Ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker Akira Amari resigned from his Cabinet post as economy and fiscal policy minister over graft allegations on Jan. 28. The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about why political scandals keep on happening.
Question: What are some of the scandals that have emerged under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe?
Answer: In October 2014, two Cabinet ministers resigned: one was then Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi, and the other was then Justice Minister Midori Matsushima. Obuchi resigned over revelations that income from events held for her supporters were not recorded in her political fund reports. Matsushima, meanwhile, was criticized for distributing paper fans in her constituency, which some alleged was a violation of the Public Offices Election Act.
Q: There were other scandals, too, weren't there?
A: Yes. In late 2014, then Defense Minister Akinori Eto declined to be reappointed after being criticized for how his political fund management organization processed donations in political funding reports. In February 2015, then Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Koya Nishikawa stepped down from his post after it emerged that he had accepted illegal donations from a company receiving government subsidies. Also in early 2015, then Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura came under fire for receiving financial support from an organization that had not been registered as a political group. In the same year, it surfaced that then Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki's political group had failed to record part of its income in its political fund report. And while Reconstruction Minister Tsuyoshi Takagi remains at his post, weekly magazines have reported that he paid condolence money to bereaved families in his constituency -- an act banned under the Public Offices Election Act -- and that he allegedly stole women's underwear in the past.
Q: Why do these scandals keep on taking place?
A: Some cases are a question of common sense and decency, but most involve money. Political groups must register themselves with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications or a prefectural election administration committee. In recent years, an increasing number of scandals at political groups under the jurisdiction of regional election administration committees have come to light.
In the case of LDP lawmaker Obuchi, the illicit activity took place at the LDP branch overseen by a secretary who had been with the family since the time of Obuchi's father, the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. The scandals surrounding Nishikawa and Mochizuki, too, involved political funding reports that had been submitted to local election administration committees. In addition, the Amari scandal involved an organization under the jurisdiction of the Kanagawa prefectural election administration committee allegedly failing to record political donations in its funding reports.
Q: Why is that?
A: Deciphering political funding reports requires certain expertise. And in many cases, to view politicians' funding reports, one must visit the specific election committee under whose jurisdiction the organization lies. This means that voters must jump over various hurdles just to check politicians' funding reports.
Additionally, second-generation politicians like Obuchi and political heavyweights like Amari are likely to leave the processing of political funds to local secretaries, which also contributes to such scandals. (Answers by Takeshi Honda, City News Department)