New House Majority Floor Leader Under Scrutiny for Campaign Spending Violations, After Legislator She Replaced Resigned for Similar Problems
It was just one month ago when Hawaii Campaign Spending Commissioners sanctioned Rep. Karen Awana, issuing the maximum fine of $8,590 against her campaign for 54 violations of the state’s campaign spending law.
Awana, who was serving as the House majority floor leader, had, according to the Campaign Spending Commission, filed false or inaccurate reports, reported her campaign contributions late, and did not keep accurate records.
In 2012, the Commission fined Awana twice over $7,200 for the exactly the same types of violations.
To end negative media attention focused on his majority floor leader, House Speaker Joe Souki replaced Awana with Rep. Rida Cabanilla, a Democrat from Ewa Beach.
He should have possibly first looked into Cabanilla's campaign spending reporting habits, however, because she had already committed the same types of violations as Awana, and the state Campaign Spending Commission had launched its investigation into her campaign committee.
The investigation stemmed from a March 25 campaign fundraiser that Cabanilla's campaign held, which brought in $5,800 in revenues and expended $2,900. However, Cabanilla filed a campaign spending report that said she had no income and no expenditures.
Awana’s campaign had committed the same violation.
"If we see that a candidate filed a notice of a fundraiser, we will always check their records afterward to see if they reported the income and expenditures," said Gary Kam, attorney for the state Campaign Spending Commission.
Cabanilla’s campaign will be sanctioned at next Wednesday’s state Campaign Spending Commission meeting, most likely with a $500 fine.
Cabanilla, who was named the Hawaii Dental Association 2006 Legislator of the Year, currently chairs the House Committee on Housing. The registered nurse and former U.S. Army Reserve officer is a member of four other House committees.
Cabanilla did not return emails to Hawaii Reporter inquiring as to whether she would resign from her post as Awana did because of campaign spending violations.
Carolyn Tanaka, spokeswoman for the House majority, said "The Speaker said that this matter is still pending action before the campaign spending commission and it would be premature to comment at this time."
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