Susan Collins campaign donations from Hawaii defense contractor prompt FBI investigation

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The FBI is investigating whether a U.S. defense contractor illegally directed money to Sen. Susan Collins’s 2020 reelection campaign, Fox News has learned. 

FBI personnel searched electronic devices belonging to Martin Kao, a former CEO of Hawaii defense contractor Navatek, seeking evidence that he orchestrated an effort to funnel alleged illegal contributions to help Collins, a Maine Republican, in her 2020 reelection bid, according to a recently unsealed search warrant application. 

Authorities also seized cell phones belonging to Kao and colleague Clifford Chen, the document said.

Federal agents requested the warrant, citing evidence that Kao reimbursed friends and family members about $45,000 in donations they made directly to Collins’ campaign, violating a federal law that bans donations made in the name of another person.

Investigators also allege that Kao illegally directed $150,000 in corporate funds to a super PAC supporting Collins’ campaign.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks on Capitol Hill, May 12, 2021. (Getty Images)

The warrant application doesn’t accuse Collins of any wrongdoing. 

“The Collins for Senator Campaign had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant,” Collins’s communications director Annie Clark told Fox News. 

In 2019, the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research awarded Navatek – now known as Martin Defense Group — an $8 million contract to develop safer ship hulls and Collins advocated for that funding, according to a news release from her office at the time.

“Our company is committed the State of Maine, and thanks to Senator Collins’ support, we have been able to partner with the University of Maine and the State’s boat building ecosystem to address the Navy’s new challenges and needs,” Kao said in the release. 

Months after the contract was awarded, an entity called the Society of Young Women Scientists and Engineers LLC made a $150,000 donation to the pro-Collins super PAC called 1820 PAC, reports said. Kao and his wife are accused of creating the fraudulent LLC, which backed Collins, according to the warrant application.

According to the FBI, bank records indicate that Kao reimbursed several family members for their donations to the Collins for Senator campaign committee.

Kao was charged last year with fraudulently obtaining millions in coronavirus-relief funds. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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