The FBI is investigating whether a Hawaii defense contractor illegally funneled money to Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ campaign and super PAC, Axios reports.
A search warrant application obtained by the outlet shows that the FBI believes a defense contractor who received help from Collins funneled $150,000 to a pro-Collins PAC and reimbursed donations to Collins’ campaign. The document does not suggest that Collins or her staff were aware of the scheme.
"The Collins for Senator Campaign had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant," Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark told Axios.
Watchdog groups sounded the alarm over the donations in 2020 after a recently-registered group in Hawaii sent $150,000 to the pro-Collins 1820 PAC.
An FEC complaint alleged that the group was fake and was created to hide the actual source of the funds.
The investigation appears to be focused on former Navatek CEO Martin Kao, who was indicted last year on charges that he fraudulently obtained millions in coronavirus relief aid for small businesses.
Prior to the indictment and the donations, Collins helped Navatek, which has since been renamed to the Martin Defense Group, land an $8 million Navy contract.
Federal prosecutors say Kao and his wife set up a sham shell company called the Society for Young Women Scientists and Engineers that they used to send $150,000 to the 1820 PAC.
Federal law bars government contractors from donating to federal political committees.
Investigators say that bank records also show that Kao illegally reimbursed family members who donated to Collins’ campaign and that his company reimbursed some of its employees for donations as well.
Federal law bars such “straw” donations.
The donations were sent between June and September 2019 and accounted for about 0.2% of all the money raised by Collins’ campaign.
The search warrant application includes an email from Collins’ finance director urging Kao to find new sources of campaign funds after he maxed out his contributions.
"If you have friends or family members that would be willing to donate please don’t hesitate to send them my way," the Collins aide wrote.