Under Fire: Akira Ishii, Member of the House of Councilors, Rumor Control 3 Million Yen | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Under Fire: Akira Ishii, Member of the House of Councilors, Rumor Control 3 Million Yen

Councilor Akira Ishii, who is under fire for saying about candidates, "If you choose the best candidate based on his or her face, he or she is the best. In fact, he has long been making efforts to take "measures against Internet rumors," and has been posting a large amount of expenditures on his political fund balance report.

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
Council Member Akira Ishii under fire.

‘If you choose me by my face, I’ll be number one’

Akira Ishii, a member of the House of Councilors of the Japan Restoration Association (JRA), is under fire for saying, “All of the five candidates running for the JRA’s Tochigi Upper House election district are women, right? The only thing I can say is that they are young in age, but if you choose them by their faces, it is obvious that I will take the number one spot,” he said.

Although he later retracted his comment, his anachronistic attitude toward the candidates’ appearance drew a flood of criticism, and even LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Mogi criticized it as “extremely inappropriate,” creating a controversial situation even in Nagata-cho.

Councilor Ishii, who will serve as the Northern Kanto bloc leader in the summer Upper House election, was elected to the House of Representatives in 2009 after serving as a town councilor and city councilor, running for the DPJ. After being unsuccessful in two subsequent elections, he returned to national politics in the ’16 Upper House election after receiving official recognition from the Restoration Association. In this Upper House election, he is seeking re-election.

A member of the Japan Restoration Association described his character as follows: “In a word, he is a ‘patient man.

In a word, he is a man of patience. When he was a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, Mr. Ichiro Ozawa took notice of him, but that is probably because of his character. In the opposition party, where many lawmakers are always trying to move forward to stand out, Mr. Ishii is the type of person who takes a step back, looks at things, and balances the situation. He is also a person who is good at socializing with people from other parties, which is rare in our party. Because of his old-fashioned nature, he is highly trusted within the party.

Although Councilor Ishii is under fire, it seems that he has actually been putting a lot of effort into “Internet countermeasures” for some time.

The latest income and expenditure report (for the period from January 1991 to November 2019) of the Japan Restoration Association House of Councilors, House of Councillors Proportional District No. 4 Branch, of which Representative Ishii is a member, shows the following unfamiliar expenditure.

It is called “reputational damage countermeasure expenses. Councilor Ishii paid more than 260,000 yen to a Taito Ward company on 12 occasions, totaling 3,180,000 yen6. Needless to say, this is all taxpayer money.

What in the world are these “reputational damage control expenses”? Nishida Ryosuke, an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology’s School of Liberal Arts Research and Education, who researches the relationship between the Internet and elections, says, “Since the lifting of the ban on Internet elections, there have been 5,000,000 votes cast here.

Since the lifting of the ban on online elections, there has been an increase in IT awareness in Nagatacho over the past five years or so. In particular, there is a growing awareness that flames on social networking sites are frightening. Politicians are public figures, so the bar for slander is considered higher, but an increasing number of political parties and offices are requesting deletions and changing search rankings in response to online postings. We rarely see or hear of similar items in public relations-related expenditures, but even so, I don’t recall ever seeing anything listed under the heading of ‘reputational damage expenses.'”

If even the experts cannot tell, there is no other way but to ask. When this magazine asked Mr. Ishii for an interview, he replied that he could not be interviewed in person because the Diet was in session. When we sent a letter of inquiry, the response was as follows. First of all, what are “reputational damage expenses”?

The answer was, “The cost of investigating the situation and organizing the contents of the information posted on the Internet, which is contrary to the facts regarding the activities of Akira Ishii as a public figure and his personality, especially his political beliefs. (2) To confirm the display ranking of those websites on well-known search engines, and to correct or delete the anti-truths on those websites. The work to correct or delete the facts that are contrary to the truth on those websites, etc., was outsourced to a specialized contractor.

Politicians, as public figures, are subject to criticism. Was it necessary to go to the trouble of taking countermeasures against “reputational damage”? As for the reason for the appropriation of the cost of countermeasures, he responded as follows.

However, there are some websites that contain information that is not true about Ishii’s activities and political beliefs, and some that seem to indicate that Ishii is involved with antisocial forces. The information was being disseminated to the public, and we have taken these measures in the hope that voters will have correct information about the activities and political beliefs of Ishii Akira.

When asked again what he meant by “specific websites,” he replied, “Websites that may have been established by individuals, and other websites such as Twitter and Facebook. SNS, such as Twitter, Facebook, and others.

To summarize Councilor Ishii’s answer, he probably meant the cost of countermeasures against posts and postings on the Internet. Last year, Mr. Ishii was involved in some scandals related to political funds. It is true that various posts have been made on the Internet.

But even so, the cost of the measures, which exceeded 3 million yen, was probably too high. The answer to this question was as follows.

The other council members have been asked to hire a person with expertise as a webmaster to take charge of the work related to the outsourcing of the work, which is the subject of this question, as well as the publicity of the council members and the production of the website. However, we realized that this would require 400,000 yen per month in personnel expenses (about 6 million yen per year, including bonuses). However, we found that such a method would require 400,000 yen in personnel expenses per month (about 6 million yen per year, including bonuses).

However, we have found a company that is willing to perform the work we desire at the contracted amount indicated here, so we have decided to use the outsourcing method rather than the hiring of a professional staff member. The contract that you have pointed out this time is to subcontract the work of a professional staff member, so it is difficult to make a simple comparison, but I believe that the expenditure is lower than that of hiring a professional staff member.

It is surprising to hear that other council members are spending more, but is it true? Mr. Nishida, the aforementioned councilor, says, “Not a few of the offices have taken measures similar to the above.

It is possible that many offices are taking measures similar to this. During the trial of former House of Councillors member Kawai Norisato, who resigned over the issue of politics and money, her husband, former Minister of Justice Katsuyuki Kawai, asked a Web business to take Internet measures, such as lowering the search rankings of rival candidates who had written against her. In the case of Mr. Ishii, it was revealed that he was rather foolishly honest.

In the case of Councilor Ishii, it appears that he has rather foolishly and honestly included the information in his income and expenditure report in an easily understandable manner. In any case, Nagatacho’s SNS measures are becoming more sophisticated, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

According to Councilor Ishii, the payment of “reputational damage countermeasure expenses” is still ongoing. Hopefully, further “expenses” will not be required as a result of the current firestorm.

The political fund balance report of the “Japan Restoration Association House of Councilors, House of Councillors Proportional District No. 4 Branch,” of which Representative Ishii is a member, shows a large amount of expenditures.

Interview and text by Fumiaki Kurioka

  • Interview and text by Fumiaki Kurioka Photo Kyodo (Representative Akira Ishii)

Photo Gallery2 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles