(Sankei: February 19, 2015 – p. 2)
Donations that need to be returned in haste after being discovered should not have been accepted in the first place. This amounts to giving the impression that such donations indeed look suspicious.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Koya Nishikawa has been implicated in a number of scandals relating to dubious political donations, including donations from sugar industry groups. The opposition parties are poised to question sternly his suitability to serve as minister.
Nishikawa is in charge of agricultural cooperative reform and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, among other things. It is unacceptable for suspicions about him to hinder the performance of his duties. Although the government is saying there is no problem, if he is unable to give a convincing explanation to the people, he will not be able to fulfill his important responsibilities.
Nishikawa received donations from the sugar industry in July 2013, when he was head of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) TPP committee. The Japan Sugar Refiners’ Association donated 1 million yen to the LDP chapter in his constituency.
Sugar and rice are “sacred cows” in the TPP talks that are the top priority sectors for which Japan is seeking to retain tariff. The donation was made right before Japan participated in the talks for the first time.
In the first place, the Sugar Refiners’ Association was receiving subsidies from the government, so it could not make donations within one year after the decision to grant subsidies was made. Yet, the donation was made during this period.
The donation in question was made in the name of the Seito Kogyo Kaikan, purportedly a separate organization from the association. Yet, the two belong to the same group, so this is certain to be criticized as an illegal indirect donation through another organization.
Nishikawa stated on Feb. 17: “While the donation is not illegal, considering my responsibilities as the minister, I returned the money to eliminate any suspicion.”
In 2012, he also received a donation of 3 million yen from a timber processing company in his constituency that was receiving subsidies from the government. In this case, he claimed: “I was not aware that this company was receiving subsidies. Now that I know that this could be illegal, I have returned the money.”
This explanation implies that if the media had not reported the donation, he would have done nothing about it.
The Political Funds Control Law stipulates the basic rule that no donation should be accepted from companies receiving subsidies or suffering losses. If Nishikawa is unable to comply with this rule, he is not qualified to be a cabinet minister, or even a Diet member.
Are the government and the LDP not concerned that distrust will spread among the people if this “politics and money” scandal is taken lightly? It is necessary to ban roundabout political donations through related groups. The opposition parties should not just be pursuing the scandal; they should also pressure the ruling parties to tighten the Political Funds Control Law.