Show an ad over header. AMP

Collins helps contractor after pro-Susan PAC gets donation

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

Background: Through November, Kao was the CEO of the Martin Defense Group, known until last year as Navatek.

  • In August 2019, Collins (R-Maine) helped Navatek secure an $8 million U.S. Navy contract to design advanced ship hulls at its facility in Portland, Maine.
  • A few months later, in December 2019, a pro-Collins group dubbed 1820 PAC received a $150,000 contribution from a mysterious Hawaii LLC called the Society for Young Women Scientists and Engineers.
  • The Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit ethics group, filed an FEC complaint, alleging the donation to the political action committee may have been designed to illegally obscure the true source of the funds.

What's new: Documents filed last week with corporate regulators in Hawaii confirm the entity was run by Kao's wife.

  • Corporate records had previously listed its sole officer as a woman named Jennifer Lam, closely resembling the name of Kao's wife, Tiffany Jennifer Lam. Initial efforts to confirm her identity failed.
  • The filing last week changed the entity's registered agent from Jennifer Lam to Martin Kao, confirming their connection.
  • Kao's attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Be smart: There’s no indication that Collins was aware of the entity's donation, who was behind it or that the prospect of financial support influenced her decision to assist Navatek’s work.

  • Nonetheless, the donation came just as Collins girded for a challenging — and extremely expensive — reelection fight. She ended up running against Democrat Sara Gideon, who spent $76 million on her unsuccessful campaign.
  • Collins got major support from 1820 PAC, which was closely aligned with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
  • There’s no evidence of a quid pro quo, yet the Society for Young Women Scientists and Engineers' donation to the super PAC represented a significant cash infusion for an outfit that had benefitted from having a key Navatek ally in the Senate.
  • A Collins spokesperson had no comment.

Kao’s political connections were extensive, and his efforts to cultivate and exploit them are at the center of federal fraud and money laundering charges against him.

  • Prosecutors accuse Kao of fudging Navatek’s finances and payroll information to maximize the money the company and its subsidiaries received through the Paycheck Protection Program. It had been designed to keep small businesses afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • According to the indictment, Kao pressured banks to expedite fraudulent PPP loan applications by invoking his connections to powerful legislators in Washington.

Retiring Republicans could clear the path for GOP troublemakers to join the Senate ranks

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Keep reading... Show less

Diversity in Congress is growing steadily, but lags behind the U.S. population

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.

Keep reading... Show less

As Senate Republicans retire, lobbyists eye staff as top-notch talent

The retirements of high-profile Senate Republicans mean a lot of experienced staffers will soon be seeking new jobs, and Washington lobbying and public affairs firms are eyeing a potential glut of top-notch talent.

Why it matters: Roy Blunt is the fifth Republican dealmaker in the Senate to announce his retirement next year. Staffers left behind who can navigate the upper chamber of Congress will be gold for the city’s influence industry.

Keep reading... Show less

U.S. grants temporary protected status to thousands of Venezuelans

Venezuelans living in the United States will be eligible to receive temporary protected status for 18 months, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled to the U.S. amid economic, political and social turmoil back home. Former President Trump, on his last full day in office, granted some protections to Venezuelans through the U.S. Deferred Enforced Departure program, but advocates and lawmakers said the move didn't go far enough.

Keep reading... Show less

Zuckerberg floated possibility of remote work in January 2020. Sandberg thought he was "nuts"

Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg thought Mark Zuckerberg was "nuts" when he raised the possibility in January 2020 that 50,000 Facebook employees might have to work from home. By March 6, they were.

Why it matters: In an interview Monday with Axios Re:Cap, Sandberg explained how Facebook moved quickly to respond to the pandemic with grants for small businesses and work-from-home stipends for its employees, and how the company has been watching the unfolding crisis for women in the workforce.

Keep reading... Show less

Supreme Court declines to hear case on qualified immunity for police officers

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal for a lawsuit brought against Cleveland police officers that challenges the scope of qualified immunity, the legal doctrine which has been used to shield officers from lawsuits alleging excessive force, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The doctrine has been the subject of scrutiny from civil rights advocates. Eliminating qualified immunity was one of the key demands of demonstrators during nationwide protests in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd.

Keep reading... Show less

CDC: Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors without masks

People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can take fewer precautions in certain situations, including socializing indoors without masks when in the company of low-risk or other vaccinated individuals, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Monday.

Why it matters: The report cites early evidence that suggests vaccinated people are less likely to have asymptomatic infection, and are potentially less likely to transmit the virus to other people. At the time of its publication, the CDC said the guidance would apply to about 10% of Americans.

Keep reading... Show less

Ripple CEO calls for clearer crypto regulations following SEC lawsuit

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by the SEC, it would put the U.S. cryptocurrency industry at a competitive disadvantage.

Why it matters: Garlinghouse's comments may seem self-serving, but his call for clearer crypto rules is consistent with longstanding entreaties from other industry players.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories