California Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) and his wife Margaret Hunter, who served as his campaign manager, were indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday, for turning campaign coffers into their personal piggy bank. They allegedly funneled campaign money to pay for everything from airline travel fees for their pet rabbit to fast food restaurants.
The indictment includes jaw-dropping details of the campaign spending for personal expenses, including more than $14,000 on a family vacation in Italy, $3,300 at In-N-Out, Carl’s Jr, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants, Fandango movie tickets, a $250 airplane ticket for the family rabbit, trips to Costco for household items, and even a bachelor party at the Montage resort in Laguna Beach, where the $1164 tab included 30 shots of tequila.
Duncan and Margaret Hunter tried to disguise the money they used for personal expenses as campaign-related or charitable donations, the 43 page indictment says.
“The Hunters concealed and disguised the personal nature of many of their campaign expenditures by either falsely stating the expenses were ‘campaign related’ or by falsely reporting the item or service purchased when providing information to the Treasurer (by, for example, buying personal clothing items at a golf course so that the purchase could be falsely reported to the Treasurer as ‘balls for the wounded warriors’).”
The Hunters are being charged with conspiracy, prohibited use of campaign contributions, the falsification of records and aiding and abetting.
Hunter, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, tried to paint the indictment as some sort of witch hunt.
His spokesman said that, “Congressman Hunter believes this action is purely politically motivated.”
Along the same lines, the congressman’s re-election campaign released an August 6 letter from Hunter’s lawyer, Greg Vega, to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that said the investigation “reflects a loss of impartiality and appears to be an effort to derail Congressman Hunter’s reelection.”
But House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly yanked him from his congressional committees, saying in a statement that, “The charges against Rep. Hunter are deeply serious. The Ethics Committee deferred its investigation at the request of the Justice Department. Now that he has been indicted, Rep. Hunter will be removed from his committee assignments pending the resolution of this matter.”
Hunter, 41, is the son and namesake of former San Diego congressman Duncan Hunter. The second member of Congress to endorse Trump, he was elected in 2008 to succeed his father.
The Hunters are expected to be arraigned this morning at 10:30 AM before Magistrate Judge William Gallo of the United States District Court for the Southern California District.
Professing his innocence Wednesday morning, Hunter compared himself to Trump, telling a local television station, “This is modern politics and modern media mixed in with law enforcement that has a political agenda. That’s the new Department of Justice.”
He added, “This is the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement, that’s what’s happening right now. It’s happening with Trump, it’s happening with me. We’re going to fight through it and win and the people get to vote in November … I think they’ve used every dirty trick in the book, so it’ll go to court when they want it to.”
The pol said he is “excited” about going to trial.
Meanwhile, in what might be grist for conspiracy theorists, Hunter’s lawyer noted in his missive to Rosenstein that Assistant United States Attorney Alana Robinson and Assistant United States Attorney Emily Allen in 2015 attended a private fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.
“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,” wrote Greg Vega.
Robinson, who later served as acting United States Attorney for Southern California, did not reply to the Globe’s request for comment. Allen, on vacation with no access to voicemail or email, could not be reached for comment.
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