This week, Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) was indicted on federal charges that include conspiracy, corruption, wire fraud and violation of campaign finance laws involving funds of at least $250,000. One particularly politically explosive charge was allegedly buying a pair of Hawaii-style shorts at a golf course for his personal use so that he could report it as golf balls purchased for wounded warriors.
All of the charges stem from the congressman’s alleged misuse of campaign funds to fund his excessive personal spending from 2009 to 2016. According to the 47-page charging document, Hunter and his wife were engaged in extreme, out of control spending and behavior that some say portray a totally out of control member of Congress behaving with no ethics whatsoever.
Duncan Hunter, 41, and Margaret Hunter, 43, are alleged to have misreported scores of expenses on Federal Election Commission filings, using phony descriptions as campaign travel, toy drives and gift cards, federal prosecutors reported.
CNN reports the following most explosive charges that are laid out in the indictment:
- Throughout a three year period, the Hunters spent much more than they earned. They overdrew their checking account at least 1100 time in seven years, resulting in nearly $40,000 of overdraft charges and insufficient fund fees. The indictment also stated that Rep. Hunter had less than $1000 in assets according to his personal financial disclosure statement for every year from 2009 to 2016.
- The Hunters illegally stole and converted at least $250,000 of campaign funds to buy goods and services for their personal use. Campaign finance experts were puzzled to understand this week how a congressman could allegedly misuse a quarter of a million dollars and think he won’t get caught.
- Hunter is alleged to have stolen campaign funds even though his staff warned him that his wife’s improper use of the money. He accused his staff of not being loyal to him and trying to create a paper trail to show his wrongdoing. He also allegedly refused to remove her access to campaign funds.
- The congressman and his wife allegedly concealed and disguised the personal nature of what they were spending campaign funds on. They either falsely claimed that their expenses were campaign related, or reported them falsely when they gave information to the Treasurer. For example, the charging document in federal court alleges that the Hunters bought a pair of shorts for himself at a golf course so that he could falsely report the purchase as golf balls for wounded warriors.
- The Hunters allegedly concealed the personal nature of their family buying video games with campaign funds by falsely stating to a financial institution that they payments were fraudulent charges and then reported the purchases to the FEC and public as fraud.
- The Hunters used campaign funds illegally to purchase items such as airline tickets, hotel rooms, meals and food, vacations for themselves and their family and friends. One of the expenses was more than $14,000 for a vacation in Italy in November 2015. Also, the family allegedly used campaign funds to pay for a vacation to Hawaii in 2025 and $3700 for a family vacation in Boise and Las Vegas in 2015.
- They bought many personal items for their family from many stores, such as $11,300 at Costco, $5700 at Walmart, $2500 at Barnes and Noble, and $2300 at Target. They also spend campaign funds at Aaron Brothers, Party City, World Market, Pier 1, Sears and Rite Aid.
- On Jan. 25, 2010, Hunter is alleged to have spent $1000 in campaign funds at a resort in Lake Tahoe for food, drink and several nights lodging during a ski trip. At this time, his bank account had a negative balance and had insufficient funds fees totalling $200.
- On July 29, 2015, Hunter’s wife Margaret is alleged to have spent $253 in campaign funds at a SeaWorld to entertain family. To disguise the illegal payment, she told the treasurer that the charges should be stated to be for an educational tour.
- On Aug. 17, 2015, Margaret Hunter spent $152 in campaign funds to buy cosmetics online. To disguise the illegal purchase, she told the treasurer that the charge was to pay for gift basket items to a boys and girls club in San Diego.
Hunter has been under heavy scrutiny since 2016 when the FEC and the San Diego Union Tribune started to question many of Hunter’s use of campaign funds for private school tuition, video games, oral surgery and a garage door for the couple’s home. Spending of campaign funds for one’s personal use is against federal law to protect against inappropriate influence by political donors that could benefit from actions by Congress.
As of November 2017, Hunter had paid back his campaign at least $60,000 for what he said had been identified as mistaken and/or personal expenditures. Under financial pressure, he sold his home in Alpine CA and moved into his father’s home, who has the same name and occupied the same congressional seat.
Duncan Hunter’s district is heavily Republican and he faces an election in November. While a Democrat would normally have little chance to unset a five term incumbent, these serious federal charges could swing the election.