California Congressman Duncan Hunter Spent Campaign Funds on SeaWorld, Video Games, and Makeup, Indictment Claims
On Tuesday night, San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter was indicted on charges of misusing $250,000 in campaign funds for personal and family expenses. The congressman allegedly categorized personal spending ranging from family vacations to home accessories as campaign expenses such as charitable donations and volunteer perks. The charges alone would be harmful enough going into a midterm election, but the details of the indictment paint a head-spinning portrait of Hunter and his wife mired in a stew of brazen graft, deception, chaotic personal finance, and cringeworthy entitlement.
The 47-page indictment, some highlights of which were compiled by CNN’s Chris Cilizza, describes the congressman and his wife repeatedly deceiving his campaign staff, particularly his treasurer, despite frequent warnings about his behavior. In one case, Hunter attempted to classify a $253.62 family visit to SeaWorld as an “educational tour.” Purchases of cosmetics by Hunter’s wife were allegedly described as donations to the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego.
Hunter also allegedly concealed personal spending—specifically, a pair of shorts—by claiming the money was spent on “some [golf] balls for the wounded warriors.” A cynical disrespect for the military is also suggested by charges that Hunter tried to justify spending campaign funds on a family vacation to Italy by scheduling a tour of a U.S. Naval base there. When the Navy offered a date for the tour that apparently didn’t align with Hunter’s plans, the congressman told his chief of staff to “tell the Navy to go f*** themselves.”
Perhaps the most darkly funny allegation in the indictment is that at least $1,300 worth of campaign funds were spent on video games through the Steam online store. Those expenditures drew the attention of elections officials back in 2016, helping kick off the investigation that culminated in yesterday’s charges.
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Hunter has previously blamed the video game purchases on his son, and there’s certainly evidence the congressman didn’t have a good handle on where his money was going. According to yesterday’s indictment, the Hunter family overdrew their personal bank account more than 1,100 times over the course of seven years, generating over $37,000 in bank penalty fees. In one case, the 41-year-old Hunter allegedly drained his family bank account, only to get a bailout from his parents.
One of those generous benefactors was Hunter’s father, Duncan Lee Hunter, who formerly held the House seat won by his profligate son in 2008. Both Hunters have argued, over the course of an investigation spanning many months, that the charges against the son are politically motivated. Following the indictment, Congressman Hunter renewed claims that the charges were driven by the “political agenda” of the Department of Justice. That’s despite the fact that that department is headed by Republican Jeff Sessions, himself appointed by Republican Donald Trump—who Hunter was the first congressman to endorse early in the 2016 Presidential campaign.
The senior Hunter reportedly maneuvered intensely to keep other Republicans from running in the district’s recent primary, even as evidence mounted against his offspring. Now Hunter is facing a midterm election against a young, relatively unknown former Obama staffer, Ammar Campa-Najjar. The allegations would be damaging even if they were simply sleazy. But the dysfunctional, even pathetic portrait they paint could push what had been a safely Republican district further into play for Democrats.
Unfortunately for Republicans, as the New York Times reports, California’s recently-revised election procedures provide no clear route for the state Republican party to replace even a candidate as severely tarnished as Hunter. Worse, Hunter’s indictment comes amidst a wave of corruption charges and convictions for Republican politicians and operatives, a circumstance so dire that one GOP insider reportedly told Axios that, going into a crucial election, “the Republican Party looks like a criminal enterprise.”