Hunter, wife indicted for campaign fraud

A photo posted on Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Facebook page of himself and his wife Margaret, who is also his campaign manager and paid $3,000 monthly, about the time his campaign paid expenses on his trip to Italy.

Not a good week for GOP candidates in San Diego…

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret are expected to be arraigned on Thursday morning in Federal court.

A 47-page grand jury indictment accuses the couple of diverting more than $250,000 in campaign funds to family vacations, school tuition, theater tickets and other personal expenses.

They are facing charges of wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations, and conspiracy, resulting from a more than year-long investigation by the Department of Justice.

The Congressman has maintained his innocence throughout the process.

Hunter’s campaign spending habits were first exposed in the UT in April 2016. In November of that year, it became clear he was headed for trouble.

From the Union-Tribune:

Federal election officials on Wednesday released an accounting from GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter itemizing dozens of apparently personal outlays by the congressman’s campaign — expenses he has now reimbursed to the tune of $60,000.

The list resembles a suburban family budget including utilities, a dentist, a nail salon, Albertsons, Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Trader Joe’s and Abercrombie & Fitch — and also 32 airline transactions, a hotel in Italy and the Arizona Grand Resort.

The detailed reporting by San Diego Union-Tribune’s Morgan Cook on Hunter’s campaign finances earned her the 2017 Journalist of the Year award from the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

A series of stories in Politico earlier this year nailed down the congressman’s modus operandi and motives.

Frequent visits to Capitol Hill bars and restaurants, a suggestion he’d once appeared on the floor of Congress while intoxicated, and allegations about two extra-marital affairs–one with a staffer–further sullied his reputation.

Former staffers to Hunter said the atmosphere grew toxic because of the woman, who would text with Hunter and sometimes accompany him to the Capitol Hill Club. Multiple aides complained about her attire, saying it was inappropriate for a work environment.

Two aides kept a tally of how many days of work she had missed. The woman would also show up uninvited at Hunter’s campaign events, including one in San Diego.

Despite mounting concerns within his office, however, Hunter refused to fire her. The nature of the relationship caused some of his staffers to question Hunter’s judgment.

At the same time, on the other side of the country, Margaret Hunter started using the campaign credit card liberally, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. In the spring of 2016, Hunter’s staffers began to take a closer look at their campaign finances after a series of news reports about questionable charges, such as $1,300 in video game charges that appeared on Hunter’s FEC report.

Despite Republican Party leaders concern about a potential indictment, Congressman Hunter continued to campaign as if nothing was amiss.

In July, he made headlines after a scorching speech in the House of Representatives. Although the speech was technically in support of a doomed conservative resolution to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, it was clear to just about everybody that Hunter was starting to feel the heat.

From the Union-Tribune:

“Imagine living in a country where the federal government decides whether you’re jailed or set free based on your politics. Well, don’t imagine anymore. It’s real and it’s happening right here. My colleagues are right to introduce articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

“The Department of Justice is corrupt, answerable to no one and uses the law to extort the American people and effect political change. Loretta Lynch, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Rod Rosenstein, Bob Mueller and countless others in the DOJ and FBI who will never be found out tried to undermine our last presidential election and destroy our president duly elected by the American people.

“I call on this Congress to root out all the corrupt lawyers and bureaucrats in the DOJ and the FBI so the greatest president of my generation can do the work that the American people duly elected him to do. Over the next five weeks, Congress will not be around to watch the president’s back and hold those subversive partisan officials accountable. For five weeks, the lies and cover-ups and destruction of the president and his family and associates will continue unchallenged.

“The president needs the support and prayers of the American people now more than ever. I look forward to the day where the American people can trust the institutions created to protect them instead of fearing the retribution of a rigged, politically driven and corrupted legal system.”

Hunter’s traditionally safe district, which makes up much of eastern San Diego County, may well be at risk of a Democratic takeover in November’s midterm election.

From CNN:

Many Hunter allies believe he will stay in his House seat while fighting the charges.

Even if federal candidates choose to withdraw from contention, their names will remain on the ballot unless they seek removal of their names from a judge, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.

At this late juncture, there is no possibility of a write-in campaign. Only Hunter and Campa-Najjar will appear on the November ballot, since they were the top vote-getters in California’s top-two primary in June.

Published originally at San Diego Free Press and used by permission. Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!

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