Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MAFF Minister Oota: First, His Mouth, Now His Books

I haven’t had the time or energy to do a real think piece recently. I’ll satisfy my bloglust with a brief thing piece instead.
I’ve had an eye on Seiichi Oota, the new Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as the owner of a pair of loquacious but loose lips who could help bring down the Fukuda administration and possibly the LDP-Komeito coalition. It appears that I had underestimated his destructive powers.

One of MAFF Minister Oota’s political support groups, the Oota Seiichi Daigishi wo Sodateru Kai (Association to Raise Diet Member Seiichi Oota), registered the Tokyo home address of Mr. Oota’s political secretary as its address and filed 23.45 million yen in costs there during 2005-2006, all this under the Political Finance Regulation Act, which is the other side of the coin of the Political Parties Subsidies Act, under which political parties receive government money, roughly based on the number of Diet seat they have, in exchange for meeting certain criteria. The Japan Communist Party is the only party that has refused to accept subsidies. It turned out that Oota Seiichi Daigishi wo Sodateru Kai never actually pay the rent.

This is particularly haunting to a MAFF Minister because similar infractions ended up with two of his recent predecessors, Toshikatsu Matsuoka (26 September 2006-28 May 2007) and Norihiko Akagi (1 June 2007-1 August 2007), losing their jobs and, in the case of Mr. Matsuoka, life—to be fair, it is likely that the threat of bribery charges being brought against Mr. Matsuoka in a separate case was the main factor in his suicide. These and other similar incidents, a non-partisan epidemic actually, were a major contributory factor in the ruling coalition’s landslide defeat in the 2007 July Upper House election and the subsequent demise of the Abe administration.*

You would think that the LDP would have hired a team of competent CPAs to supervise an examination of the books of all its political organizations subject to reporting requirements and cleansed them of all infractions in one fell swoop. Or the Fukuda Cabinet could have at least undertaken a physical check of all the Cabinet Minister candidates. But they obviously did neither.

Mr. Oota may be an answer to the DPJ’s prayers, but the LDP has served him on a platter.

* This also was the main reason why Masatoshi ended assuming MAFF Minister duties three times—of which once pro tem—in a little over three months, between 28 May and 4 September 2007.

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