groups -- known as Hakuyukai -- failed to report themselves as political organizations. Furthermore, an LDP chapter he heads was also found to have accepted funds from non-Japanese citizens -- another violation of the law.

In the meantime, Nishikawa had also received nearly 10 million yen in consulting fees from a state-subsidized company over a four-year period, according to documents filed with the Diet following his resignation.

When Yuko Obuchi stepped down as minister of economy, trade and industry over shady political spending last fall, she remarked, "There's no way I can be spared just by saying I didn't know about it."

Alas, she has yet to file a detailed report over the issue, which she promised to do at the time of her resignation. Is she in the belief that everything is settled because she was re-elected in the December House of Representatives election?

Just like Obuchi, Nishikawa and Mochizuki joined the Abe Cabinet in a reshuffle last fall.

They should by no means have forgotten other funding scandals they faced at the time.

When the third Abe Cabinet was formed following the last lower house election, didn't the ministers and Prime Minister Abe check their financial backgrounds carefully?

While the ministers are trying to slip out of the net with their new favorite refrain, "I didn't know," Prime Minister Abe has only reiterated, "Politicians in both the ruling and opposition camps should fulfill their accountability."

What other motive could they have for putting on that kind of attitude than the arrogance gleaned from a landslide lower house election victory?

毎日新聞 2015年02月28日 02時31分


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