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Congressman, fmr. Marine Duncan Hunter indicted for misusing $250,000 campaign funds

U.S. Congressman Duncan Hunter of California speaking at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
August 22, 2018

A Republican member of Congress is facing numerous fraud and campaign finance charges from federal prosecutors.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, from California, and his wife Margaret allegedly used more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use – from bills to vacations, and even tuition and school lunches for their children, CNN reported Tuesday.

A 47-page indictment resulted from a Department of Justice investigation that spanned more than a year. It outlines charges of “wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations and conspiracy.”

Hunter is accused of living above his means, and having “knowingly conspired” with his wife to use campaign money for personal use. This entailed the intentional misrepresentation of purchases to the campaign treasurer. In one example, Hunter purchased clothing at a golf course, which was “falsely reported to the treasurer as ‘balls for the wounded warriors,’” according to the indictment.

In another example of the congressman’s “theft of campaign funds,” he secured a campaign credit card for his wife to possess, although she had no formal role in his campaign. Despite objections from his treasurer, he later directed the campaign to appoint his wife as a paid campaign manager for the sole purpose of “the extra money that would come from her salary.”

Without the use of the campaign funds, the indictment alleges that the Hunters could not support their lifestyle. The couple’s personal bank accounts reportedly had 1,100 overdrafts in seven years, with a cumulative total of $37,761 in bank fees.

“By virtue of these delinquencies – as well as notifications of outstanding debts and overdue payments from their children’s school, their family dentist, and other creditors – the Hunters knew that many of their desired purchases could only be made by using campaign funds,” the indictment says.

The indictment alleges that campaign staffers warned the congressman about his wife’s misuse of campaign funds. He responded to the warnings in anger, then accusing staffers of “trying to create some kind of paper trail” and acting disloyally toward him.

The Hunters will be arraigned in federal court on Thursday morning. The couple reportedly paid back $60,000 to the campaign, but maintain their innocence.

The legal team for the Hunters asserts that the charges are politically motivated.

Since 2009, Hunter has represented the San Diego-area district, which is primarily Republican. He has been a staunch supporter of President Trump, having been a founding member of the House “Trump Caucus” during the 2016 campaign. He was also one of the first two congressmen to publicly endorse Trump for President in February 2016.

Before his time in Congress, Hunter served as a Marine artillery officer with two deployments to Iraq, reported. He later joined the Marine Reserve, and achieved the rank of major before discharge.