Rep. Duncan Hunter, Wife, To Be Arraigned For Alleged Misuse Of Campaign Funds
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Credit: Associated Press
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A day after he was indicted on charges that he and his wife used more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, such as family vacations and dental work, San Diego-area Congressman Duncan Hunter said today the case against him is politically motivated and he will continue to fight to clear his name.
"I believe in our American system of justice. I support our system of justice," Hunter, R-Alpine, said in a statement released by his campaign. "I cannot say the same, however, for those within our justice system that have a political agenda to harm those with whom they differ.
"One of the pillars of our country since its founding is that those tasked with enforcing the law would do so in an unbiased manner, allowing evidence to dictate how cases should run, with nothing impeding the rule of law," he said. "Unfortunately, this is not the case today. The fact is there is a culture operating within our Justice Department that is politically motivated."
Hunter said that after two years of investigating, the DOJ decided to take the legal action against him within weeks of the November general election, in which he's running for a sixth term. His arraignment is scheduled Thursday in federal court in San Diego.
"It is a sad state of affairs when those entrusted with upholding the law have no appreciation for following the rule of law," the 41-year-old congressman said.
Hunter said that for two years, he has made himself available to cooperate in the investigation and not once has been asked to answer any questions.
The 48-page indictment, filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego, accuses Hunter and his 43-year-old wife Margaret of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, wire fraud, falsification of records and prohibited use of campaign contributions.
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." During that time period, Hunter was reelected four times and his wife handled his campaign finance reports and was paid as his campaign manager.
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 Hunters misreported the expenses on Federal Election Commission filings, using false descriptions such as "campaign travel," "toy drives," "dinner with volunteers/contributors" and "gift cards," federal prosecutors allege.
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."
Hunter was first elected to Congress in 2008, when he won the seat his father held for 14 terms.
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.
His opponent in the November race is Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Department of Labor spokesman during the Obama administration.
"I'm happy to see that justice is being dealt. Nobody's above the law, not even a sitting congressman," Campa-Najjar said. "The people of the district deserve better than a congressman who can't follow the law, much less pass and enforce laws."
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. "The congressman and his wife have a constitutional promise to their day in court and we will not prejudice the outcome."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, called the charges against Hunter "deeply serious" and removed him from his committee assignments "pending the resolution of this matter."
Hunter was a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and chairman of its Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, the House Armed Services Committee and Education and the Workforce Committee.
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