California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted by the Department of Justice today for misuse of campaign funds and filing false campaign finance records. According to the 48-page indictment, the Hunters spent $250,000 of campaign funds on personal expenses that included trips to Italy and Hawaii, dental work, and international travel for a dozen of their relatives. The DOJ press release says that the couple also spent smaller amounts on items including fast food, movie tickets, golf, video games, coffee, and household appliances. How much Hunter spent illegally on vape pens is left up to our imagination.
In order to justify all this spending, the DOJ says that the Hunters lied to the Federal Elections Commission on their campaign finance records, labeling their expenses as “campaign travel,” or “dinner with volunteers/contributors.” Sometimes their alleged grift was more specific, like when they mislabeled their personal dental expenses as donations to “Smiles for Life.” They classified their family outing to see “Riverdance” at the San Diego Civic Theater as “San Diego Civic Theater for Republican Women Federated/Fundraising,” whatever that means.
This indictment is the result of 18 months of investigation from the DOJ, which began when the San Diego Union-Tribune alerted the public to Hunter’s questionable expenses. Much of the evidence used in the indictment was discovered by subpoenaing the Hunters parents and friends.
It’s an understatement to say that the Hunters were bad with money. The DOJ reports that Hunter had less than $1,000 in assets every year between 2009 and 2016. During that time, he and his wife incurred nearly $40,000 in fees from 1,100 overdrafts on their account. Their credit cards were often maxed out into the five digits.
Many of the allegations against the Hunters regard the campaign credit and debit cards that Margaret was given, despite having little role in the campaign, according to staff. In a February Politico article, Hunter blamed his wife for the illegal expenditures, though some of the expenses were incurred while Hunter was with a woman with whom many assume he was having an affair.
Before he became famously corrupt, Duncan Hunter was the son of a Congressman and a marine who fought in some of the Iraq war’s bloodiest battles. When he got to Washington in 2009, Hunter became a notorious partier who was part of what his aides called the “bros caucus.” According to these aids, Politico reported, Hunter often drank during the day and sometimes appeared to be drunk in meetings.
In the past, Hunter has maintained his innocence, acknowledging that improper spending occurred, but not by him. He has since reimbursed his campaign for $65,000 of spending.
Hunter’s campaign released a letter accusing the DOJ of a politically motivated attack. “The overt political leanings of two individuals intimately involved in the investigation, combined with, among other things, the Southern District’s sudden, inexplicable rush to indict my client before the general election without affording him sufficient due process, create an actual and/or apparent conflict that cannot be ignored,” it read.
Hunter’s district is solidly Republican, and he may still win his race, despite his alleged corruption. His challenger, former Obama staffer Ammar Campa-Najjar, has raised more money than Hunter, but at this point it’s too late to change the ballot, unless Hunter asked for his name to be removed by a judge.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Duncan Hunter’s father was a Senator. He was a Congressman. Thank you to commenter Li’l Sebastian’s Mini-Horse Erection for pointing out the error.