A report by a leading newspaper showed that nine of Japan’s power utilities were buying fund-raising campaign tickets for the last 10 years for current Finance Minister Taro Aso. However they were careful not to spend over 200,000 yen (approx. US$1,950) per party, so as not to require the politician to report this under the Political Fund Control Law.
This latest news only underscores the “cozy” relationship enjoyed by the utilities and government officials, which many consider as the reason for the lax safety regulations at nuclear plants in Japan. Aso, a former prime minister, is still a very influential politician, and has a big influence on the crafting of the country’s energy policy. Earlier this year, another report showed that utilities also purchased tickets to the campaigns of Akira Amari, the pro-nuclear minister in charge of economic revitalization.
Senior executives from the nine utilities reportedly said that they pooled together around 1 million yen ($9,750) at each of Aso’s fund-raising parties, with the share depending on the size of their operations. According to the political fund reports from Aso, he held around three parties each year between 2000-2012. The biggest utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) stopped their contribution after the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. An official from Kansai Electric Power Co meanwhile said that the company “does not buy tickets in collaboration with other companies.”
While all of the country’s nuclear reactors are currently offline, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration seems determined to get them back online, despite strong anti-nuclear sentiments from certain sectors. Kyushu Electric’s Sendai nuclear plant is expected to be the first one to restart after safety checks from the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Aso is most closely associated with Kyushu Electric and has been vocal about his support for Sendai, saying last April 18, “Trust in the electric power company is high in the local region.”
[ via Asahi Shimbun ]