Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, who is running for Congress, says he’s disappointed with his campaign manager following a news report raising questions about possible inappropriate payments from a congressional campaign account.
Dylan Beesley had been paid nearly $90,000 by the campaign of Mark Takai, the U.S. representative who died in July 2016, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser first reported on Friday.
Campaign finance records on file with the Federal Election Commission show the payments were made to Beesley’s consulting company, Lanakila Strategies, month after month until well more than a year after Takai died.
The records detail expenditures through Sept. 30, the most recent report available. A new report covering the period from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 is due at the end of January.
As of Sept. 30, the Takai campaign still had $328,000 cash on hand, according to the FEC filing.
“I told Dylan he needs to immediately get his house in order and that I would expect someone who served two federal congressional campaigns, the Hillary Clinton campaign and other state and national Democratic causes to know better,” Chin said late Friday. “I am not happy about this.”
Chin added, “The Takai campaign was subject to monthly compliance and legal reviews. It is up to the Takai campaign leadership team to determine how they spend campaign monies within the law and I would not second guess that.”
One of Chin’s opponents, Maui state Rep. Kaniela Ing, released a statement Friday demanding that Chin fire Beesley and that Beesley “should return the $90,000 he received” or use it to open up a foundation in Takai’s name.
“I’m disappointed to learn that my opponent’s campaign manager has taken so much money from Takai’s campaign in ‘consulting fees’ after he passed away,” Ing said in the statement. “This is fraudulent, and it is disrespectful to Takai’s legacy and all who supported him.”
Asked to respond to Ing’s demand, Chin said, “This claim is totally absurd and patently false, and anyone invoking the late Congressman Takai, his family or his legacy for their own political gain is unconscionable.”
Beesley declined to comment, other than to say that he has updated the records of Lanakila Strategies, with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The Star-Advertiser reported that the company was listed as “not in good standing” for 2016 and 2017.
Beesley also sent Civil Beat the same email statement he sent to the Star-Advertiser in response to a media inquiry:
“After Congressman Takai passed away, the campaign continues to have surplus funds and filing obligations with the Federal Election Commission.
“It needs some personnel to continue to manage its affairs and meet these and other obligations until it finally disposes of its funds and terminates its registration. The campaign also relies on an outside compliance firm and legal counsel to ensure that we are following the letter of the law.
“Understandably, the Congressman’s family has had other, more pressing matters to deal with as a result of his passing, before they finally decide how to dispose of the campaign’s assets and conclude its activities.”
In addition to his work for Takai, Beesley previously worked on a congressional campaign for U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.
Besides Chin and Ing, Honolulu Council member Ernie Martin and state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim — all Democrats — are in the race for the 1st Congressional District seat.
It’s being vacated by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who is challenging Gov. David Ige. Both are Democrats.
Hanabusa was elected to replace Takai in 2014, both in a special election to serve out his two-year term and a new full term.