Recently unsealed documents show the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looking into an illegal finance scheme that allegedly funneled money to Sen. Susan Collins’ (R-ME) reelection campaign, according to a report.
An unsealed search warrant application shows the FBI suspects a Hawaii defense contractor had illegally funneled approximately “$150,000 to a pro-Collins super PAC and reimbursed donations to Collins’ campaign,” the report shows.
Allegedly the senator had the contractor, named Martin Defense Group, secure an $8 million Navy contract before most of the donations took place. At the time, the group was called Navatek. This allegedly happened before Martin Kao, Navatek’s former CEO, was indicted last year for allegedly bilking the federal government of millions in coronavirus relief loans, Axios reported.
A spokesperson for Collins, Annie Clark, told Axios in a statement, “The Collins for Senator Campaign had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant.”
Axios reported, according to the FBI, the former CEO and his wife were about to set up a fake limited liability company (LLC) called Society for Young Women Scientists and Engineers, which the company, Navatek, used to write a $150,000 check which then was able to pass on to a super PAC, according to the investigators.
The super PAC, funded by the $150,000 check, was called 1820 PAC. The report said, “Government contractors are barred from donating to federal political committees, and investigators suspect the donations were attempts to evade that prohibition.”
“Investigators say bank records also show that Kao illegally reimbursed family members who donated to Collins’ campaign and that Navatek reimbursed some of Kao’s colleagues for their contributions,” Axios reported. This is what is called “straw donations,” and it has been outlawed.
The fundraising website Collins uses for her campaign, called WinRed.com, asked to verify if donations were from private funds during the process of submitting a payment. The report shows, the donations that were then allegedly reimbursed came in clusters. According to federal contribution records, the donations came between June and September of 2019, which grew to less than 0.2 percent of all the fundraising the Collins campaign did.
The warrant Axios obtained quotes part of email correspondence between Kao and the senator’s Maine finance director after Kao had maxed out his campaign contributions. The Collins staffer wrote in the email to Kao: “If you have friends or family members that would be willing to donate please don’t hesitate to send them my way.”