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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 22, 2006

State GOP calls for probe into Democratic campaign financing

By Mark Niesse
Associated Press

The Hawai'i Republican Party is filing a federal complaint accusing Democrats in Hawai'i, Maine and Massachusetts of illegally laundering campaign money for a Rhode Island U.S. Senate candidate, state party officials said yesterday.

The complaint alleges that Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown's Senate campaign broke campaign finance laws by routing money through state parties to avoid contribution limits, said Keith Nakano, executive director of the Hawai'i Republican Party.

"There is reason to believe that the Brown campaign provided an alleged contribution laundering scheme, whereby it steers donors to the Hawai'i, Maine and Massachusetts state parties, with the explicit or implicit agreement that the state parties would in turn contribute to the Brown campaign," according to the complaint, read to The Associated Press by Nakano.

He said he did not know whether the Republican parties in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine would sign on to the complaint.

Federal election laws prohibit organizations from passing on contributions in someone else's name, and they also disallow money exchanges made to avoid campaign donation limits on individuals, Federal Election Commission officials have said.

A spokesman for the Brown campaign did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the pending complaint.

"We welcome it and stand by our earlier statement that our actions are not improper," said Brickwood Galuteria, Hawai'i Democratic Party chairman.

The complaint will be signed today by Hawai'i Republican Party Chairman Sam Aiona. It will later be sent to Federal Election Commission general counsel Lawrence H. Norton.

"After doing careful research, we feel that what the Hawai'i Democratic Party did is a serious violation," Aiona said. "We also feel like the FEC should take a look at other states as well."

The chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, Patrick Colwell, announced his resignation Monday after the party's executive committee discussed its $10,000 contribution to a Rhode Island political campaign.

"The Republican state parties hereby request that the commission undertake an immediate investigation into this matter, and if the alleged scheme violates act and commission regulations, impose the maximum penalties," the complaint says.

The complaint stems from donations involving the Brown campaign and the Democratic parties in Hawai'i, Maine and Massachusetts around the New Year.

The parties sent a total of $25,000 in donations to Brown, and then they received a total of $30,000 a few days later in the form of private donations from a top Brown supporter, businessman Richard Bready, who had exceeded his legal limit for contributing to the Brown campaign.

The money, including $6,000 donated to the Hawai'i Democratic Party, has been returned to the state parties.

Jane Sugimura, treasurer of the Hawai'i Democratic Party, told AP on March 1 that a Brown campaign staffer arranged a tit-for-tat deal in which the party would donate to Brown's campaign in exchange for money contributed to it by Brown supporters. Her comments led to a barrage of media inquiries, and she later said there was no such deal.

Brown said that he personally asked supporters to give money to three state Democratic parties that contributed to his Senate campaign, but he never made a deal to illegally funnel donations to his campaign.