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FBI probes alleged illegal donations to Senator Collins’ 2020 campaign

By Setareh Jalali

The FBI has launched an investigation into possible illegal campaign donations to Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins’ 2020 re-election campaign.  

According to a recent search warrant application, the FBI have reasons to believe the former CEO of the Hawaii-based defense company Navatek, now known as Martin Defense Group, funneled donations funded by the company to a PAC supporting Collins through a shell company and donations through his family members.  

An FBI agent alleged in a court affidavit that former CEO Martin Kao and his wife created a fraudulent LLC called the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers in 2019 to direct $150,000 to the 1820 PAC that was supporting Collins. The warrant also names Clifford Chen, who was Navatek’s chief financial officer at the time that contributions were made. 

According to campaign finance law, donors are prohibited from making contributions in the name of others. The law also bans federal government contractors from donating.  

A spokeswoman for Collins said that the senator’s campaign “had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant.” She also mentioned that the senator has not ruled out returning the contributions – totaling roughly $45,000 – that were made by eight members of Kao’s family and his staff. 

In August 2019, Collins announced that Martin Defense Group had received an $8 million Department of Defense contract. A press release on her website said she “strongly advocated” for the funding.  

In a separate case, Kao was recently charged with bank fraud and money laundering. According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Kao lied on his applications to the Paycheck Protection Program in March 2020 last year and received more than $12.8 million in federal aid. They also allege Kao transferred $2 million in PPP funds to a personal bank account. 

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