Republican California Rep. Duncan Hunter—who for a year has been battling legal trouble over allegations of embezzlement—allegedly illegally used campaign funds to facilitate a number of affairs with congressional aides and lobbyists, according to a court filing from Monday night.
In the earlier embezzlement charges, filed in August 2018, federal prosecutors alleged that Hunter and his wife, Margaret, used $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. The previous allegations included personal payments for vacations, transportation, and their children’s school tuition. But Monday’s filing added details of Hunter’s alleged payments for bar tabs, hotel rooms, and transportation for his affairs, too. The prosecutors said Tuesday they plan to show evidence of the affairs—involving three lobbyists, a woman in his congressional office, and a woman who worked for a member of the House’s leadership—at Hunter’s upcoming trial in September to show the congressman’s motives and intention to break the law. Hunter has pleaded not guilty to all of the four charges against him.
Hunter’s legal team asked for the new case to be dismissed based on claims that the allegations are politically motivated. On Tuesday, the congressman told Politico that the charges amount to a smear campaign from biased prosecutors who had attended a 2015 fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. According to the Justice Department’s filing in response, Hunter called the Department of Justice the “deep state.”
Prosecutors said they tried to reach an agreement with Hunter’s lawyers that would “eliminate the need to introduce this potentially sensitive evidence at trial,” but that the defense declined.
Earlier this month, Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to her charges in the prior case, as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors. And just this week, the Justice Department filed motions to permit her testimony at her husband’s trial, to exclude any of Rep. Hunter’s claims of political bias, and to exclude evidence of his good behavior or any evidence of similar abuses by other members of Congress that might make the embezzlement appear typical.
The 60-count indictment from last year was filled with colorful details worth recalling, as the new claims add even more scandalous material to an already shocking account of the Hunters’ allegedly brazen spending. Those included allegations of conspiracy, wire fraud, falsification of records, along with the misuse of campaign contributions. The indictment also indicated that Hunter had used the funds to take vacations to Hawaii, London, and Las Vegas, and to buy video games and computers. The filing further alleged that the couple had used the funds at hotels, the dentist, the movies, the grocery store, a golf course, the hair salon, and many bars. Once, Hunter paid $600 with campaign funds in airfare for the family pet rabbit, Eggburt.*
The most inflammatory detail involved Margaret Hunter’s suggestion that her husband buy shorts at a golf pro shop and list the purchase as golf balls “for the wounded warriors.” In another instance relayed in the indictment, Duncan Hunter tried to get a tour of a Navy base to cover for a $14,000 family vacation in Italy and, when he was told he could only do the tour on certain days, told his chief of staff to “tell the Navy to go fuck themselves.”
After he was charged last year, Hunter told Fox News that the blame for most of the financial wrongdoing fell on his wife: He said he gave her power of attorney and control over the family finances when he went to Iraq with the Marines in 2003, and that she continued to handle the family’s money upon his return. “Whatever she did, that will be looked at too, I’m sure,” he said. “But I didn’t do it. I didn’t spend any money illegally.”
Prosecutors alleged at the time that Hunter had also used the funds for affairs, but the new allegations represent the first time the details of those affairs have been made public. According to the Washington Post, the filing indicates that Hunter’s first affair began in 2009, the year he took office, and that he began living with the woman in question and took campaign-funded vacations with her to Virginia Beach and a ski resort near Lake Tahoe. Similarly, in his other affairs, he allegedly relied on campaign funds to pay for food, drinks, and Uber rides to the women’s houses.
Despite first facing the charges a year ago, Hunter has continued to serve in Congress and was even reelected—with the help of an ad he aired accusing his “Palestinian Mexican” opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar of plotting to “infiltrate” Congress. He portrayed Campa-Najjar as a “radical Muslim” with connections to terrorism and distributed a letter that implied Campa-Najjar would “compromise U.S. operations” to protect his “family in the Middle East.”
Update, June 25, 2019, at 5 p.m.: This post has been updated to include the alleged airfare for Eggburt the rabbit, as it is too good a detail not to include.