HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Campaign Spending Commission is taking a close look at state lawmaker and congressional Candidate Kaniela Ing's campaigns for his state House seat.
The commission's executive director, Kristin Izumi-Nitao, and its attorney, Gary Kam, told Hawaii News Now that the state agency began looking into the Maui Representative's campaign records after finding irregularities. They didn't provide details.
Hawaii News Now reported on Wednesday that corporate and grassroots Political Action Committees disclosed that they donated more than $18,000 to Ing's state campaign since 2012 but that none of those donations were reported by Ing's campaign.
"It's not one or two checks. It's not a few hundred dollars. In the past the Commission has taken this kind of failure to disclose very seriously," said Ian Lind, board member of the political watchdog group, Common Cause Hawaii.
Ing told Hawaii News Now that he had been working with the commission for "the last year or so," answering questions about contributions to his campaign account. In a statement today, he promised to cooperate with the commission.
"We are running a clean campaign because we are fighting to unrig our democracy and economy," Ing said in a statement on Sunday.
After HNN's story on the alleged unreported contributions ran on Wednesday, Ing took to Facebook, saying he had returned the bulk that money and that's why they're not listed in his records.
"Many of the so-called discrepancies come from checks that were given to me that I decided not to deposit," Ing said in a video he posted on his Facebook page.
If a PAC's campaign donation is not deposited within six months, the PAC is required to report that the contribution was returned.
None of the PAC donations cited in Hawaii News Now's report were reported returned by the corporations. In fact, several PACs we spoke with said their checks were deposited by Ing's campaign.
"If you're running for Congress, you have to maintain the best records you can possibility have. You can't ... be making some excuses as to why you didn't report it," said former state Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Bob Watada.
The campaign finance questions come after Hawaii News Now reported that Ing doesn't have a master's degree from the University of Hawaii, even though he listed one on his LinkedIn page.
Ing said the master's reference was a mistake and that he wasn't trying to deceive voters. But in a campaign flyer for his 2016 race, he continued to list a master's degree among his credentials.
If the Campaign Spending Commission finds that Ing intentionally or recklessly failed to report contributions intentionally, it could fine him or could ask prosecutors to conduct criminal investigation.