Duncan Hunter Indicted
Last updated 9/6/2018 at 10:45am
Following a Department of Justice investigation lasting well over a year, a federal grand jury on Aug. 21 in the San Diego-based Southern District of California indicted Borrego Springs’ 50th Congressional District Republican representative Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, on multiple charges of misappropriating $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use over a period of seven years. Charges also included wire fraud, falsifying records, and conspiracy.
Campaign finance laws are quite specific as to unauthorized expenses. The 47-page indictment states, “Candidates and Members of Congress are explicitly prohibited from spending campaign funds on clothing, vacations, household food items, school tuition, utilities, payments to recreational facilities, and entertainment not associated with the election campaign.”
Two of the line items in the long list of specific violations refer to two false claims the Hunter’s made on official campaign reports listing personal expenses paid with a campaign credit card, both purported to be related to “donations” to the Wounded Warrior Project, founded by actor Gary Senise.
At the same time as those reports were filed, the Hunter’s joint personal bank account was overdrawn, incurring hundreds of dollars in fees and penalties for insufficient funds.
There were over 1,100 times the Hunters’ personal bank account was overdrawn in a period spanning seven years, resulting in total fees and penalties of about $24,600.
Hunter at first maintained his innocence by claiming the investigation was tainted, arising out his claim of politically motivated prosecutors and a biased news media.
He later added to his claim of innocence by stating that his wife was in charge of all finances, and told Fox News that she was the campaign manager and he “didn’t spend any money illegally.”
This later line of defense came despite evidence that Hunter’s campaign treasurer(s) delivered repeated warnings to the congressman of potential campaign finance law violations; prosecutors say that Duncan Hunter was, in fact, in direct control of all personal expenditures for which he either illegally claimed reimbursement, or else were paid for with his or Margaret Hunter’s campaign credit cards.
Recently, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has directed Hunter to be removed from his committee assignments amid the investigation.
A SurveyUSA poll for NBC/San Diego Union-Tribune, conducted one day after the Hunter’s indictment was publicly announced, showed that Duncan’s support for re-election in November against Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar remained fairly solid among likely voters, 47% to 39%, with 13% undecided.
The seven-point difference, however, may shrink. Although 76% of all respondents were “aware of the charges,” a fairly substantial 21% of survey respondents said they were not; that percentage dovetailed with 22% of likely voters in the survey who said they are “not sure” if the charges against Hunter are politically motivated.