Senate

Three indicted following investigation into illegal donation scheme to Collins campaign, PAC

Three former executives for a defense contractor were indicted on Thursday following an investigation into an alleged scheme to illegally make donations to Republican Sen. Susan Collins’s (Maine) campaign and a political action committee (PAC) supporting her during her 2020 reelection bid. 

The Department of Justice said in a press release that Martin Kao, Clifford Chen and Lawrence “Kahele” Lum Kee, all of whom the department said were employed by a defense contractor prohibited from making contributions in federal elections, had been indicted for allegedly making unlawful campaign contributions to a candidate for Congress and a PAC.

The release alleged that Kao, Chen and Kee made a shell company so they could use government contractor funds to donate to a PAC aimed at getting a person elected to the U.S. Senate.

Although the indictment did not mention Collins by name, Axios reported in May 2021 that it had obtained a search warrant request showing the FBI believed Kao, previously the CEO of Navatek, had reimbursed his family members around $150,000 in donations to a pro-Collins super PAC in an apparent effort to work around a rule prohibiting him from donating to federal political committees as a federal contractor.

The FBI’s search warrant also mentioned Chen, saying, “there is probable cause to believe that Martin Kao, Clifford Chen [Kao’s colleague at Navatek], a federal contract prohibited from making political campaign contributions, used family members associated with Kao, Chen and Navatek as conduits for contributions to the Collins for Senator campaign committee in violation of 52 U.S.C § 30122 and U.S.C. § 30119.”

The department also alleged in its release that the three former executives used family members to donate to the candidate’s campaign committee, then obtained reimbursements for the donations using funds obtained from their employer.

The executives are each facing charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to make conduit and government contractor contributions, making conduct contributions and making government contractor contributions.

Kao has been charged with an additional two counts of making false statements for causing the submission of false information to the Federal Election Committee.

They could receive up to five years in prison and fines of $250,000 for each count if convicted.

“As is clear in the indictment, there are no allegations of wrongdoing by the Collins for Senator Campaign,” Collins’s campaign office said in a statement. 

“As stated previously, the campaign had absolutely no knowledge of any of the allegations against Mr. Kao or his associates until a search warrant was reported in the press,” the statement added.

Updated at 9:37 p.m.

Tags Clifford Chen Lawrence “Kahele” Lum Kee Martin Kao Susan Collins
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