Upper House member Anri Kawai found herself embroiled in another scandal Thursday following a magazine report that said she received exceptionally high financial backing from Liberal Democratic Party headquarters to oust a political enemy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The weekly Shukan Bunshun reported that two Hiroshima chapters of the ruling LDP that were headed by Kawai and her husband, former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, received a total of ¥150 million from LDP headquarters over the course of about three months before the Upper House election last July.
The duo are already beleaguered by allegations they violated the election law, and the magazine’s report implies the LDP money could be the source of their alleged misconduct involving the payment of wages to campaign workers beyond the legal limit.
The weekly magazine also alleged the former justice minister, a close aide to both Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, effectively controlled his wife’s campaign office, quoting anonymous campaign staffers.
The alleged ¥150 million payment from the LDP is considered unusually high, especially for an election in a nonswing district, according to the magazine. There’s no limit to the donations a local party chapter can receive from its headquarters.
“I received (the money) but it’s not illegal,” Kawai told reporters as she was entering the Upper House on Thursday morning.
The report, however, may lead to more blowback for Abe by raising suspicions that his party orchestrated the money dump to outmatch incumbent LDP heavyweight Kensei Mizote, who is viewed as his long-time political enemy, in the July election.
For the election, the LDP fielded both Anri Kawai and Mizote in the two-seat Hiroshima district, splitting the votes of its supporters.
Mizote lost his seat as a result, and the LDP headquarters’ strong backing of Kawai was rumored to be retaliation from Abe.
The report has given a boost to the opposition camp, which is determined to go after Abe over a spate of scandals at the Diet.
“If the money were used to buy votes or some inappropriate matters, it is a grievous matter,” said Kazuhiro Haraguchi, the Democratic Party for the People’s Diet affairs chief. “We can’t condone the existence of this administration covered with money and various interests even for one second.”
Tetsuro Fukuyama, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s secretary-general, quizzed Abe in Thursday’s debate over his view, but the prime minister dodged the issue.
The duo’s alleged misconduct first came to light in October when the weekly magazine reported that Anri Kawai’s staff paid ¥30,000 per day to female employees who broadcasted slogans from campaign trucks, exceeding the legal limit of ¥15,000 per day. Following the report, Katsuyuki Kawai stepped down as justice minister.