Updated Feb 11, 2022 - Politics & Policy

3 indicted over alleged illegal donations to Collins re-election bid

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) briefs the press after touring the Abbott Coronavirus (COVID-19) Test Manufacturing Plant on January 26, 2022 in Westbrook, Maine

Sen. Susan Collins during a January news conference in Westbrook, Maine. Photo: Ryan David Brown/Getty Images

Three former executives of a Hawaii-based U.S. defense contractor were indicted Thursday over allegations of unlawful campaign contributions to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and a political action committee that supported her 2020 re-election bid.

Driving the news: "Martin Kao, 48, Clifford Chen, 48, and Lawrence 'Kahele' Lum Kee, 52, all of Honolulu, were employed by a defense contractor prohibited from making contributions in federal elections," per a Department of Justice statement.

  • The DOJ did not name Collins, but Axios' Lachlan Markay reported last May that the FBI was investigating allegations of a "scheme to illegally finance" Collins' campaign — though there's no indication that the senator or her team were aware of any of the allegations prior to the investigation.
  • Collins' campaign representatives said in an emailed statement Thursday that the indictment made clear that "there are no allegations of wrongdoing by the Collins for Senator Campaign." 

What to watch: "All three defendants are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and to make conduit and government contractor contributions, making conduct contributions, and making government contractor contributions," per the DOJ.

  • "Kao is also charged with two counts of making false statements for causing the submission of false information to the Federal Election Committee," the DOJ said.

Details: The three indicted men are accused of creating a shell company that they allegedly "to make an illegal contribution to a political action committee supporting the election of a candidate for the U.S. Senate using government contractor funds," according to the Justice Department.

  • "The defendants also allegedly used family members as conduits to make illegal contributions to the campaign committee of the same candidate, and then reimbursed themselves for those donations using funds obtained from their employer," the DOJ added.

What they're saying: "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," Collins' campaign representatives said.

  • "The Collins campaign required that every contributor sign a statement saying that his or her  contribution was made from his or her own personal funds.  The campaign had more than 100,000 individual contributors," they added.

Read the indictment, obtained by CourtListener, via DocumentCloud:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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