Billionaire-backed developer under investigation for illegal political donations
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Campaign Spending Commission is investigating a local developer for alleged campaign finance abuses.
In a complaint made public Tuesday, the commission alleges that Timothy Lee, CEO of JL Capital, improperly reimbursed three employees and a former worker after they gave $12,000 to the political campaigns of former Honolulu mayoral candidates Kym Pine and Keith Amemiya in 2020.
Political watchdogs say that’s a serious allegation.
“If campaigns are dependent on secret money from secret sources that only they know the connection, then the public has no way of being able to cross check against corruption,” said longtime investigative reporter and blogger Ian Lind.
The commission’s investigation is based on bank records that they subpoenaed from Lee, his employees and the former worker.
The commission had scheduled a hearing on Wednesday but deferred the matter to its next meeting. It said it could call for further investigation, dismiss it or refer the case to law enforcement authorities for a criminal investigation.
During the past several years, JL Capital has invested tens of millions of dollars for new projects in the Kapiolani corridor.
The largest is the Sky Ala Moana condo project which the company is doing in partnership with another developer. The company also owns the former KGMB building on Kapiolani Boulevard and the Like Like Plaza on Keeaumoku Street.
JL Capital is also a major political donor in Hawaii.
A Hawaii News Now review of state Campaign Spending Commission shows that Timothy Lee and JL Capital employees and their relatives contributed more than $66,000 to nearly a dozen candidates.
A majority of those contributions were apparently given legally.
“This is pretty standard practice for developers and for them this is a relatively small amount of money when you’re talking about millions and millions of dollars at stake with these development projects,” said University of Hawaii Political Science professor Colin Moore.
“This money gives you access or maybe special consideration for your project.”
An attorney for Lee declined comment for this story.
Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.