Tokyo Electric Power Co. executives pumped tens of millions of yen in personal donations into Liberal Democratic Party coffers in a campaign apparently backed by the company's political lobbyists, an Asahi Shimbun investigation found.
Although TEPCO's public relations department insists that the company does not encourage the donations, The Asahi Shimbun found that at least 448 of the company's executives donated a total of 59.57 million yen ($777,000) to a political fund-raising arm of the then ruling party between 1995 and 2009.
Sources said TEPCO determined the amounts different ranks of executives should donate, with the chairman and president asked to contribute 300,000 yen, executive vice presidents asked to donate 240,000 yen and managing directors asked to give 120,000 yen.
Senior staff were briefed about donations on taking up new positions and told exactly how much was appropriate for their jobs, the sources said.
Between 2005 and 2009, 60 to 70 percent of TEPCO executives made individual donations to the People's Political Association (PPA), which takes political donations on behalf of the LDP, part of a pattern of giving across the nuclear industry that netted the party large sums.
Political funding reports for 2007 show that about 70 percent of the executives at the nine electric power companies that operate nuclear power plants donated a total of about 25 million yen to the PPA. Those companies are also believed to have set donation amounts for different ranks of executives. Donations from executives of some companies were all concentrated in December.
A former TEPCO executive explained that the donations were seen as part of the company's lobbying effort. "Because the company stopped corporate donations in 1974, the individual donations were considered an alternative," the former executive said. TEPCO also bought large numbers of tickets to fund-raising parties held by LDP lawmakers.
TEPCO executives and former executives interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun revealed that the election to the Upper House in July 1998 of Tokio Kano, 76, a former TEPCO executive vice president running on the LDP ticket, coincided with a significant increase in the donations.
A TEPCO executive in charge of political affairs was approached by a high-ranking PPA official and told that, since Kano had been elected, the LDP fundraisers wanted TEPCO executives to increase their donations.
PPA political funds reports show that TEPCO executives donated a total of 3.34 million yen in 1998. That figure increased by 1.22 million yen to 4.56 million yen in 1999. The number of donors also increased from 26 to 32.
A TEPCO executive in charge of political affairs served as a liaison with the PPA and contacted association officials about their individual donations.
TEPCO's Corporate Affairs Department, which is responsible for its political lobbying, was in charge of briefing executives about the donations appropriate to their positions, and its staff do appear to have emphasized in their briefings that it was not compulsory to donate.
However, some executives did feel pressured. A former branch head of TEPCO received a notice directly from the PPA asking for a donation and was advised by an official in TEPCO's Corporate Affairs Department: "Employees who are promoted to branch head have donated 70,000 yen annually. This is not a donation from the organization, but should be paid by the individual."
"I was not supporting the LDP, but an official with the Corporate Affairs Department said, 'Former branch heads have made donations.' I felt I could not stop that practice and since I was a member of the organization I could not say no," the former branch head said.
Another TEPCO executive admitted that ambitious employees were likely concerned about the effect on their careers of not donating.
A former executive from the 1990s said: "Soon after being appointed, an official with the Corporate Affairs Department came and explained about donations by executives. The department made arrangements for the donation and, once it was made, annual notices came from the PPA for individual donations."
A TEPCO public relations department official said: "(Individual donations by executives) are made based on the judgment of the individual and the company is not involved. We do not encourage such donations."
A PPA official said: "We do not know the details about individual cases."
But Hiroshi Kamiwaki, a professor of constitutional law at Kobe Gakuin University and joint head of a political funds monitoring group, said it was clear from the amount and timing of the donations that the company was involved.
"While there have been similar suspicions in the past, TEPCO has never admitted the practice," he said. "The company should revise its opaque donation practices."
(This article was written by Takashi Ichida, Yo Noguchi, Hiroyoshi Itabashi and Kamome Fujimori.)
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