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Feds Investigating Alleged Illegal Donations To Collins’ Re-Election Bid

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


The FBI is reportedly investigating a massive scheme to illegally finance Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ re-election bid during the 2020 election.

In the unsealed search warrant, the FBI believes a Hawaii defense contractor illegally funneled $150,000 to a pro-Collins super PAC and reimbursed donations to Collins’ campaign.

Nothing in the warrant indicates that Collins or her staff were aware of the contributions.

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Collins, who is not under investigation, was informed of the FBI inquiry on Tuesday afternoon. Collins’ spokeswoman, Annie Clark, issued a statement Tuesday evening.

“The Collins for Senator Campaign had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant,” Clark said in a statement. “The campaign found out about these allegations this afternoon when the complaint was made public via the news media. They will review the donations and the allegations, then act accordingly.”

Axios reported:

Collins helped the contractor at issue, then called Navatek and since renamed the Martin Defense Group, secure an $8 million Navy contract before most of the donations took place.

Former Navatek CEO Martin Kao was indicted last year for allegedly bilking the federal government of millions in coronavirus relief loans.

Federal prosecutors say Kao used a shell company to funnel $150,000 in Navatek funds to a pro-Collins super PAC called 1820 PAC.

According to the FBI, Kao and his wife set up a sham LLC called the Society for Young Women Scientists and Engineers. Navatek then wrote the LLC a $150,000 check, investigators say, which was passed on to the super PAC.

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.

That’s known as a “straw” donation, and it’s prohibited by law.

The Axios report added:

The Collins campaign’s fundraising solicitations also require donors to certify that they are in fact donating their own funds.

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The allegedly reimbursed donations came in clusters, according to federal contribution records, between June and September 2019, and amounted to less than 0.2% of the Collins campaign’s total fundraising.

The warrant application quotes an email exchange between Kao, who had just maxed out to Collins’ campaign, and the senator’s Maine finance director: “If you have friends or family members that would be willing to donate please don’t hesitate to send them my way,” the Collins staffer wrote.

You can read the full search warrant affidavit below:

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