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Tokuda’s prior campaigns also under scrutiny

Employees at father's hospital group linked to '05, '09 alleged poll violations

Kyodo

A hospital group suspected of illegally involving its employees in last year’s election campaign for Rep. Takeshi Tokuda engaged in similar practices in the two previous elections, a source in the group alleged Wednesday.

Employees of the Tokushukai group were paid to work on the Liberal Democratic Party politician’s campaigns in the 2005 and 2009 Lower House elections and December’s poll, the source claimed. The group was founded by his father, Torao Tokuda, 75, who was also a member of the House of Representatives.

The Public Offices Election Law forbids financially rewards for campaign staff. Consequently, employees were told to call their activities “volunteer work” if questioned by investigators, the source added.

No charges will be filed for the two earlier cases because the statute of limitations has run out.

First elected in 2005, Tokuda, 42, represents Kagoshima Prefecture’s No. 2 constituency and is in his third term.

The Tokushukai group is suspected of paying more than 200 staff to work on his most recent campaign from the time the Lower House was dissolved on Nov. 16 until Dec. 15, the day before election day. It is believed to have boosted the employees’ bonuses to cover their losses from taking unpaid leave to work for him, investigative sources said.

Prosecutors, who raided the group’s Tokyo head office Tuesday, are trying to determine whether Tokuda or his father were involved, the sources said.

The hospital group ordered staff to make phone calls or visit voters’ homes to seek votes.

Written instructions to the staff state: “(Employees) will be on paid leave before the official election campaign begins, and afterward will be regarded as absent. Please pay the amount that was reduced as additional salary in December.” The instructions, marked “destroy after reading,” also asks employees to obtain receipts under their own names, which could indicate an attempt by the medical group to mask its involvement.

Tokuda was appointed parliamentary secretary in charge of infrastructure and transport as well as Tohoku’s reconstruction in December.

He resigned in February after a scandal broke over his relationship with a woman.