FBI Investigating Illegal Scheme To Finance Susan Collins’ Reelection Campaign


The FBI is investigating a scheme to illegally finance Sen. Susan Collins’ 2020 reelection bid according to newly unsealed search warrants. The alleged case centers around a Hawaii defense contractor who illegally funneled $150,000 to a super PAC supporting Collins. 

Former Navatek CEO Martin Kao also allegedly reimbursed family members’ donations to Collins’ campaign. According to the report by Axios, there is no information that Collins or her team were aware of the scheme.

That said, Collins helped Navatek (now called the Martin Defense Group) get an $8 million Navy contract. This came before the donations according to the report. Martin Kao was indicted last year for allegedly scamming the Pandemic bailout.

From Axios:

Federal prosecutors say Kao used a shell company to funnel $150,000 in Navatek funds to a pro-Collins super PAC called 1820 PAC.

According to the FBI, Kao and his wife set up a sham LLC called the Society for Young Women Scientists and Engineers. Navatek then wrote the LLC a $150,000 check, investigators say, which was passed on to the super PAC.

Government contractors are barred from donating to federal political committees, and investigators suspect the donations were attempts to evade that prohibition.

Investigators say bank records also show that Kao illegally reimbursed family members who donated to Collins’ campaign, a practice known as a “straw” donation.

Collins’ office issued a press release touting her role in getting the contract. It said:

U.S. Senator Susan Collins participated in the announcement of an $8 million contract awarded to Navatek LLC by the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research (ONR). The contract titled “Advanced Planing Hull Research” focuses on pursuing new science and technology for safer hulls and hybrid-electric propulsion systems for fast boats. At the event, Senator Collins also met with Navatek’s leadership and employees, toured their Portland office, and was shown modeling and simulation demonstrations.

Navatek will work directly with Front Street Shipyards in Belfast, which will combine their “Built in Maine” composites experience with Navatek’s research and engineering strength.   Front Street will build the Navatek prototypes and collaborate on testing at-sea.  The science and technology advancements from this research will benefit all the Navy’s small craft programs.

“Maine is home to the best shipbuilders in the world, and our state has long had an integral role in our national security.  Navatek’s engineering and research strength combined with Front Street’s composites experience will benefit all of the Navy’s small-craft programs,” said Senator Collins.  “As a senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I strongly advocated for the funding that made this research possible and am so proud of the work Navatek and other Maine industries do to support our Navy and our nation’s defense.”

Martin Kao, CEO of Navatek LLC, said, “Our company is committed the State of Maine, and thanks to Senator Collins’ support, we have been able to partner with the University of Maine and the State’s boat building ecosystem to address the Navy’s new challenges and needs.”  

Building on Mr. Kao’s comments, JB Turner, President of Front Street Shipyards, said, “We’ve long believed that our experience with advanced composite construction for boats and ships will provide a key advantage to our Navy, and we are happy to team with Navatek to build our combined capabilities in this area through this new research program.”

The Navatek office in Portland currently employs 22 people, and this contract will allow the company to add 28 employees to its Portland-based staff.  Many of the Portland employees are recent graduates from the University of Maine.  Navatek has a long working relationship with the University spanning more than fifteen years.  The Portland office was established in part to enhance Navatek’s partnership with UMaine and the boat building supply chain in the State of Maine, including Front Street Shipyard in Belfast.

Navatek is based in Honolulu, Hawaii, with offices in Portland, Maine; Orono, Maine; South Kingston, Rhode Island; and Washington, DC.  Navatek was founded in 1979, focusing on research in hydrodynamics and the advanced ship design. Through the research and experimentation, Navatek has established significant capabilities and developed advanced solutions in the sciences and disciplines related to its fields of research for the U.S. Navy.


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