The former state lawmaker could be penalized more than $18,000 for failure to keep financial records and filing false reports.

Former state lawmaker and congressional candidate Kaniela Ing is facing two dozen violations of campaign finance law, including the failure to keep records and the failure to make records available for inspection.

The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission on Wednesday will consider the complaint, filed against Mark Ing (his full name is Mark Kaniela Saito Ing) and his fundraising committee, Friends of Kaniela Ing. The commission also is accusing Ing of filing 23 false amended reports.

If approved by the commission, the administrative penalty for Ing could total as much as $18,250, which would be deposited in the state’s general fund.

Rep Kaniela Ing speaks in support of the ocean flotilla bill during House floor session.
Kaniela Ing is again under scrutiny by the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commision. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018)

Ing represented Maui in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 2012 to 2018 and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House in 2018.

The commission first heard the complaint against Ing last February and voted to refer it to the City and County of Honolulu’s prosecutor’s office for possible criminal investigation. But in early December Prosecutor Steve Alm declined to take up the case because he said it could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

The commission, however, reserved the right to pursue civil remedies should criminal prosecution be rejected.

The complaint focuses on Ing’s filings with the commission from 2011 through 2016, and the charges are detailed in a lengthy docket.

In one instance in 2011, for example, Ing’s bank records showed that $866 in contributions were deposited into his account and $658 were withdrawn. But a supplemental report indicated that contributions and other receipts totaled $2,697 and campaign expenses totaled $3,845.

“Respondent Ing had possession of his committee’s bank records when he filed the amended report,” the complaint states, calling Ing’s filings with the Campaign Spending Commission “inconsistent” with the bank records. “By failing to accurately report his committee’s activities, Respondent Ing may have recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally violated the law.”

Commission staff also identified over 150 expenditures in the amended reports that may have been for Ing’s personal use. The “questionable expenditures” include for food and beverages, vehicle fuel, taxi and ride shares, car rentals, cellphones and other electronics, and travel.

Gary Kam, general counsel for the Campaign Spending Commission, said such expenses could well be used for a campaign. But he said Ing did not produce documentation to support the spending.

Kam said it was possible that the commission would render a decision on the complaint on Wednesday.

Asked for his response to the complaint, Ing said he was “shocked” that the commission is revisiting something that he said had been resolved years ago. He said he had not run for office since 2016 and had paid the commission “over $20,000 of my personal funds for mistakes I made as a very young grassroots candidate.”

In 2018 Ing was fined $15,000 for dozens of violations related to his candidate committee, including filing false reports and using funds from his legislative campaign for personal use. He since paid off those fines.

As recently as August, Ing pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of missing a deadline for filing a campaign spending report. He was granted a one-year deferral of his plea during which he must not commit another crime or leave Oahu without court permission. And Ing must make a $100 contribution to the general fund.

But Ing has remained politically active. In September Civil Beat reported that Ing and community organizer Evan Weber had used Our Hawaii Action, a super political action committee, to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars that conceivably could go to support political candidates instead of directly helping Maui wildfire victims.

Weber said the super PAC had been clear in stating its purpose. But some warned that, at a time when numerous groups were raising money to go directly to victims, the political aspects of Our Hawaii Action may not be clear.

Ing said Monday that he is today advocating for clean elections, Native Hawaiian rights and community-led Maui fire recovery “often at odds with the governor, Hawaiian Electric, Alexander & Baldwin and major local developers.”

“While I am no longer seeking public office, I will continue showing up for my community the best I can,” he said.

Ing is still on file with the campaign Spending Commission, reporting a deficit of $10,000 as of Dec. 31.

Clarification: This story has been modified to clarify that the Our Hawaii Action PAC had been operating before the Maui wildfires of August 2023.

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