Rep. Duncan Hunter, wife indicted for alleged misuse of campaign funds


Last updated 8/22/2018 at 6:22pm

SAN DIEGO - Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and his wife Margaret were indicted by a federal grand jury today for allegedly using more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, including family vacations, dental bills, theater tickets and international travel for relatives.

The 48-page indictment also accuses the defendants of filing false campaign finance records with the Federal Election Commission.

Federal prosecutors said they identified "scores of instances'' between 2009 and 2016 in which the couple used campaign funds to pay for "personal expenses that they could not otherwise afford.''

Among the personal expenses, they allegedly funded with campaign cash were family vacations to locations such as Hawaii and Italy, along with school tuition and smaller purchases such as golf outings, movie tickets, video games, coffee and expensive meals. The indictment alleges that at one point, Hunter used campaign cash to fly his pet rabbit to a family vacation.

The couple allegedly misreported the expenses on FEC filings, using false descriptions such as "campaign travel,'' "toy drives,'' "dinner with volunteers/contributors'' and "gift cards,'' according to federal prosecutors.

"The indictment alleges that Congressman Hunter and his wife repeatedly dipped into campaign coffers as if they were personal bank accounts, and falsified FEC campaign finance reports to cover their tracks,'' U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in a statement. "Elected representatives should jealously guard the public's trust, not abuse their positions for personal gain.''

Duncan Hunter, 41, and Margaret Hunter, 43, are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday. They are accused of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, wire fraud, falsification of records and prohibited use of campaign contributions.

Hunter's reelection campaign issued a statement condemning the indictment as politically motivated. Hunter -- like President Donald Trump -- has been critical this year of the Justice Department, calling it "corrupt, answerable to no one and (using) the law to extort the American people and effect political change.''

His campaign blasted the timing of the indictment -- about two months before the November runoff election -- saying it "appears to be an effort to derail Congressman Hunter's reelection in the Nov. 6, 2018, election.''

Democrats have been targeting Hunter as a potentially vulnerable candidate, thanks primarily to the federal investigation against him, even though the district has been a longtime Republican stronghold. Hunter's father previously held the seat representing much of the East County, as well as Fallbrook, San Marcos, Valley Center and Escondido.

In November, Hunter will be facing Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Department of Labor spokesman during the Obama administration.

"Today's indictment confirms just how deep this corruption can reach when someone like Duncan Hunter Jr. is in it for himself instead of representing the people,'' Campa-Najjar said.

Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party, urged against a rush to judgment.

"In our country, individuals are presumed innocent until a jury of their peers convict them,'' he said in a statement. "Our founding fathers believed so strongly in freedom of religion that they gave us one amendment. They believed so strongly in the right to keep and bear arms that they gave us one amendment. They believed so strongly in civil liberties and legal protections of individuals that they gave us five amendments to the Constitution. The congressman and his wife have a constitutional promise to their day in court and we will not prejudice the outcome.''

Hunter was elected to Congress in 2008, after his father opted not to seek reelection.


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