The Hawaii Republican Party filed a complaint last week with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, alleging that the Friends of Kaniela Ing has violated campaign spending laws.
Ing, 23, defeated three other candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for the South Maui 11th District House seat held by Republican incumbent Rep. George Fontaine, 51. They will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.
Hawaii GOP Vice Chairman Boyd Ready filed the complaint against Ing's campaign committee Friday on behalf of the Republican Party. In a news release, Boyd said, "Ing looks like a Rod Tam in training."
That is a reference to the former Honolulu City Council member, who served a two-day jail sentence in December for misusing campaign funds.
The GOP charges that Ing used illegal campaign contributions to obtain public funding; took more than $5,900 in cash from his own committee without appropriate receipts or descriptions; held fundraisers without notice; and failed to report expenses for fundraisers.
On Saturday, Ing said he had not yet seen the GOP's complaint against him. The first-time candidate said he had been working with the Campaign Spending Commission to ensure that his campaign was legal and aboveboard.
"We've been working in earnest with the Campaign Spending Commission from day one, trying to keep it honest and clean," he said.
The Republican complaint, provided by Boyd to The Maui News, says Ing did not file any "intent to hold a fundraiser" report, despite holding three fundraisers and planning a fourth. The complaint also says Ing's campaign failed to report expenses for two of the fundraisers.
Ing said Saturday that the events referred to in the Republican complaint were free events, not fundraisers, so he was not required to report them. He said his campaign is planning three fundraisers in September and would report those.
Ing said his campaign contributions have come from "knocking on doors" and making one-on-one contacts with supporters.
The Republican complaint questions the $1,920 Ing reported to qualify for state matching funds. It says three of the contributors - Rich Halverson, Matthew Ing and Andrew Winer - should not have been eligible for matching funds because they each gave more than $100.
As a result, the Ing campaign has received $250 in matching state funds for which it is not entitled, the GOP complaint says.
Ing said those donations were checked by state campaign spending officials, who said they were "OK," and thereafter provided the matching funds to his campaign.
"We're not trying to circumvent any laws," he said.
Ing released a written statement Saturday contending that the Republican complaint against his campaign was an effort to smear him.
"I am disappointed that the Hawaii Republican Party and Representative Fontaine have stooped to the type of clearly false, negative attacks that big money special interests are using all over the country," he said. "This has no place here on Maui.
"Every penny of every campaign contribution and expenditure was publicly filed and is available online," he said. "I invite the public to judge for themselves on the Campaign Spending Commission website.
"I call on Representative Fontaine to disavow these smears by his party and to pledge to run a clean, honest campaign on the issues and the values important to voters here," Ing said. "The people of South Maui deserve no less."
Fontaine said he was not behind the Republican complaint against Ing.
"I had nothing to do with it," he said Saturday.
However, on his own, Fontaine said that he has questioned the Ing campaign's ability to pay for roadside signs, campaign fliers and newspaper advertising while reporting total expenses of only $10,266.
He called it "kind of odd . . . It doesn't add up."
Fontaine said he has been running a clean campaign and has said nothing negative about his opponent, other than point out that Ing moved to South Maui in April, while "I've been here for like 20 years."
Ing said he was skeptical about Fontaine's claim to not be part of an effort to smear him.
In responding to Fontaine's comment about his South Maui residency, Ing said Maui has been his home his entire life and that he is a fourth-generation Mauian.
"Maui is Maui, and people from Maui know that," he said.
Ing acknowledged that he grew up in Makawao, but he pointed out that Fontaine was born in Los Angeles.
The GOP complaint cites state statutes with potential fines for violations of state campaign spending laws. The party's news release says the number of Ing campaign infractions "supports over $14,000 in fines." It says state law provides that anyone who knowingly or intentionally falsifies a campaign spending report with the intent to circumvent the law would be guilty of a class C felony.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.