Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Thursday, July 18, 2024 84° Today's Paper

Top News

California congressman used campaign funds for affairs, prosecutors say

Swipe or click to see more


Republican U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., left an arraignment hearing, in Aug. 2018, in San Diego after he and his wife, Margaret, pleaded not guilty to charges they illegally used his campaign account for personal expenses. Federal prosecutors said Hunter illegally used campaign funds to finance romantic flings with a series of women, spending thousands of dollars on meals, drinks and vacations.

LOS ANGELES >> Just a few months after taking his seat in Congress in 2009, Duncan Hunter began an affair with a lobbyist and used campaign money to pay for dates, prosecutors said in a new court filing.

On one of their first “solo getaways,” according to prosecutors, the pair went on a ski trip to the Heavenly resort near Lake Tahoe and “spent the weekend skiing, ordering room service and enjoying the amenities of the full service resort.” The hotel tab: $1,008. And no expense seemed too small that it couldn’t be paid for with campaign money, not even the $7 Sam Adams he drank at the hotel bar just after checking in, according to the filing.

Hunter, a Republican, has been accused of spending almost $250,000 of campaign funds on personal expenses. The sprawling indictment issued last year threatened the reelection campaign of Hunter, an Iraq War veteran, but he won in November in his conservative district in San Diego County, where many military veterans live. Hunter has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a trial scheduled to begin in September. His wife, who was also indicted, recently pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The 47-page indictment last year of Hunter, a scion of a political dynasty in Southern California where his father was a congressman for almost three decades, accused him of a brazen pattern of financial misconduct, including using campaign money for an elaborate vacation in Italy. Prosecutors also said Hunter had tried to pass off personal expenses as charitable contributions for veterans, an offense that alienated an important constituency.

The case quickly took on the undertones of the nation’s broader political divisions, with Hunter arguing he was the victim of politically motivated bureaucrats, not unlike President Donald Trump’s repeated characterization of the Russia investigation.

The new allegations — detailed in a motion submitted to the court Monday — lay out evidence that the congressman used campaign cash for a series of extramarital affairs, in addition to supporting his family and paying for vacations for his children and his wife, Margaret Hunter, at a time when the couple’s personal finances were cratering.

Prosecutors said that Duncan Hunter had five affairs between 2010 and 2016, including one with a member of his own staff and one with a woman who was on the staff of another member of the House leadership.

Prosecutors said Hunter dipped into campaign coffers to pay for everything from Uber rides back to his office from the homes of his lovers to a $905 bar tab at a hotel, to a date at a Jack Ingram concert — at which Hunter is accused of spending $121 on beer, nachos and chicken wings — and a date at a “speakeasy-style bar” in Washington.

In the filing, prosecutors noted the “potentially sensitive evidence” being introduced and said that Hunter was offered a deal in which he would stipulate to the affairs in exchange for the details being excluded from public view, but he refused. Prosecutors said that detailing the affairs was necessary to establish the personal nature of the expenses, given that he also had professional relationships with the women.

“Without this evidence, the jury might be left to believe — wrongly — that Hunter’s ‘meetings’ with these women, and the associated expenditures, were work-related; after all, Hunter had professional connections to each of them,” prosecutors wrote. “The intimate nature of these relationships is, in short, direct proof an essential element of the crimes charged in the indictment, and as such it must be admitted to show Hunter’s knowing illegal expenditures of campaign funds.”

The new allegations came as Hunter’s lawyers filed a new motion asking for the case to be dismissed. They have called the case politically motivated and have argued that Democratic-leaning prosecutors pursued the investigation because of Hunter’s support of Trump.

Hunter attended a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House today.

Speaking briefly to reporters in the Capitol today, Hunter said he would not comment on the latest filing.

“You have criminally political prosecutors who violated the Hatch Act on a personal smear campaign,” he said. “I’m going to trial on this, so I’m not going to give you a statement on their allegations.”

Hunter has obliquely blamed his wife for the scandal, saying that she was in charge of the finances for the family and the campaign.

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines. Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.