Scandal-tainted farm minister Tadamori Oshima faced more trouble Thursday as opposition lawmakers grilled House of Representatives Legislative Bureau officials who coached Oshima on how to respond to sensitive questions at a recent Diet committee session concerning misdeeds by his former aide.
The Legislative Bureau comprises legal experts who help lawmakers draft bills. It is supposed to be neutral and assist any legislator regardless of his or her party affiliation.
But during Thursday’s meeting with opposition lawmakers, bureau officials admitted that they prepared model answers for Oshima so he could respond to questions by a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker over Oshima’s former secretary’s alleged embezzlement of 6 million yen. The questioning took place during a special session devoted to money and politics held Feb. 20.
The bureau officials said the five-page document they prepared was simply done in response to a request by Oshima.
Using the bureau’s written examples — which were apparently carefully designed to avoid touchy matters that could point to a violation of the Political Funds Control Law — Oshima answered the questions put to him by Goshi Hosono of the DPJ.
The opposition camp argued that helping a Cabinet minister cover up a scandal is not the job of the legislative bureau of the Lower House. Oshima should have hired a private attorney to handle such a matter, it said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda meanwhile said he saw no problem with Oshima’s actions so long as he merely approached the bureau as a Diet member seeking advice on legal interpretation.
Oshima, who has been under fire from opposition lawmakers during Diet sessions in recent months, has been linked to a number of scandals surrounding the alleged taking of illegal kickbacks by another of his former secretaries.
Opposition lawmakers asked Legislative Bureau Director General Katsuhiro Kubota if the bureau had prepared similar example answers to help Oshima handle sensitive issues in the past. Kubota did not say it had happened before, saying only, “I cannot answer that question,” the lawmakers said.
The document prepared by the bureau read: “The money stopped at the secretary as an individual, and it is believed that he used it all. So there is no way for us to take care of (the money as the Political Funds Control Law requires).” The document was obtained by DPJ member Nobutaka Tsutsui.
The response Oshima gave during the Feb. 20 session, apparently quoting directly from parts of the prepared text, was: “The secretary himself kept that money and misappropriated some of it. So there is no way for us to take care of (the money).”
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