National

Yamasaki office passed donations to lawmaker

Kyodo

The fundraising office of Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Taku Yamasaki passed donations from builders to a lawmaker supporting a controversial dam project in Kumamoto Prefecture, sources revealed Tuesday.

The money donated by 36 builders to an LDP chapter headed by Yamasaki was forwarded to the fundraising office of Yasushi Kaneko, who was an independent lawmaker at the time and thus barred from receiving corporate donations.

Yamasaki’s office and at least one of the construction companies deny the money constituted corporate donations to Kaneko, who is now a member of the LDP.

According to political-funds reports filed with the authorities, 36 builders operating near the planned Kawabe dam donated a total of 10.4 million yen to the LDP chapter between October and December 2000.

The money was passed in three lots to Yamasaki’s fundraising body, which then handed it to Kaneko’s fundraising organization.

The money was given to Yamasaki in the hope he would help Kaneko, according to Yamasaki’s office, which added Kaneko had been treated unfairly by the LDP after beating an LDP-backed candidate in an election.

“I thought donating to Yamasaki was the same as donating to Kaneko,” the head of one of the construction companies said, “but I had no intention of seeing the money given to Kaneko.”

The dam planned on the Kawabe River was proposed in 1966, but its construction has been postponed due to disputes over compensation to local fishermen.

Environmentalists are also strongly against the dam. In April, a candidate opposed to the dam was elected mayor of Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, a town on the Kuma River that is downstream of the planned project.