Ing hit with 31 cam­paign spend­ing vi­o­la­tions

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRIS SUGIDONO Staff Writer

Spend­ing panel’s com­plaint says state law­maker failed to dis­close con­tri­bu­tions and ex­pen­di­tures

The state Cam­paign Spend­ing Com­mis­sion has filed a com­plaint against South Maui state Rep. Kaniela Ing for al­legedly fail­ing to dis­close more than $100,000 in cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions and ex­pen­di­tures.

The com­mis­sion filed its com­plaint

Tues­day and lists 31 counts of cam­paign spend­ing vi­o­la­tions. The vi­o­la­tions in­clude fil­ing false re­ports, ac­cept­ing ex­ces­sive con­tri­bu­tions and us­ing his cam­paign funds for per­sonal ex­penses.

Over a pe­riod of five and a half years, Ing al­legedly failed to dis­close $28,915.72 in con­tri­bu­tions and $87,559.89 in ex­pen­di­tures — which was about 62 per­cent of his to­tal ex­pen­di­tures.

The com­plaint filed by Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Kristin Izumi-Ni­tao will be taken up by com­mis­sion­ers Wed­nes­day. The com­mis­sion staff rec­om­mended a fine of $15,422 from Ing’s per­sonal funds.

The com­mis­sion sub­poe­naed Ing’s bank records dat­ing from May 2011 to De­cem­ber 2016. Based on a staff re­view of the bank records and Ing’s re­ports to the com­mis­sion around the same time pe­riod, all 23 re­ports were “not true, com­plete and ac­cu­rate,” ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

“It’s se­ri­ous,” Izumi-Ni­tao said in a phone call Thurs­day. “Think of 23 con­sec­u­tive re­ports that did not ac­cu­rately re­port his con­tri­bu­tions and ex­pen­di­tures, which amounted to a lot of money. Had we not sub­poe­naed the bank ac­counts we would not have known how se­ri­ous these counts were.”

Bank records showed Ing used

his cam­paign ac­counts to pay rent to land­lords on Oahu and Maui for $750 and $625, re­spec­tively, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. An­other $219.55 trans­fer was used to pay a VISA bill for his do­mes­tic part­ner Khara Jabola-Caro­lus.

All three trans­fers were made Oct. 4, 2016, from one of Ing’s cam­paign ac­counts with Bank of Hawaii, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. The with­drawal slip ini­tially had Ing’s per­sonal ac­count, but that in­for­ma­tion was crossed out and re­placed with the cam­paign ac­count.

The com­mis­sion is ask­ing him to re­im­burse his cam­paign, Friends of Kaniela Ing, $2,344 in “per­sonal ex­penses” and pay a fine for com­min­gling the ac­counts.

Ing ad­mit­ted in a phone call with The Maui News on Thurs­day that he made some mis­takes, but he clar­i­fied that they were “book­keep­ing in na­ture” and “clear there was no ill in­tent or mal­ice.” He said he in­tends to fully co­op­er­ate with the com­mis­sion.

“I’m not a pro­fes­sional ac­coun­tant,” Ing said. “I’m not mak­ing any ex­cuses for any mis­takes, but if you’ve been around cam­paigns, you’re just a one-man band do­ing the work of 10 peo­ple. That’s what I’ve been do­ing up un­til this year.”

Ing said he man­aged much of his fi­nances in his early 20s on his own, while cam­paign­ing door to door in South Maui. He said he was work­ing at the Four Sea­sons in Wailea from 4 a.m. to noon and would be knock­ing on doors to sun­set.

“That was where the ac­count­ing er­rors be­gan,” he said.

Other find­ings in the com­plaint in­cluded Ing’s ar­rest for fail­ing to ap­pear in court for a ve­hi­cle in­sur­ance vi­o­la­tion in 2016. Ing re­port­edly called com­mis­sion staff ask­ing if he could use cam­paign funds to pay for le­gal fees, which he was told he could not.

Ing also al­legedly ex­ceeded the ex­pen­di­ture limit for the 2012 gen­eral elec­tion by spend­ing $18,494.56 — a lit­tle more than $1,300 over the limit. He did not no­tify the com­mis­sion that he ex­ceeded the limit, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

At the com­mis­sion’s next meet­ing, the board may “sum­mar­ily dis­miss the com­plaint, in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther, make a pre­lim­i­nary de­ter­mi­na­tion of the ex­is­tence of prob­a­ble cause to be­lieve a vi­o­la­tion of law has been com­mit­ted, or re­fer the com­plaint to an ap­pro­pri­ate pros­e­cut­ing at­tor­ney for pros­e­cu­tion,” ac­cord­ing to its agenda.

Ing said many peo­ple have asked him if the com­plaint and other scru­tiny he has re­ceived over the past cou­ple months is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. He said the is­sues seem to ques­tion his au­then­tic­ity and trust­wor­thi­ness, which he plans to counter with pos­i­tiv­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The 29-year-old is in a crowded race for the ur­ban Oahu U.S. House seat be­ing va­cated by Colleen Hanabusa, who is mak­ing a run for gov­er­nor. The race in­cludes Lt. Gov. Dou­glas Chin, state Sen. Donna Mer­cado Kim (D-Kal­ihi Val­ley-Moanalua-Halawa), Rep. Beth Fuku­moto (DMililani-Wai­pio Acres) and Honolulu City Coun­cil­man Ernie Martin.

“I know we have the win­ning mes­sage, and I think we’re speak­ing with a new level of truth very rare in pol­i­tics,” Ing said. “I think it’s mak­ing a lot of folks un­com­fort­able, es­pe­cially lob­by­ists.”

Ing has as­sem­bled a team of ac­coun­tants, lawyers and ad­vis­ers to as­sist his cam­paign. He said he was thank­ful to the com­mis­sion for its work to en­sure trans­parency in the process.

“It’s a les­son learned that you need a lot of help,” he said. “Af­ter re­view­ing our records, I’m con­fi­dent they’re not go­ing to find any pur­pose­ful vi­o­la­tions.”

Kaniela Ing

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