The office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who heads the Liberal Democratic Party, has asked Takagi, 59, to explain funding irregularities, and has yet to hear a response from the lawmaker. “Such a situation could lead to an investigation by the opposition parties,” said an official at Abe’s office.
With suspicions of funds misuse among opposition lawmakers, Abe believes Takagi may not be up to the job, according to the Sankei. LDP leaders are also looking to go into next summer’s upper house election with as clean an image as possible.
After Takagi assumed the cabinet role in October, it was revealed that his office used funds earmarked for political activities to pay for non-political expenditures, such as condolence money at funerals, between 2011 and 2013. Such payments are illegal under the Public Offices Election Law.
Since the accusations came to light, the Sankei notes, the LDP has suffered in polls that took place in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, which were hit hard by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. “Distrust of him in those areas is high,” the paper says.
Takagi said in November that he believes that the money he paid in condolences came from his own pocket.
Inappropriate use of expenses, however, may be the least of the politician’s worries. An October report in weekly magazine Shukan Shincho documented the cabinet member’s reputation for having a penchant for panties in his home district in Fukui Prefecture. The lawmaker reportedly was investigated in a case of underwear theft 30 years ago.