Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sights along the Taro Aso Money Trail

The blog gifts you on this the Tanabatas Day with political financing money miscellany.

According to its FY2007 report filed with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, Yukio Hatoyama’s political finances management organization raked in 208,705,324 yen (of which 8,395,145 were carried over from FY2006) that year while incurring 159,665,501 in expenditures. Of the revenue, 49,926,000 came by way of individual donations, while 99,330,000 came from “political organizations” i.e. the DPJ. Most of the difference was made up by 45,830,000 from a single fundraising party held on 3 December 2007. Nastay! But what about the other side?

During the same period, according to the FY2007 report it filed, Taro Aso’s political finances management organization took in 193,343,250 while spending 143,911,327. However, 56,773,691 consisted of carryover from the previous FY, so the true gross revenue for FY2007 was only 136,569,559. Where donations were concerned, Aso received only 9,660,000 from individuals and 39,972,000 from political organizations. Most of the difference was made up by 84,734,240 from a single fundraising party held on 8 June 2007.

The donations from political organizations are of particular interest though. For the sole reason for the existence of six of the eleven organizations named as 50,000-and-up donors and yielding 31,500,000 or 78.8% of those donations appears to be holding once-a-year fundraising parties for Aso and his faction members*…and I don’t think the party tickets were being snapped up by goth-lolis and B-Boys. Unlike Hatoyama’s case, it’s perfectly legal, but it makes you wonder. In fact, if you go through all the reports filed at the MIAC portal, you are likely to come to the conclusion that fundraising parties will leave a gaping loophole in the DPJ pledge to ban corporate donations altogether.

There’s an interesting side story here. The Japanese Communist Party has seized on the corporate money issue**. In fact, their main line of attack for the election season appears to be that the LDP and DPJ are two peas in a pod. Yesterday, a top JCP official drew an unusually large crowd in front of the local train station. He was campaigning for the 12 July Tokyo Prefectural Assembly election, which is being seen as a virtual referendum on the Aso administration. As I passed by twice a couple of minutes apart, the official was hammering on the two-peas-in-a-pod message with a couple of talking points: the Tokyo DPJ’s near-consistent support for Governor Ishihara’s legislative initiatives***—and corporate money. The mostly middle-aged and elderly audience—it’s that kind of a neighborhood—appeared to be soaking it up. I came away with the feeling that the Communists are going to capture a large chunk of the protest vote. It’s a side story worth keeping an eye on, because if that happens, it will have ramifications beyond the 12 July Tokyo election.

* The national associations of doctors and pharmaceuticals accounted for 7,000,000 or 17.5%, or most of the remainder. The expenditures are also of some interest. Filed reports show that Aso’s organizations donated 21,500,000 (including 11,500,000 from his political finance management organization) to his faction’s political finance management organization in addition to 550,000 in annual dues from his own pocket. His political finance management organization received 4,000,000 in return like those of all the other faction members. 21,500,000 – 4,000,000 = 16,500,000 appears to be the price he pays for ownership. Even a twenty-member faction is an expensive plaything. Former owner Yohei Kono and Taro Kono pay 2,000,000 and 2,560,000 respectively. Other faction members only paid the 550,000 each in dues. Incidentally, 4,000,000 – 550,000 = 3,450,000 covers about 5% of the annual costs incurred by an LDP Diet member running a very tight ship.

** The Social Democrats have their own issues regarding labor unions. Besides, they want to hitch a ride on the DPJ bandwagon.

*** Governor Ishihara is campaigning hard for the Tokyo LDP. I think it means that his two political sons will not be breaking out of the national LDP any time soon.

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