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2 Tokyoites First assembly members used political funds on dining

In this file photo, Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) candidates raise green banners during a party rally on June 1, 2017, in Tokyo's Meguro Ward. (Mainichi)

Copies of financial reports and receipts for political activity funds distributed to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly's 127 members in fiscal 2016 were released on Aug. 30, revealing that two members of Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) had spent money meant for political activities to cover "events" involving dining.

In the latest Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election campaign, Tokyoites First -- whose special adviser is Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike -- promised to ban the use of political activity funds on food and drink. Two of the party members who were found to have gone against this policy were Tokyoites First's policy chief, Akira Yamauchi, and Motonari Kimura. Both left the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to join Tokyoites First shortly before the assembly election.

Yamauchi was found to have spent a total of 295,750 yen from his political activity funds on 65 "events" including forums for exchanging views, between April of last year and January of this year. In January, he attended 49 New Year events, on which he spent a total of 168,750 yen, or half, of the money.

Yamauchi told the Mainichi Shimbun that the gatherings all entailed food and drink, but emphasized that they were valid expenditures, since they were spent on events in which he "listened to the views of many people." Asked about the fact that his argument differs from Tokyoites First policy, he said, "I have nothing in particular to say."

Kimura, meanwhile, spent a total of 35,000 yen of his political activity funds on nine "events" between April of last year and this past January. "I spent the funds in accordance with the rules of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and the (LDP) assembly faction," he told the Mainichi. "Now, I act in accordance with Tokyoites First rules," he added, hinting that he would no longer spend political activity funds on events that involve dining.

Hiroko Otsu, who ran in the assembly election as an independent and joined Tokyoites First after she won a seat, had also covered event fees with political activity funds between May and September of last year.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly spent a total of 12.1 million yen on "event fees," of which more than 80 percent, or 10.43 million yen, was spent by LDP members. The Tokyo assembly stipulates that only "gatherings whose objectives are the exchange of views and the gathering of information" are eligible for coverage by "event fees," and does not approve the use of "event fee" funds for gatherings whose main purposes are dining, or social in nature.

Political activity funds are provided to local assembly factions or members in addition to their salaries, for the purpose of policy research and other political activities. The amount in the Tokyo assembly was the highest of all local bodies in Japan, and stood at 600,000 yen per assembly member per month until fiscal 2016, but was lowered to 500,000 yen per assembly member per month for fiscal 2017.

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