Dennis Hoey, Portland Press Herald, Maine, 19 May 2021
A Department of Defense contractor with ties to Maine is under investigation by the U.S. government for allegedly making illegal contributions to Sen. Susan Collins’ 2020 re-election campaign.
An FBI search warrant in the investigation names Martin Kao and Clifford Chen. Kao is the former president and CEO of Hawaii-based Navatek — now known as Martin Defense Group — and Chen was Navatek’s chief financial officer at the time the contributions were made. The contractor is based in Honolulu and has offices in Maine, Washington, D.C., Rhode Island, Michigan, Oklahoma, Kansas and South Carolina.
Kao and Chen are accused of making illegal contributions of about $45,000 to Collins’ re-election campaign and $150,000 to the independently operated 1820 PAC, which supported the Republican’s re-election bid. Donations of that nature constitute violations of federal law that prohibit federal contractors from making political contributions, according to FBI Special Agent Michelle Ball, who filed an application for a search warrant on April 7. The warrant, which had to be executed before April 21, was authorized by U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey.
Ball used the warrant to seize cellphones that belonged to Kao and Chen as well as other evidence, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Kao has been indicted in a separate case in which he is accused of defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars of coronavirus relief funds intended for small businesses.
Kao and Collins appeared together in Portland in August 2019 when Collins announced an $8 million federal contract to Navatek by the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research. At the time, Navatek announced it would work with Front Street Shipyards in Belfast to pursue “new science and technology for safer hulls and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for fast boats.” Navatek employed about two dozen people in Maine when the announcement was made.