Funding scandals keep coming

Another political funds scandal linked to a Democratic Party of Japan figure has come to light. On March 1, four trade union members were arrested on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Law with regard to donations allegedly received by the election campaign office of DPJ Lower House member Chiyomi Kobayashi. It is an unwanted blow for a party already suffering from funds scandals involving Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa.

Arrested were three senior members of the Hokkaido Teachers Union, part of the Japan Teachers Union (Nikkyoso), and a member of the All Japan Prefectural and Municipal Workers Union (Jichiro) who served as chief accountant for Ms. Kobayashi’s campaign office. It is suspected that between December 2008 and July 2009, four donations of ¥4 million were made by the three teachers union members to the chief accountant of Ms. Kobayashi’s campaign. The Political Funds Control Law allows a labor union to make donations to a political party, a party branch or a politician’s funds management body, but not to a campaign office.

Labor unions are an important part of the DPJ’s political machine, and Nikkyoso backs a number of DPJ lawmakers. The arrests could hurt the DPJ’s performance in the coming Upper House election by slowing the unions’ campaign activities.

In the August 2009 Lower House election, Ms. Kobayashi beat former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimrua of the Liberal Democratic Party in Hokkaido’s No. 5 constituency (Mr. Machimura maintained a seat in the Lower House, however, through proportional representation). In October, an official of Japan’s largest labor organization, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), who had played a leading role in managing Ms. Kobayashi’s election campaign, was arrested on suspicion of promising to give money to some 30 people if they made telephone calls to solicit votes for Ms. Kobayashi — an act that violates the Public Offices Election Law.

If it is to prevent public distrust from deepening, the DPJ must get to the bottom of the situations involving Mr. Ozawa and Ms. Kobayashi and make public the results of its investigations.