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Ex-lawmaker Ty Cullen who pleaded guilty in bribery case donates to 2022 campaigns

Ty Cullen
Hawaiʻi House of Representatives
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Now-former state Rep. Ty Cullen at a Finance Committee meeting.

HONOLULU — The campaign committee of former Hawaiʻi Democratic state Rep. Ty Cullen, who pleaded guilty earlier this year after taking bribes, donated to two candidates for the state House of Representatives last month.

State Campaign Spending Commission data says Friends of Ty Cullen donated $2,000 to the campaign of Jamaica Cullen on July 26. She is running in the Democratic primary for parts of Waipahu and Hoʻopili, the area Ty Cullen used to represent.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Jamaica Cullen is Ty Cullen's sister-in-law and worked in his office during the past four legislative sessions.

A voicemail message left for Jamaica Cullen wasn’t returned.

Campaign Spending Commission data shows Friends of Ty Cullen on July 8 donated $2,000 to Rachele Lamosao, who is running in the Democratic primary to represent central Waipahu.

A report filed by Friends of Ty Cullen said he bought two fundraiser tickets for that amount.

Lamosao, in an emailed statement received after this article was first published, said she donated $2,000 — the same amount she received from Friends of Ty Cullen — to the Campaign Spending Commission, which will help fund other campaigns seeking public financing. She said she accepts all contributions to her campaign.

"However, under these circumstances, I felt it was most appropriate to donate this amount to the Campaign Spending Commission fund. I will always put my community first in every decision, regardless of any contributions made to my campaign,” she said.

State law says $2,000 is the most an individual may give to a House candidate in one election period.

Friends of Ty Cullen had a cash balance of more than $133,000 as of June 30, according to a report filed with the commission. Cullen did not return a voicemail message seeking comment.

Ty Cullen resigned from the state House of Representatives in February shortly before federal prosecutors announced charges against him and former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English.

Court documents said they took bribes in exchange for shaping legislation that would benefit a company involved in publicly financed cesspool conversion projects.

Cullen agreed to forfeit $23,000 — the amount he received in bribes — as part of a plea agreement. He's due to be sentenced on Oct. 20.

English was sentenced to three years and four months in July.

Corey Rosenlee, who is running in the Democratic primary against Jamaica Cullen, questioned whether Ty Cullen should continue to control his remaining campaign funds.

“It should be automatic that if you admit guilt or are found guilty for bribery, that money should go back to the donors and not be set up as some sort of slush fund, which you can use for however you want to,” Rosenlee said. “And in this case, helping out a family member.”

Maurice Morita, who is running in the Democratic primary against Lamosao, said if he received money from Ty Cullen he would give it back.

“The money is tainted. Whatever you get from him, or English,” said Morita.

Tony Baldomero, associate director of the Campaign Spending Commission, said Hawaiʻi law doesn't address whether an individual loses control of their campaign funds after a conviction. A lawmaker is disqualified from holding office for 10 years after a conviction.

Ty Cullen last ran for office in 2020, which means he can use the balance of funds up through 2024, Baldomero said. Hawaiʻi law authorizes eight uses for such money, including purchasing candidate fundraiser tickets. The money may also be used to donate to charity, public schools, libraries and to award scholarships.

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