If You’re Crooked and You Know it Clap Your Hands

There are so many scandals involving political funds in Japan that politicians ought to just get together and admit that they have them. This would save a lot of time and effort.

What typically happens in Japan is that Some Politician or Other (not a real name) will be having a good career and then all of a sudden cross a magic line of public attention and popularity and suddenly it will be discovered that someone on the politician’s staff 1) accepted money from questionable sources 2) didn’t disclose all the money accepted 3) spent the accepted money on questionable things or 4) all of the above.

Even though, officially, the politician is not corrupt–I usually describe it as “I’m not a crook, but I hire a lot of them”– the politician apologizes for the trouble and resigns to take responsibility. Eventually, after a short time away from politics, the politician can return and resume a career. In fact, I would argue that having a political funds scandal is a rite of passage in Japanese politics.

This happened recently when Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yuko Obuchi, the daughter of the late former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and a rising star in the Liberal Democratic Party, (which, for the record is neither liberal nor democratic) was forced to resign after it was discovered that her staff had used political funds to purchase thousands of dollars worth of things, including make up.

Also, resigning was Justice Minister Midori Matsushima whose crimes, er, whose staff’s crimes included distributing paper fans with her image and policies on it to her supporters at a political rally, which apparently violates Japanese election law.

The funny part about all this is that there are very few things the political funds are spent on. The Japanese prefer loudspeaker vans that practically drive up to the front of your house to television commercials that you can turn off. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, any TV commercials are done by the party not the candidates.  Despite that, it’s important that money be collected for, um, something, retirement?

I’m still not sure.

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