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FBI probing possible illegal donations to Susan Collins PAC and congressional campaign, search warrant indicates

The FBI is probing possible illegal donations made to support Sen. Susan Collins’s 2020 campaign, according to a search warrant. The warrant does not indicate Collins or her staff had any knowledge of the allegedly illegal donations.
The FBI is probing possible illegal donations made to support Sen. Susan Collins’s 2020 campaign, according to a search warrant. The warrant does not indicate Collins or her staff had any knowledge of the allegedly illegal donations. (Pool/Reuters)
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The FBI has launched a probe into possible illegal campaign contributions funded by a defense company that supported Sen. Susan Collins’s 2020 congressional campaign, according to a recently unsealed search warrant application.

Nothing in the warrant, reported first by Axios, indicates that Collins or her staff were aware of the allegedly illegal donations.

The FBI’s search warrant application, which requested access to a hard drive, outlined reasons investigators believe the former CEO of a Hawaii defense contractor — Navatek, now known as Martin Defense Group — funneled donations funded by the company to a PAC supporting Collins through a shell company and donations to the Collins for Senator campaign through his family members.

Campaign finance law prohibits donors from making contributions in the name of others. It also bans federal government contractors from donating.

A spokeswoman for Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement that “the Collins for Sen. Campaign had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant.” She also pointed to language on the donation website outlining rules indicating donors must agree they are not making contributions on behalf of a corporation or federal contractor before they make a contribution.

Last stand of the Republican moderate

Martin Kao, CEO of Navatek at the time, and his wife are accused of creating a fraudulent LLC called the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers in 2019 to funnel $150,000 to the 1820 PAC, which backed Collins, according to the warrant application filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

The FBI also cited bank records that they say show Kao and at least one another Navatek employee reimbursed several family members for more than $44,000 in personal donations to the Collins for Senator campaign committee. The campaign committee raised more than $30 million in the 2020 election cycle, according to Open Secrets.

A spokeswoman for the FBI said the agency could “neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation” and had no further comment on the matter Tuesday evening.

The FBI said in the application that the company frequently contracts with the U.S. Defense Department.

In the summer of 2019, the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research awarded Navatek an $8 million contract to develop safer ship hulls. Collins advocated for that funding.

In a separate case, Kao was recently charged with bank fraud and money laundering. The government has accused him of lying on his application to the Paycheck Protection Program to receive more than $12.8 million in federal aid.

His attorneys in that case did not respond to a request for comment.

A representative of the Martin Defense Group said in a statement that Kao and others are “no longer employees of the Company” and that they are “fully cooperating with the government investigation.”

They declined to comment on “personal legal matters of these former employees.”

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