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Reports on political donations for 2010 made public Nov. 30 by the internal affairs ministry show that both management and labor unions of the power industry provided a large amount of money to both the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party. It is logical to suspect that the power companies are trying to buy influence from the parties to protect their regional monopoly and promote nuclear power generation.

According to Kyodo News, the industry’s labor unions gave at least ¥33.49 million in 2010 to DPJ lawmakers in the form of political donations and purchase of fund-raising party tickets. Mr. Masao Kobayashi, a DPJ Upper House member originally from the labor union of Tokyo Electric Power Co. who is currently chairman of the Diet chamber’s Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, received ¥26.57 million prior to the July 2010 Upper House election, the largest amount among DPJ lawmakers.

The political arm of the Federation of Electric Power Related Industry Worker’s Unions (Denryoku Soren) plays a central role in giving money to DPJ lawmakers. Its total donations from 2007 to 2009 amounted to more than ¥110 million.

On the other hand, current and former executives of Tepco and eight other power companies gave ¥33.24 million to the LDP’s political funds arm in 2010, down 29.3 percent from the ¥47 million in 2009. The LDP’s funds arm received more than ¥50 million in 2007 and 2008. The reports also show that power industry executives gave donations to heads of local governments which host nuclear power plants.

It must be remembered that in June 2010, the former administration led by Mr. Naoto Kan adopted a policy of building 14 or more new nuclear power plants by 2030 and increasing the weight of nuclear power to 53 percent of Japan’s total power generation.

The current administration headed by Mr. Yoshihiko Noda plans to write a completely new basic energy policy by next summer. The LDP is also discussing changing its energy policy. The fiasco at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has raised suspicions over collusive ties between the government and the power industry. Breaking power companies’ regional monopoly and separating power generation and power distribution have also been discussed. Both the DPJ and the LDP should stop receiving money from the power industry and ensure transparency in their discussions on energy policy.

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