State Rep. Kaniela Ing, a candidate the 1st Congressional District, has been fined more than $15,000 for using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses and filing false reports.

Ing was cited on 31 counts by the state Campaign Spending Commission. Twenty-three of those counts were related to filing false reports about his campaign expenditures and contributions.

The remaining eight counts were related to violations including unauthorized handling of campaign funds and failing to deposit contributions.

Congressional Candidate Kaniela Ing speaks at the 2018 Democratic Party convention held at the Hilton Waikaloa Resort in Kona, Hawaii.
Congressional candidate Kaniela Ing speaks at the recent state Democratic convention in Kona. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The commission subpoenaed bank records covering a five-year period and found Ing failed to disclose $28,915 in campaign contributions and $87,559 in expenditures — more than 60 percent of his total expenditures for legislative races, according to the commission’s complaint filed last month.

Bank records showed Ing used his campaign accounts to pay rent to his Maui and Oahu landlords, and a credit card bill for his domestic partner. The commission asked him to reimburse his campaign for the $2,344 in “personal expenses” and pay a fine for commingling the accounts.

Ing has said he’s about $40 short of fully reimbursing his campaign, but the commission has yet to verify that, said Gary Kam, general counsel for the Campaign Spending Commission.

Ing has 120 days — more time than the standard of 20 days — to amend the false reports, plus file a new report the commission determined was missing.

At a Campaign Spending Commission meeting Wednesday, Ing said the fine would be a financial burden to his family. He was told to contact staff to work out a payment plan.

Commissioner Greg Shoda was inclined to refer the case to a prosecutor, Kam said. The other four commissioners opted just to issue the fine.

“I certainly agree with him (Shoda) in that I think there was enough there to send the case to the prosecutor, especially when you’re dealing with commingling funds and using campaign funds for personal use,” Kam said.

Ing’s case is different than most the Campaign Spending Commission deals with, Kam said. The commission was suspicious of the fact that Ing held four fundraisers in a reporting period but didn’t report spending any money.

“When we subpoena records or we ask you questions, we usually have cause to inquire,” Kam said. “We don’t just say ‘OK, let’s just go back five years.’”

Ing apologized Wednesday for his “inadvertent mistakes” and said he appreciated the commission’s work.

He had asked the commission to consider fines of $3,855, which he said was still unaffordable for him. Ing noted he couldn’t afford a lawyer to represent him, and as a young parent with $50,000 in student loans and no assets, he worried that the fines levied on him would hurt his family’s financial future.

But he said he’s learned from the experience. As a congressional candidate, Ing now must file campaign spending information with the Federal Election Commission. He said the FEC automatically alerts him of mistakes, which makes it harder to repeat bookkeeping errors.

Ing has previously said that he hired accountants, lawyers and advisers for his congressional campaign.

“Knowing all those things now … really helps,” Ing said. “And having a professional staff, of course, makes the world of difference.”

Ing had advice for other candidates.

“Just watch out when they say it’s a bad idea to be your own treasurer, take them seriously,” he said.

Read the commission’s complaint below:

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