The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission levied $375 in fines Thursday against Democratic South Maui House candidate Kaniela Ing, ruling on two Hawaii Republican Party complaints filed since August that sought thousands of dollars in fines.
Gary Kam, the commission's general counsel, said Ing was fined:
* $250 for failing to report expenditures for ads placed before the Aug. 11 primary in The Maui News.
* $100 for failing to file a timely loan document.
* $25 for failing to file a notice of a Sept. 5 fundraiser, called a "Friendraiser," in Maui Meadows.
Other counts were dismissed, Kam said, because there was either insufficient evidence or Ing had complied with the state's campaign spending law.
Ing has 20 days - after the commission's chairman signs the rulings - to appeal them, Kam said.
He said Ing's infractions were not egregious.
"I believe they are simple mistakes," he said. "I don't think he was malicious in wanting to violate the law."
Hawaii Republican Party Vice Chairman Boyd Ready, who filed the complaints on behalf of the GOP, said the commission's rulings "just showed that Mr. Ing has consistently been incomplete or inaccurate in his filings as a candidate."
Ing had two chances to correct his errors, Ready said, and still there were "things that weren't done right."
"That's not the kind of candidate we need in the House to represent the people," he said.
Ready noted that the GOP had asked the commission to levy heavier penalties, and that the fines that were imposed were "light."
Ing acknowledged that his campaign had made some mistakes.
"I didn't fight it," he said, referring to the commission's ruling.
But he said the commission's rulings on the GOP complaints were a far cry from the more than $15,600 in fines and "felony charges" sought by Republicans or the weight of the party's 32 pages of complaints against him.
"It was nothing close to what they're charging us with," he said.
In a written statement issued early Thursday evening, Ing said: "I am pleased that the public finally has a chance to see that all of my campaign spending records are clean, transparent and above board. As a first-time candidate, I have worked earnestly with the commission, consistently seeking advice with any question I had throughout the past year. I was confident that the rulings would play out how they have."
Ing said he and his girlfriend have been doing all the reporting of contributions and expenses for his campaign.
"We tried our best," he said. "I think for the most part we've done great."
Republican South Maui Rep. George Fontaine reiterated Thursday that he didn't initiate the complaints against Ing and "didn't really know what's going on with it."
When asked for comment on the rulings against Ing, Fontaine said: "It's unfortunate he wasn't able to be in compliance."
He said he's concerned about running his campaign for re-election to a second two-year term, "not necessarily what my opponent is doing."
"I'm going to continue to fight," he said. "I'm going to run a good, clean campaign right up to the very end."
Kam said the heaviest fine of $250 stemmed from confusion over receipts for Ing campaign ads taken out in The Maui News. The newspaper issued two receipts for five different ads taken out on the same day. One was for an ad in the primary election supplement and the other was for four ads in the regular editions. Ing thought that one of the receipts covered all the ad expenses for the same day, and that the expenditures covered by the other receipt weren't reported, Kam said.
He said Ing admitted that the expenditures were not reported.
The loan documentation wasn't filed on time, but when the mistake was discovered, "he did file it immediately," Kam said. "He realized he should have done it."
And, regarding the Sept. 5 fundraiser, it came after three other events in which there was no mention of donations, and those didn't need to have a notice filed, he said.
The violation came because the Maui Meadows event did mention that donations of $100 or less would be appreciated, and that was a fundraiser that should have had a filing of a notice.
When asked about the severity of the rulings against Ing, compared with complaints against other candidates this election cycle, Kam said the cases were "average to lower" in degree.
Frequently, there are cases in which candidates miss reporting some expenditures or contributions, he said.
Kam said he didn't believe that there was a willful violation of the law.
Of other charges that were dismissed, one stemmed from a misunderstanding about the partial public funding for candidates and another involved a mistake in which Ing reported himself as a vendor instead of naming the business he paid money to for campaign expenditures.
"He didn't write checks to himself. He paid vendors," Kam said of Ing.
The mistake was corrected on subsequent campaign reports in a timely fashion, he said.
In his statement, Ing said: "I have provided extensive documentation of our purchases and contributions, adequately disputed all false claims and owned up to the very simple mistakes we have made in our reporting. We have since corrected these few mistakes and have obtained help from friends very experienced in campaign accounting to carry on.
"I believe it is clear to the people of South Maui that the excess of clearly false complaints was meant to distract the public from the issues. I am glad that we can now move forward with this election and focus on what matters most to South Maui residents - positive, fresh and effective representation."
Voters will go to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in the South Maui House contest as well as other county, state and federal races.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.