The Asahi Shimbun reported yesterday:
A former top official at Kansai Electric Power Co. has come forward to reveal a nearly 20-year history of doling out “top secret” huge donations to Japanese prime ministers, funded on the backs of ratepayers.
Chimori Naito, 91, a former KEPCO vice president, said that for 18 years from 1972, seven prime ministers received 20 million yen (about $200,000 now) annually from Yoshishige Ashihara, who served as both KEPCO president and chairman.
While such donations were not illegal, Japanese utilities pledged not to make them in 1974:
At that time, political donations to individual lawmakers were not illegal. However, in 1974, electric power companies declared a ban on corporate donations to politicians because of strong public opposition to the use of electricity fees to pay for such contributions.
Naito said that “ban” was only a superficial stance taken by the electric power companies.
“There is no way those companies could (ban such donations),” he said. “Nothing would have happened if we angered politicians.”
Naito named names:
According to Naito, the prime ministers who were given the money were Kakuei Tanaka, Takeo Miki, Takeo Fukuda, Masayoshi Ohira, Zenko Suzuki, Yasuhiro Nakasone and Noboru Takeshita. Only Nakasone is still alive.
Naito said he accompanied Ashihara when the money was delivered:
Naito called aides to the prime ministers to arrange meetings twice a year during the traditional Bon period in summer and at the year-end season. Naito accompanied Ashihara to those meetings where the money was directly handed over.
Nor were prime ministers the only recipients of KEPCO funds:
Naito also revealed that other important politicians, including the chief Cabinet secretary and executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well as the major opposition parties, were given donations according to how much assistance they provided the electric power industry. In total, Kansai Electric doled out several hundreds of millions of yen a year in such donations.
Naito explained why he chose this time to make the donations public:
…the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 and the inept handling of that disaster by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, politicians and bureaucrats led Naito to have a change of heart.
“As I began to think about my own death, I also recalled the course I had taken in life,” Naito said. “A reporter (from The Asahi Shimbun) came just at the time when I began feeling that I wanted to talk about matters I had never spoken about until now. I thought it would serve as a lesson for future generations.”
The Asahi Shimbun’s interviews with Naito were extensive:
Naito agreed to be interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun, and he spoke with reporters for a total of 69 hours over 23 sessions from December 2013 until July 2014.
Naito had strong words for the handling of the Fukushima disaster and suggested that it may have been made worse by the relationship between electric utilities and the government:
He said the government’s handling of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was unforgivable.
“There was a problem in the relationship created over many years among those in the political, bureaucratic and electric power sectors,” he said.