A resident of state Rep. Calvin Say’s District 20 filed a complaint this week with the Campaign Spending Commission, alleging that the speaker emeritus may have used $60,000 of campaign funds for personal use.

“As a voter in District 20, I am outraged that Calvin Say has used tens of thousands of dollars of his campaign funds for personal use by paying his personal attorneys to defend his spurious claim to legal residency,” Nancy McGee, a Wilhelmina Rise resident, said in a press release Tuesday. “The use of campaign funds for this personal purpose is illegal and against the spirit of our state’s campaign financing system.”

Reached by phone, McGee told Civil Beat that Say “can’t use campaign money for his personal court battles.”

Calvin Say up close microphone

Calvin Say in March 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Say, who has served in the Hawaii House of Representatives since 1976, has been challenged several times over complaints that he has not lived in his Palolo Valley home in years and in fact lives in another district. Say has long maintained that he lives in District 20.

Last month, a Circuit Court judge tossed out a legal challenge to Say, arguing that the Hawaii House has authority over member qualifications and not the courts. Last week, Speaker Joe Souki said the House would not take up the issue of Say’s qualifications until the House convenes in session in January.

McGee’s complaint cites Hawaii Revised Statutes 11-381 and 11-382 that address the use of campaign funds. Those laws say that the money can not be used for “personal expenses.”

But the laws also state that a candidate may use funds “for any purpose directly related … to the candidate’s own campaign.” And, the money may be used “to pay for ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with the candidate’s duties as a holder of an office.”

McGee also cites Hawaii Administrative Rules 3-160-42, which spells out definitions of personal expenses. The definitions include:

(10) Legal expenses not related to the nomination or election of a candidate; provided that personal expenses do not include legal expenses specifically related to the nomination or election of a candidate in:

(A) Proceedings before the commission; or

(B) Proceedings before an administrative agency or a court of law;

Say, perhaps, could make the argument that his legal fees are directly relate to his campaign to stay in office. Indeed, his most recent expenditure filing with the Campaign Spending Commission lists $23,354 paid to law firm Kobayashi, Sugita & Goda for legal fees; the filing says the expenses were “Directly Related to Candidate’s Campaign.”

An attorney for the Campaign Spending Commission said the agency has not acted on the most recent complaint and could not comment on its allegations. The commission normally gives subjects of complaints two weeks to respond.

Say did not respond to Civil Beat’s media inquiries.

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