Sunday, June 21, 2009

Things Fall Apart Into Place

A fortuitous caveat at the conclusion of this post, it seems.

The weekly magazine Shukan Shinchō seems to have fingered Ishii Hajime, a Democratic Party of Japan vice-president, to be the heretofore unnamed politician who asked Muraki Atsuko's division to "look after" the fraudulent Rin-no-kai handicapped postal services scheme.

That the ultimate persuasion came from a DPJ legislator makes the whole story more comprehensible, from a prosecutorial standpoint. Director-generals and directors find it necessary to do favors for politicians -- i.e., pay special attention to a particular constituents or organizations -- all the time. It is part of the grease that keeps the wheels of government turning. To go after Muraki, one of the very few woman DGs, for a crime politicians expect bureaucrats to commit, when there is no evidence of the her having received anything of personal value in return for the favor, would require the prosecutors be damn sure that no one would jump on them for carrying out a sexist, selective prosecution of a prominent working women's benefits advocate.

Which would seem to be the case here.

The DPJ will say nothing because Ishii is one of their own. The Communists and Socialists will say nothing because they are allied with the DPJ in the House of Councillors. The members of the ruling coalition will say nothing, lest this little drama bring exposure to their own past and present massive misuse of bureaucratic favors.

No mess, no fuss, no noise. Very clean.

Ishii Hajime (he's the one behind Ozawa in the photo here) is one of the Diet's truly odd birds -- and I mean that in a positive way. The son of the president of Mercury Records Japan (and later, a 3-term Hyogo Prefecture assemblyman) he received his B.A. degree in political science from UCLA in 1958, then a Master's in the same field from Stanford University in 1960. After a lengthy stint at the Japan Productivity Center, he ran for a House of Representatives seat for the first time in 1967.

He lost.

A second attempt in 1969, however, was successful. He served until 1983, when he lost his seat. After two and a half years as a rōnin, as he puts it, he won his seat back again, only to lose it again in 2003. Saved from a departure from the House of Representatives by having been doubled listed as both a district seat candidate and a party list candidate, he washed out of the House of Representatives for good in the DPJ wipeout in 2005.

In 2007, however, he moved up to the House of Councillors, winning a spot in the anti-Abe LDP election as a DPJ party list candidate.

A varied career, documented with rare openness in a slick, simple website (yes, he is a Stanford grad). Pity it should be tarnished at this late date by possible involvement, however innocuous, in a petty fraud.

Later - OK, after at gander at the magazine's wording, a correction. Ishii is not claimed to have put the request to Muraki herself. I have changed the above text to reflect this version of events.

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