Tsujimoto to run in Upper House election

Kyodo

Kiyomi Tsujimoto, a former House of Representatives member convicted of defrauding the government of secretaries’ salaries, will run in the House of Councilors election in July, sources close to her said Tuesday.

Tsujimoto, who was policy chief of the Social Democratic Party, has told her supporters she intends to run in Osaka Prefecture, the sources said.

Even though she got a two-year prison term in February — suspended for five years — for misappropriating government funds for her secretaries, the 44-year-old Tsujimoto enjoys strong local support.

She pleaded guilty in the Tokyo District Court to taking about 18.7 million yen in government funds earmarked as her secretaries’ salaries.

Tsujimoto is likely to leave the SDP and run as an independent because members of the party say they cannot back a candidate who has been convicted and is still in the process of serving a suspended sentence.

According to the sources, Tsujimoto is keen on getting back into politics, and especially wants to address such issues as the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq and maintaining the war-renouncing Constitution.

The Osaka race is likely to be fierce because Kiyoshi Nishikawa, 57, a former comedian who has been the top vote winner in the past three elections, will be retiring.

Tsujimoto’s rivals in the three-seat district are expected to include Issei Kitagawa, 61, a newcomer from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party; Motoyuki Odachi, 40, a newcomer from the Democratic Party of Japan; Eiichi Yamashita, 56, an incumbent from the LDP’s coalition partner, New Komeito; and Takeshi Miyamoto, 44, an incumbent from the Japanese Communist Party.

Tsujimoto was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1996 and was re-elected in 2000. She quit the Lower House in March 2002 after the fraud allegations emerged — but has remained an SDP member.

Sato admits pay scam

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Former home affairs minister Kanju Sato on Tuesday admitted pocketing 17 million yen in state money earmarked for a secretary who never worked for him.

Sato, 62, a former House of Representatives member of the Democratic Party of Japan, pleaded guilty to the charge at the Nagoya District Court.

According to the indictment, Sato registered a woman as one of his government-paid secretaries between July 2000 and April 2003 with the aim of keeping the pay.