Posted: 4:00 am Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
In the second federal corruption indictment of a Republican member of Congress in recent weeks, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and his wife were charged with funneling over $250,000 in campaign donations to fund an array of personal expenditures, allegedly using the money to pay for trips, expensive dinners, overseas vacations and even flying the family’s pet bunny across the country.
In a 47 page indictment handed up by a federal grand jury on Tuesday, federal prosecutors detailed how Rep. Hunter and his wife repeatedly spent campaign money on everything from children’s books and puzzles for their family, to personal ski trips, airline tickets, groceries and other household items.
“The purchases included family vacations to Italy, Hawaii, Phoenix, Arizona, and Boise, Idaho; school tuition; dental work; theater tickets; and domestic and international travel for almost a dozen relatives,” prosecutors said in a statement.
“The Hunters also spent tens of thousands of dollars on smaller purchases, including fast food, movie tickets, golf outings, video games, coffee, groceries, home utilities, and expensive meals,” the feds added in a statement.
“They overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period resulting in approximately $37,761 in ‘overdraft’ and ‘insufficient funds’ bank fees,” the indictment read.
The indictment of Hunter had been expected by many on Capitol Hill for months, as the feds have had the California Republican under investigation – all the while, the GOP Congressman, whose father served before him in Congress, has sternly denied any wrongdoing.
“I was not involved in any criminal action,” Hunter told Politico back in March of 2017.
But the indictment goes through excruciating details of how campaign money was used for personal purposes, and that Hunter’s own campaign treasurer repeatedly raised questions about some of the spending involved.
The indictment says that Hunter floated the idea of hiring his wife as his paid campaign manager, but gave that up ‘when the Treasurer made it clear that this would not be a good idea.’
At one point in December of 2010, prosecutors said Hunter’s campaign treasurer pressed the Congressman on a variety of charges – and that Hunter ‘asked the Treasurer if he was “trying to create some kind of paper trail on him.'”
Or this one stands out: Rep. Duncan Hunter tried to get a tour of a Navy base to cover for a $14,000 family vacation in Italy. When Navy said they could only do certain days, Hunter told his chief of staff "tell the Navy to go f— themselves" pic.twitter.com/gTgJGzqQm0
— Sarah D. Wire (@sarahdwire) August 22, 2018
Included in the indictment against @Rep_Hunter: Using campaign funds to buy Hawaiian shorts and lying that it was money spent on wounded veterans (Hunter is a USMC vet who served in Iraq and Afghanistan). pic.twitter.com/jVEdPLAZhE
— Leo Shane III (@LeoShane) August 21, 2018
As with the recent indictment of Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who faces charges of insider trading, Hunter’s name is likely to stay on the ballot for voters in November, presenting Republicans with a difficult election situation.
“A fair number of Rs will have a hard time voting for this fellow,” said the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato on Twitter.
“Another Safe R seat that ain’t safe no more,” added Kyle Kondik, who works with Sabato on reviewing races for Congress.
There are no write-ins in CA general elections & no mechanisms for Rs to get Hunter off the ballot. Another headache for Rs in what should be a safe seat. #CA50
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) August 21, 2018
Ironically, Collins was the first member of the House to endorse Donald Trump for President; Hunter was the second.
Like Hunter, Collins is also expected to still be on the ballot in November.
In 2014, Republicans in New York re-elected Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), even though he was under a federal corruption indictment.
Grimm won, but resigned soon after the election, and went to prison.
“The charges against Congressman Hunter are further evidence of the rampant culture of corruption among Republicans in Washington today,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“Speaker Ryan must immediately call on Congressman Hunter to resign, and affirm that no one is above the law,” Pelosi added, echoing her call for Collins to resign as well.
“The charges against Rep. Hunter are deeply serious,” Speaker Ryan said, as he announced he would remove Hunter from his House committees – as the Speaker did with Collins – while the legal process plays out.
Collins suspended his campaign for re-election earlier this month, but his name is likely to remain on the ballot in New York for November.