Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, questioned last week at the Budget Committee during the extraordinary Diet session on unreported political funds received from various donors including deceased individuals, managed to defend himself by acknowledging responsibility for his failure as representative in overseeing and keeping track of his organization’s finances appropriately.
A similar evasive response came from Hokkaido, a DPJ stronghold. At the administrative body of Hokkaido’s District 9 that the prime minister represents, there is a bizarre annual Dec 25 custom known as "the Christmas donation," involving both prefectural and municipal council members.
After Shukan Post’s release of its interview with Hokkaido council member Ryuji Tamura, who had been in charge of accounting, the local media reported the fact that the administrative organization of District 9 is not shouldering the rent for its office. In fact, the local chapter is located in the same building as Tamura’s personal office, and the rent is being paid by Tamura.
Political Funds Ombudsperson representative Hiroyuki Kamiwaki comments, “Political activities of the prefecture and that of DPJ’s local chapter are completely separate affairs. Even if their activities overlap in location, District 9 should be responsible for paying the rent, not the prefecture. This isn’t just a matter of correcting political funding reports.”
Tamura’s response to Shukan Post’s interview did not give the impression that there was any notion of wrongdoing. Tamura casually admitted that the District 9 chapter was indeed not paying the rent, because he was. Asked if the matter would be considered a violation of the Political Funding Regulation Law, the Hokkaido council member answered, “So District 9 has a rent-free office – isn’t that good enough? Is it wrong if they’re not paying rent?”
When Shukan Post indicated that it was, Tamura replied, “Is that so? I guess that means they should be asked to pay? I pay 80,000 yen a month and I’ve been complaining to the landlord that the rent’s too high.”
A rather nonchalant attitude – there seems to be no awareness whatsoever that the issue is a problem. It appears the prime minister himself, who is accountable as chief supervisor, needs to be re-educated in the basics of political funding.© Japan Today