Democratic South Maui state House candidate Kaniela Ing is facing new accusations by the Hawaii Republican Party that he violated campaign finance laws when reporting contributions and expenses for the August primary election.
The GOP filed a complaint late last week with the state Campaign Spending Commission against Ing, who is running against incumbent Republican Rep. George Fontaine.
It accuses The Friends of Kaniela Ing of "numerous violations of campaign spending law" and follows a similar complaint the party filed in August against the first-time candidate.
“By no means did I mean to deceive the commission or did we falsify any information on purpose.”
— Kaniela Ing state House candidate
The latest complaint alleges:
* False reporting and double reporting of campaign expenditures, including expenditures of public funds.
* Failure to properly report a campaign loan.
* Accepting a contribution in excess of the $2,000 legal limit.
* Failure to report expenses for five full-color Maui News ads that ran Aug. 5 to 11.
* Filing his "Expenditures of Public Funds Report" 12 days late.
Ing said Thursday that he had not yet seen the complaint, but said his campaign has not been deceitful in its reports.
"By no means did I mean to deceive the commission or did we falsify any information on purpose," he said.
Gary Kam, general counsel for the Campaign Spending Commission, said Ing has until Thursday to file a response. He said neither of the GOP's two complaints will be taken up at the commission's regular monthly meeting Wednesday because the agenda is already "packed."
Kam said the Republican Party's initial complaint - which alleged 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 and held fundraisers without notice - is pending being presented to the commission.
"I know the Republican Party and Mr. Ing want this looked at as soon as possible, but we don't have the budget for investigators, and I'm the only person doing these," he said.
Ing called the complaints an attempt to smear his campaign.
"I think it's very tactical and it's a clever political play for the Republican Party and my opponent, knowing I won't be able to clear my name in time before the general election as a move to smear my campaign from focusing on the issues and the facts."
Fontaine denied having any involvement with the complaint.
"I have nothing to do with the complaints that are being filed against him, and I've hold him that before," Fontaine said. "I just found out about it like everyone else when a press release went out. Nobody has discussed the details of the case or done anything of the sort to corroborate with me."
Hawaii Republican Party Vice Chairman Boyd Ready, who filed the complaint on behalf of the GOP, said in a statement: "Ing knew he was under scrutiny after the first complaint, but instead of cleaning up his act he committed new violations of Hawaii campaign spending laws."
Ing said that he needed to see the complaint in order to address the specific challenges.
He noted that opting to participate in the state's partial public funding program that matches dollar-for-dollar small campaign contributions came with excessive reporting requirements that have been challenging.
Ing received $1,895 in public matching funds from the state for the primary election and is eligible to receive up to $2,430 for the general election. Under the program, his campaign cannot exceed an expenditure cap of $16,199 in each of the primary and general elections.
Fontaine has previously said he's personally questioned the Ing campaign's ability to pay for campaign materials - roadside signs, fliers and advertising - while staying under the cap.
"We opted into the public funding programs and the limits because that's the kind of campaign I wanted to run - not based on who spends the most, but who best represents the interests of the public," Ing said. "Ironically, the Republican Party and my opponent are deciding to exploit the excessive reporting requirements of the program. If this continues, it only discourages future use of the program and defeats its purpose and intent."
The GOP complaint charges that Ing filed his report of public fund expenditures 12 days past the Aug. 31 deadline.
Ing said his campaign did not know a separate expenditure report had to be filed for those costs, but did so once the commission informed the campaign of the missed deadline.
Ing's campaign reported on Sept. 11 public funds expenditures of $1,040.61 for mail pieces from Double Portion Banners of Kihei and $1,439.49 on radio ads with Pacific Radio Group in Kahului, according to disclosure reports online.
Ing acknowledged that the GOP's complaint about a failure to report ads that ran in The Maui News was an error his campaign made.
"It's since been reported - four hundred something dollars - and will show up on the next report," he said.
He disputes the accusation that his campaign accepted a contribution in excess of the $2,000 legal limit for his race.
Ing explained that he received both a $1,000 contribution and a $1,895 campaign loan from the same individual, as reflected in his campaign spending reports online.
"In statute, if you fail to report a loan, it has to be counted as a contribution," he said. "The person who gave us the loan also gave $1,000, so it would be over the limit, but it's been reported as a loan with all the paperwork sent in, so that claim has no standing."
Ing said the Republican Party's complaints are distracting to the race.
"If we stick to the facts, our representative has passed zero laws and secured zero dollars while in office," he said referring to Fontaine. "These smear tactics, which my opponent used in his last election, just divert the public attention away from his lack of results."
Ing and Fontaine are scheduled to appear Tuesday night in a candidate forum that will be broadcast live on three Akaku: Maui Community Television channels.
The two-night forum will cover the five contested state legislative races for Maui County districts on Tuesday, and the five contested County Council races on Wednesday, with both forums starting at 6 p.m. The event is being sponsored by Akaku, Kihei Community Association, Kula Community Association and The Maui News.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.