(Tokyo Shimbun: January 22, 2016 – p. 5)
The media reported on another “politics and money” scandal involving a minister currently in office. Not again! is our honest reaction. If the allegation is true, the incident will bleed trust from politics. Minister in Charge of Economic Revitalization Akira Amari should answer the public’s candid questions.
The weekly magazine “Shukan Bunshun” published yesterday an article on a “politics and money” scandal allegedly involving Amari.
According to the article, in May 2013 an executive of a construction company in Chiba Prefecture consulted with Amari’s office about trouble with the Urban Renaissance Agency (UR), an independent administrative corporation, over prefectural road construction. As a result, the company received compensation money from the UR. In August, the article goes on to say, the executive handed five million yen to government-paid secretaries of Amari’s as remuneration for his assistance.
In November, the executives and others, the article continues, met with Amari in his office and personally handed him 500,000 yen for his help. Later, the company had another problem with the UR and consulted with Amari again in February 2014. The executive reportedly handed over 500,000 yen to Amari, according to the article.
Yesterday, opposition parties grilled Amari in the meeting of the Committee on Audit of the House of Councillors. “It is true that a group led by the company president paid a courtesy call on me, but my memory is unclear as to what transpired in my office,” Amari said. “I remember the contractor came to my office, but I’m still trying to recall all the facts.”
The allegation involves Amari’s receiving money. We wonder whether the minister really does not remember.
If Amari did receive the money, there is no corresponding record in the political funding report. If Amari received a donation and intentionally did not record it, he might be charged with a violation of the Political Funds Control Law. Amari should explain all the facts. The Diet is responsible for holding the minister accountable.
Amari, a key member of the Abe administration, is the TPP minister. Unless he clears up this “politics and money” scandal, trust in the entire Cabinet will wane. The allegation will inevitably affect deliberations on the fiscal 2016 draft budget. Abe is responsible for Amari’s appointment to the cabinet. The minister will eventually have to decide whether to resign.
Even if Amari resigns from the cabinet or Diet, it would not put an end to the problem. He should willingly give an explanation at the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics of the Diet.
If there is a possibility that Amari violated the law, the judiciary needs to get involved.
We would be surprised to learn that even today politicians are practicing influence peddling through their secretaries. Money should never debase politics. Not only Amari, but everybody involved in politics should reflect upon their attitude. All should do some soul-searching.