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Hawaii lawmakers to redirect donations from local businessman at center of corruption probe

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Hawaii state senators who accepted more than $50,000 in legal campaign contributions from a wastewater and industrial machinery executive are re-directing the money to the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.

Milton J. Choy, owner of H2O Process Systems and Fluid Technologies, donated $160,150 to more than 50 state and county lawmakers since 2014 and received nearly $6 million in government contracts. Choy gave $56,850 to the campaigns of sitting state Senators. He gave $20,600 to active members of the state house.

The state representatives are forfeiting money to the campaign spending commission or giving it to the nonprofit Criminal Justice Action Network according to state House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke. CJAN is a a student-run organization at Columbia Law School dedicated to criminal justice, from operations to policy.

“We do not condone illegal actions that have recently occurred. In lieu of returning Milton Choy’s campaign contribution directly to him, we will be redirecting his donations to the Campaign Spending Commission,” read a joint statement from state Sens. Donovan Dela Cruz, Ron Kouchi, Gil Keith-Agaran, Clarence Nishihara, Michelle Kidani, Roz Baker, Stanley Chang, Maile Shimabukuro, Dru Kanuha, Lynn DeCoite, Glenn Wakai, Lorraine Inouye and Karl Rhoads.

Dela Cruz, the chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, organized the redirection of campaign contributions to the HCSC.

Luke appeared the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii webcast this morning and addressed the federal investigation and Choy’s dealings.

Luke said her campaign treasurer is reviewing contribution records to capture any donations from Choy and his business associates, and will forfeit the money to donate to the HCSC for use in investigating campaign spending violations, according to a news release from her campaign for lieutenant governor.

Luke also called on other lawmakers “whether currently in office or not” to redirect donations from Choy to help start “restoring public trust in government,” according to the release.

In addition to Luke, Choy made campaign contributions to state representatives Henry Aquino, Della Au Belatti, Greggor Ilagan, Nicole Lowen, John Mizuno, James Tokioka, Aaron Ling Johanson, Lisa Kitagawa, Bertrand Kobayashi, Chris Todd, Ryan Yamane and Kyle Yamashita.

Identified as “Person A” in two felony charging documents filed Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice, Choy allegedly bribed two state lawmakers with cash payments and other incentives.

Choy has been cooperating with the U.S. Department of Justice in an ongoing investigation looking into allegations of public corruption that go back to at least 2014.

Choy helped DOJ bring honest services wire fraud charges against retired state Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and former vice chairman of the House Committee on Finance, state Rep. Ty J.K. Cullen, who resigned Tuesday before the allegations were made public.

English and Cullen are scheduled to enter guilty pleas on Feb. 15 as part of an arrangement with DOJ.

English’s Senate colleagues are reviewing his work product, voting history and other aspects of his tenure, according to state Senate leadership.

“We are in the process of reviewing his bills, vote history and any official business that he conducted while serving in the Senate,” said Jacob Aki, senate director of communications, in a statement to the Star-Advertiser.

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