Foreign lobbying scandal entangles well-known political fundraiser in Hawaii

Federal Courthouse, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Federal Courthouse, Honolulu, Hawaii.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Aug. 20, 2020 at 8:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A prominent Hawaii political fundraiser has found herself entangled in a major international scandal involving allegations of illegal lobbying by foreign interests.

In a criminal complaint filed this week, 45-year-old Nickie Mali Lum Davis and several mainland political fundraisers are being accused of using their clout to illegally to influence the Trump administration in exchange for $8 million.

“It’s the same charge actually as Paul Manafort was charged and convicted of — for failing to register all of his lobbying activities on behalf of foreign interests,” said Ian Lind, an investigative reporter and blogger.

Davis’ attorney declined comment.

A Punahou graduate and prominent political fundraiser finds herself in the middle of a major...
A Punahou graduate and prominent political fundraiser finds herself in the middle of a major international scandal.(Ian Lind)

Court documents show that among other activities, Davis and two political fundraisers helped arrange a meeting in 2017 between President Donald Trump and Malaysian Prime Minster Najib Razak.

Razak was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in the 1MDB scandal, which involved the theft of $4.5 billion from his country.

The complaint indicates that Malaysian billionaire Jho Low, the accused ringleader of the 1MDB thefts, met with the fundraisers.

Davis and other alleged conspirators are suspected of trying to get the Trump administration to quash a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the scandal but federal prosecutors said they were unsuccessful.

Davis’ partners were not charged but the complaint says one of them is former Republican National Committee deputy Finance Chair Elliott Broidy. He could not be reached.

The case will not only be closely watched in Washington but it also underscores the heightened political tensions between the U.S. and China.

Besides Malaysian interests, the complaint alleges Davis and her alleged conspirators worked for China in its effort to extradite billionaire and outspoken dissident Guo Wengui, who remains in the U.S.

The Davis case is being handled by Hawaii’s U.S. Attorney Kenji Price and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson, who alleged that the fundraisers met in 2017 with Chinese officials in Shenzen, China and with Jyo Low in Bangkok that same year.

The complaint described in detail the email correspondence between the American fundraisers and the Chinese and Malaysian officials.

“What they’ve laid out is almost mind boggling in complexity going all the way from Washington, D.C. to China,” Lind said.

A 1993 Punahou graduate, Davis is well known in national Republican political circles on the mainland.

After a career in entertainment industry in Los Angeles, she moved back to Hawaii around 2015 and now lives in a $3.5 million dollar home in the ultra-posh Kahala neighborhood.

“And quickly she became active again in local society circles,” said Lind.

Although she’s major backer of Republican candidates, Davis is the daughter of prominent Democratic fundraisers Gene and Nora Lum, who were active in Hawaii politics during the early 1990s, said Lind, who has written extensively about the Lum family.

In 1998, her father Gene Lum were sentenced to 10 months in jail for making illegal campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.

“They got snagged in what was an investigation into illegal fundraising ... from foreign interest that aren’t allowed to contribute,” said Lind.

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