THE TRANSITION from cabinets led by elder statesmen or their protégés to cabinets formed by party leaders brought neither political stability nor a lessening of political bribery. Indeed, during the era of party government, politicians engaged in an orgy of mutual vilification, with opposition politicians who schemed to destroy a cabinet trying to discredit cabinet officers and their Diet supporters by charging them with indictable offenses. This excessive spirit of partisan competitiveness reinforced a public perception that the parties were corrupt.1 One newspaper editorialized, "In Japan the political parties are hostile groups, and they make it their first business to injure the interests of each other. They do not concern themselves much about the announcement of their respective policies for the interest of the nation. . . . Their antagonism often goes to the extremity of endangering the general tranquillity, causing serious fear and apprehension of thinking men."2 Among those watching the political battles of the era were conservative bureaucrats some of whom despised party politicians and were eager to discredit them. Bribery charges were a favorite method to accomplish this end.
With the establishment of the Hara cabinet ( September 1918- November 1921), for the first time a prime minister held a seat in the House of Representatives. Also, for the first time all cabinet officers, except for the service ministers, were members of the majority Seiyūkai. Prime Minister Hara was a master of politics who knew how to acquire influence and operate the political system.3 As part of a campaign to secure and maintain Seiyūkai dominance, Hara began a massive railway-building program together with an expansion of public works projects. These programs were tied to the party's porkbarrel politics. Moreover, Hara opened a number of higher bureaucratic posts to patronage and established a working arrangement with the largest political clique in the House of Peers.4