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A federal election complaint filed Thursday alleges that the treasurer for the late U.S. Rep. Mark Takai’s campaign committee, Dylan Beesley, illegally converted the congressman’s leftover campaign funds to personal use.
The nonprofit Campaign Legal Center filed its complaint with the Federal Elections Commission. The complaint is against the Mark Takai for Congress campaign but lists Beesley as treasurer.
“Donors gave to Takai’s campaign to support his run for office, not so his treasurer can pocket the cash,” said Brendan Fischer, director for federal and FEC reform at the center. “It is not clear how Beesley can justify paying himself nearly $6,000 per month to manage a campaign that no longer exists.”
The center issued a statement saying that, since Takai’s death on July 20, 2016, “Beesley has used Takai’s campaign account to pay himself more than $100,000, despite apparently doing little to wind-down the campaign or direct the leftover funds to charity or other candidates.”
The statement added: “In 2017, Beesley used Takai’s campaign committee to pay his consulting firm $74,869, which is 88.4 percent of the $84,662 the committee spent on operating expenditures over the calendar year.”
The complaint asks the FEC to “seek appropriate sanctions for any and all violations, including civil penalties.”
While federal law allows members of Congress to use their campaign money for various purposes such as donating to charity and making contributions to other candidates, the center says such “winding-down” activities should take less than six months.
“Yet nearly 18 months after Takai’s passing, his campaign committee appears to be doing little else besides providing Beesley a source of income,” the center’s statement says.
Takai’s family issued a statement from his father-in-law, Gary Kai, that said in part:
Dylan Beesley supported Mark’s campaign before Mark’s passing and, at our request, has stayed on as campaign treasurer to help manage the campaigns affairs.
He has worked to help us to focus on the next steps so that we could close the campaign down and create a foundation in Mark’s name and use it for good causes here in Hawaii. Payments to him during this period were authorized.
We regret that we have been slow to move on this and we appreciate the community’s patience as we work through this process. We hope that people understand that our focus has been on keeping our family strong and helping them to move ahead with their lives.
We have created the Mark Takai Foundation and will be moving forward to support the Military and Education causes that Mark championed throughout his career.
We want to express our gratitude to Dylan for his help and support.
Beesley declined to comment, saying he would let the “strong support of the Takai family speak for itself.”
Beesley is now the campaign manager for Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, who is running for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by fellow Democrat Colleen Hanabusa.
Hanabusa, who replaced Takai after his death, is running for governor.
The Campaign Legal Center’s complaint, provided below, lists several sections of U.S. Code regarding use of campaign funds.
Corey Goldstone, communications associate for the center, said his organization learned about the Beesley story from a Civil Beat report and from Roll Call. The spending in question was first reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Judith Ingram, press secretary with the FEC, declined to confirm Thursday whether the complaint had been filed.
According to the complaint, “If the Commission, upon receiving a complaint … has reason to believe that a person has committed, or is about to commit, a violation of [FECA] … [t]he Commission shall make an investigation of such alleged violation.”
The complaint also quotes a Jan. 17 Roll Call article saying, “Takai died with about $1 million still in his campaign fund, and half of that was returned to donors. His family planned to give the rest to charity.”
Goldstone said it’s not clear how long the FEC will take to respond to the complaint.
“It could be as little as a few weeks or many years,” he said. “One of our major mission points is to try and improve the FEC because it is slow and ineffective in responding to these kinds of complaints.”