Democrat running for Congress fined over $15G for campaign violations, watchdog panel says

A Hawaii state lawmaker who's running for Congress was fined more than $15,000 on Wednesday for several campaign finance violations, authorities said.

State Rep. Kaniela Ing -- a Democrat who just last year raised concerns about rival candidates' campaign funding -- allegedly filed “upteen” false reports on his campaign contributions and expenditures over a five-year period, the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission found.

Ing also used campaign funds to cover personal expenses, among other spending violations, the panel said.

In fact, the commission found that all 23 reports Ing filed between 2011 and 2016 contained errors, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

“The level or the number of violations is astounding, basically,” Commissioner Gregory Shoda told the paper. “Every single report is incorrect.”

“The level or the number of violations is astounding, basically. Every single report is incorrect.”

— Gregory Shoda, commissioner, Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission

The commission also discovered Ing used campaign funds to cover $2,125 in rent payments, make a $219 payment on his domestic partner’s credit card account, and deposited an unreported $2,000 campaign donation into his personal checking account, the Star-Advertiser reported.

The lawmaker -- who is seeking to represent the state's 1st Congressional District -- was ordered to pay back the funds, which exceeded campaign contribution limits, but reportedly asked the commission to lower the fines because his state campaign accounts were almost depleted and would have to repay the money himself.

The 29-year-old apologized during a hearing and indicated his transgressions were unintentional, claiming his inexperience was partly to blame.

Last year, Ing expressed concerns about the corporate funding of other candidates, including Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, an opponent in the U.S. congressional race.

“In the past, we have had other cases where people have made maybe two incorrect reports and commissioners found flagrant violations of the law. In this case, we have ‘upteen’ reports — none of which were correct.”

— Gregory Shoda, commissioner, Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission

The millennial grassroots candidate noted that his campaign is the only one in the state not accepting any corporate money, calling Hawaii’s biggest problem “too much power in too few hands.”

The 32-count complaint Ing now faces said he failed to release nearly $29,000 in campaign contributions and $88,00 in expenditures, according to subpoenaed bank statements, the Honolulu Civil Beat reported.

On Wednesday, Ing was able to avoid criminal prosecution on the commission staff’s reluctance to derail the Democrat’s political career, a decision Shoda called unfair, the Star-Advertiser said.

“In the past, we have had other cases where people have made maybe two incorrect reports and commissioners found flagrant violations of the law,” Shoda told the paper. “In this case, we have ‘upteen’ reports — none of which were correct.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.