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State Rep. Awana hit with fine for campaign finance violations

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The state Campaign Spending Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to impose an $8,590 fine on state Rep. Karen Awana for campaign finance violations.

The fine — Awana’s fourth in recent years — was for filing false or inaccurate disclosure reports, untimely deposits of campaign contributions and failure to keep campaign-finance records. The representative was urged to pay the fine within a year.

G. William Snipes, the commission’s chairman, cited the repetitive nature of Awana’s violations in upholding the recommendation from commission staff to impose the fine. Awana had previously been fined $400, $6,800 and $1,900.

“I humbly apologize for my inability to timely and accurately submit Campaign Spending Commission reports,” a contrite Awana told the commission.

Awana (D, Kalaleloa-Ko Olina-Maili) explained that her father used to handle her campaign finances and since his death she has been unable to find a suitable replacement or an accountant to do the work. She has named a campaign treasurer and chairperson and will no longer handle any campaign money.

Awana stressed that she has never used campaign money for personal use, which would be against the law. “I’ve never, ever used my campaign funds for personal use,” she said.

House Vice Speaker John Mizuno, a friend of Awana’s who spoke on her behalf before the commission, said Awana has agreed to a self-imposed remediation plan. In addition to naming a treasurer and chairperson, Awana has closed her campaign account, Friends of Awana, and intends to open a new account, Ohana for Awana, to establish a clean slate.

Mizuno (D, Kamehameha Heights-Kalihi Valley) said the Awana campaign will no longer use a debit card for transactions and will instead use carbon-copy checks. He said Awana would be willing to call the commission monthly to ensure that her campaign-finance reports are filed properly.

The commission cited Awana’s lack of responsiveness as an issue in dealing with her improper campaign-finance reports. The latest violations were uncovered after the commission subpoenaed the Awana campaign’s bank records after a payment check for a previous fine bounced.

Awana paid off her previous fines earlier this week.

The campaign-finance violations cost Awana her post as House majority floor leader. She resigned on Friday and has been replaced by state Rep. Rida Cabanilla (D, Ewa Beach-West Loch Estates).

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