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Kauai state lawmaker pleads no contest to campaign finance charge

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In the first campaign spending violation ever prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office, five term state Rep. James Tokioka, under a plea agreement, Monday entered a no contest in Honolulu District Court and agreed to pay a fine of $1,000 for filing incomplete and inaccurate campaign committee report. 

At Monday’s hearing Tokioka (D, Wailua-Koloa) apologized for his actions and said: “I take full responsibility.” 

Attorney General Doug Chin, who appeared before District Court Judge Paula Devens, told reporters after the hearing that “complaints from the public” were among the reasons that prompted his office to pursue the matter. 

Tokioka, 54, and his defense attorney, Craig A. De Costa, maintained that the entire complaint was motivated by Tokioka’s opponents in the 2014 elections and Tokioka never deliberately tried to deceive the public by failing to report the proceedings from two Honolulu fundraising events. 

Tokioka said the error was a “miscommunication” and an “oversight” on the part of his volunteer campaign workers. He said the delay in reporting the donations was due to staff having difficulty verifying addresses on the checks. 

Lauri Cicotello, one of three campaign supporters of challenger Dylan Hooser, who filed the complaint with the state Campaign Spending Commission, said it took 19 days for Tokioka to amend his campaign spending report. Tokioka won by a two-to-one margin in the Aug. 9 primary election, the closest race he’s had since the first time he ran for the House in 2006. 

Tokioka, who has represented Kauai since January 2007 in the District 15, also will publish an apology on his campaign’s Facebook page. 

Chin said that Tokioka has already paid $945 to the Crime Victim Compensation Fund, according ton the terms of the plea agreement. 

Judge Devens also approved a portion of the plea agreement that would allow Tokioka to clear his record of the misdemeanor charge if he stays out of trouble for a year. 

According to a complaint filed in Honolulu Circuit Court on Aug. 11, Tokioka filed candidate committee reports with the Campaign Spending Commission on July 10 and July 28 for the 2014 primary that failed to list all contributions. 

Chin, after the hearing, said Tokioka raised $15,000 and $16,000 through two fundraisers held in March and July. 

Also after the hearing, Cicotello told reporters that Tokioka should have been hit a felony charge for the alleged reporting violations and have been charged more than $2,700 by the state Campaign Spending Commission. A felony conviction would have meant that Tokioka would have had to step down.”It’s not fair to the voters,” she said. “For me, I want integrity in politics and transparency.” 

Tokioka said he copperated with the state investigtion and took and passed a lie detector test. 

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