Probe, full clarification of Hatoyama case needed
In the wake of an illegal donation case involving former Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa that saw him resign his post, a political-fund scandal involving current party leader Yukio Hatoyama has surfaced.
Hatoyama admitted at a press conference Tuesday that his political fund management organization had made false statements in its fund reports, listing individual donations from about 90 people who had not actually donated money, including a number of deceased people, and he offered a public apology. The amount of misstated funds totaled 21.77 million yen from 2005 to 2008.
Hatoyama's government-paid first secretary is said to have dealt with the fictitious donations when he transferred Hatoyama's individually donated funds to the fund management organization.
Although the combined amount of fictitious donations is huge and each apparently violates the Political Funds Control Law, the investigation into and explanation of the scandal have been extremely insufficient. Hatoyama should provide a convincing explanation to the public after a thorough investigation into the facts has been conducted.
Why so many small donations?
The focus now is on why the secretary invented so many fictitious donors.
According to the Hatoyama side, the secretary had failed to make requests for donations from the lawmaker's supporters, so he tried to cover up his negligence. But this is a far from convincing explanation. It is difficult not to think there may have been reasons why the money could not have been dealt with as standard donations from Hatoyama or loans to the organization.
In the past three years, the amount of small-sum anonymous individual donations to Hatoyama's fund management organization topped 100 million yen at the very least. We wonder whether other donations from fictitious donors may be found among those donations, and what of the donations made prior to 2005.
Hatoyama has urged Ozawa to fulfill his responsibility to explain what occurred regarding Nishimatsu Construction Co.'s alleged illegal donations to Ozawa's office. Hatoyama should be aware, therefore, that he too must clearly respond to the string of questions concerning his own scandal.
As with Ozawa's case, it involves a government-paid first secretary working in unison with a lawmaker. Any excuse that claims what was done occurred at the discretion of the secretary alone cannot be accepted. Hatoyama has a grave responsibility to supervise his secretary.
DPJ cannot stand aloof
It does not stand to reason that the DPJ, for its part, can remain an onlooker, claiming the scandal is an individual matter.
DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada has said that Hatoyama has fulfilled his accountability over the case. However, Okada's remark does not chime with the public's growing awareness of the matter.
In light of the Nishimatsu donation scandal, the DPJ has submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the Political Funds Control Law so it totally bans corporate and organization donations, starting three years from now.
The bill was crafted based on the idea that all corporate donations are evil and individual donations are virtuous. However, this cannot be said to always be the case, as shown by the Hatoyama scandal in which the system of individual donations was abused. In addition, the freedom to engage in political activity should be remain open to corporations.
The DPJ is not the only political party to be beset by political-fund scandals. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai and Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano, both lawmakers of the Liberal Democratic Party, have been singled out for their opaque corporate donations and have been grilled in the Diet.
An audit system covering the expenditures of political organizations is to start this fiscal year. The way in which revenue is raised also must be checked thoroughly. The ruling and opposition parties should hold in-depth discussions on what kind of system would be most effective.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 2, 2009)