--The Asahi Shimbun, March 4
EDITORIAL: Ban corporate donations to restore public’s trust in politics
(社説)政治とカネ 企業献金のもとを断て

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Democratic Party of Japan leader Katsuya Okada on March 3 joined a growing list of political heavyweights whose party branches received contributions from companies that were awarded government subsidies.
国の補助金を受けた企業から閣僚らが代表を務める政党支部への寄付が、相次いで発覚している。きのうは安倍首相や民主党の岡田代表らの党支部への寄付が明らかになった。

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Yamaguchi prefectural No. 4 electorate branch, which Abe heads, was found to have received donations from five companies, including 620,000 yen ($5,180) from two companies that qualified for industry ministry subsidies in 2012 and 2013. Similar donations have been received by LDP branches led by other Cabinet ministers.
首相が代表の自民党山口県第4選挙区支部は、2012年と13年に経産省所管の補助金交付が決まった2社から計62万円など、複数の企業から寄付を受けていた。ほかの閣僚の党支部にも同じような寄付があった。

The DPJ branch headed by Okada was found to have accepted 240,000 yen in 2011 and another 240,000 yen in 2012 from a company whose subsidiary had been designated as a recipient of agriculture ministry subsidies.
一方、民主党の岡田代表の党支部は、農水省の補助金が子会社に交付決定された企業から、11年と12年に24万円ずつの寄付を受けていた。

Under the Political Fund Control Law, companies are prohibited from making political donations for one year from the date they were notified by the government that they were designated as recipients of government subsidies. But the law does not apply to subsidies that “by nature do not generate profit,” such as those for study and research and disaster relief.
政治資金規正法は、国から補助金などの交付決定を受けた企業は、通知の日から1年間は政治活動に関する寄付をしてはならないと定めている。ただ、試験研究や災害復旧など「性質上、利益を伴わない」補助金は除かれている。

And the law does not hold the recipients of the donations accountable if they were not aware that the donors were receiving government subsidies.
また、補助金のことを知らなければ、寄付を受ける側の責任は問われない。

The prime minister told the Lower House Budget Committee on March 3, “The donations in question include those about which the donor companies told my office quite clearly that the subsidies were of a nonprofitable nature.” Abe also said, “As for what I did not know, that’s the fact, and there is nothing more I can say about it.”
首相はきのうの衆院予算委員会で「指摘された企業からも『補助金は収益性を伴わないものだ』と明確に私の事務所に伝えられているものもある」と説明。また「そもそも知らなかったことについては、実際知らなかったわけだから、これ以上言いようがない」と語った。

He spoke and acted as if this matter was none of his concern.
まるでひとごとだ。

True, the law only forbids lawmakers from receiving donations if they are in full knowledge of the illegality of the act. But the money that changed hands amounted to hundreds of thousands of yen, and there are punitive provisions for donor companies.
確かに法には、違法な寄付と知りながら受けてはならないとある。だが、数十万円単位のカネのやりとりだ。企業側には罰則もある。

It is only natural to expect politicians to deal with donations with extreme care.
政治家が細心の注意を払うべきなのは当然ではないか。

And even with government subsidies that are deemed nonprofitable, determining their legitimacy should ultimately be left to the judiciary.
また、利益を伴わない補助金と見られても、違法でないかを最終的に判断するのは司法だ。

The law forbids government-subsidized companies from making political donations for a certain period to prevent any unexplained flow of money that can be used to establish a special relationship between government and business.
補助金対象の企業の献金を一定期間禁じているのは、国との間に特別な関係を築くことを狙った不明朗なカネの流れを防ぐためだ。

Should this waiting period be abolished, it would be tantamount to tacitly allowing government subsidies to be channeled to politicians’ war chests. これを認めたら補助金が政治家に還流することになりかねない。

Yet, politicians can escape responsibility by simply denying any knowledge.
それなのに政治家が「知らなかった」と言い通せばおとがめはなし。

The law must be immediately amended.
直ちに法改正されてしかるべきだ。

Corporate and industry group donations are inherently tricky by nature. If the donors expect “returns” on the money they give, that would be bribery of sorts. On the other hand, if the donor companies expect nothing in return for their donations, shareholders are bound to question why the donations are being made at all.
そもそも企業・団体献金には、見返りを求めれば賄賂性を帯び、求めなければその目的を株主らから問われるという矛盾がある。

The only way to fundamentally resolve all these problems is to ban corporate and industry group donations altogether.
こうした性格から生じる様々な問題を解消する根本的な対策は、やはり企業・団体献金を禁じることだ。

But the argument can also be made that if a ban is imposed, then donations can be given in the guise of personal contributions from corporate or industry group executives, and that would render the flow of money even harder to trace.
仮に禁じても、役員らの個人献金に化けてかえって不透明になってしまうとの指摘もある。

Still, unless drastic action is taken, the public’s trust in politics will only erode further.
しかし、まずは思い切った改善策をとらなければ、政治への信頼は失われるばかりだ。

And this is something the prime minister cannot just dismiss as none of his business.
ひとごとではない。

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