Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The MAFF Minister Un-Answers Questions: or, Reviving the Political Financing Scandal

In his first post-Geneva press briefing (by custom, all ministers give press briefing after the twice-weekly Cabinet meetings and are often forced to answer questions well outside their portfolio), MAFF Minister Norihiko Akagi stonewalled the press on disclosure of his political expenditures, stating that "it is important to treat the matter according to the law". The tabloids continued to eat him up (including two large mysterious patches of gauze showing up on his cheek and forehead), but Yomiuri buried it in page 33, the East Siberia of national news. (Example: Mainichi Reporter Charged with Assisting DUI… in case you need to know.)

So the Yomiuri has decided that this is yesterday's news. Indeed, the Akagi case is more of the same, and come to think of it, there's plenty of material out there on the election alone without rehashing all the issues all over again. Then there's earthquake, and the leaks at the nuclear power station…

Speaking of the earthquake, I did not have any problems with the Abe administration trying to make political capital out of the matter. Did you? You can't have your party leader doing a Putin (remember the Russian submarine going down while President Putin was taking a vacation?) and having the media all over you, so you might as well go the whole hog. (The Communist Party started a donation campaign (collecting money to send to the earthquake victims) in front of our local train station.) I did think it was a little tacky to claim that the prime minister was showing courage when he went in there despite the danger of aftershocks. It also did not do them any good to be seeing carping openly about a 12-hour delay before the report of the nuclear leak reached Cabinet headquarters. As if that were the main concern. Which it was, for the political people dealing with the media. Still.

Now there is one way to bring the political financing scandal back onto center stage. The DPJ can announce that, regardless of the new 50000 Yen per item disclosure threshold, it will disclose its finances to the DPJ proposal 10000 Yen limit. And it will do so retroactively, say, five years? Spring it on the DPJ one week before the vote, and you could have badly needed mo to put yourself over the top. Why not, you were willing to do it anyway, right? Just make sure Ichiro Ozawa doesn't spoil things by repeating his claim that he wanted disclosure down to the last Yen but the party wouldn't go along with it.

So, if you see that happening, remember, you read it here first.

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