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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
The state Campaign Spending Commission is taking aim at longtime state lawmaker Romy Cachola's spending habits.
The investigation is focusing on more than $60,000 in political expenses, which includes the purchase of an SUV and dozens of meals at local restaurants, sources familiar with the probe said.
"The public is not well served when politicians use campaign funds as a personal expense account," said Kelii Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.
The expenditures under scrutiny include:
-- More than $30,000 to purchase a Nissan Pathfinder in 2008;
-- $20,000 in gasoline and car insurance expenses;
-- $9,100 for food and beverages;
-- and, $2,700 in public relations expenses.
Cachola has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1984 -- a tenure that was interrupted by two four-year terms in the Honolulu City Council.
He declined comment on the investigation, saying only that his accountants are responding to the commission's inquiries.
Experts said that much of these expenses could be considered proper so long as Cachola can show that car and meals he purchases had a campaign purpose. If the commission deems that the expenses were personal, he could face stiff fines.
The investigation comes after similar probes netted thousands of dollars in fines against lawmakers such as former state Sen. Cal Kawamoto, former state Sen. and city Councilman Rod Tam and former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho.
"Times have changed. People are demanding accountability. People are demanding that politicians be accountable about the way they use campaign funds," Akina said.