FBI probes campaign donations to Maine Senator Susan Collins

May 20, 2021

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been reviewing a possible scheme to funnel over six-figures in illegal donations to the 2020 re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, recently unsealed court records in Washington, D.C., show, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The FBI is investigating whether Martin Kao, the former chief executive officer for Hawaii-based contractor Martin Defense Group, illegally donated money to the senator’s campaign, according to a search-warrant application filed in federal court in April. The contractor has offices in Maine, as well as other locations.

Overall, the prominent defense contractor has been charged with bank fraud and money laundering for bilking the federal government out of $12.8 million that should have been distributed to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program instituted during the COVID-19 crisis.

Specifically, according to the Bloomberg report, an FBI agent alleged in a court affidavit that Kao used a shell company to make a $150,000 donation to Collins’ re-election campaign and reimbursed family members for smaller donations. Under federal law, government contractors are prohibited from making donations to political committees. So-called “straw” donations in which a contributor uses someone else’s money also are illegal.

Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Collins, told Bloomberg that the senator’s campaign “had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant.”

A lawyer for Kao did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The donations to Collins’ campaign under investigation were a small percentage of the more than $30 million in receipts her campaign raised in the last cycle. Outside PACs on both sides spent many millions more in one of the most expensive Senate races in the country.

In August 2019, Collins announced that Martin Defense Group, then known as Navatek, had received an $8 million Department of Defense contract. A press release on her website said she “strongly advocated” for the funding.

Research contact: @Bloomberg

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