According to the House Ethics Committee, a California congressman is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly using campaign funds for personal expenses, including video games, vacations, and jewelry. After Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife repaid more than $60,000 for the expenses, the congressman still claims the illicit purchases were “inadvertent and unintentional.”
Accused of misusing funds from his campaign committee, Rep. Hunter reportedly used the money to illegally purchase hotel rooms, utilities, health care, his children’s private school tuition, jewelry, groceries, video games, and personal trips to Hawaii and Italy. In August, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee in order to launch an investigation into Hunter’s alleged crimes.
On Thursday, the House Ethics Committee issued a press release announcing that the Justice Department will be taking over the investigation and will determine whether Hunter could face criminal prosecution. On Wednesday, the committee unanimously voted to defer the investigation to the Justice Department.
“Last year, Congressman Hunter became aware of expenditure issues confronting his campaign committee. Out of an abundance of caution, he took corrective action in consultation with the FEC and, ultimately, he and his wife personally repaid the campaign approximately $60,000,” Hunter’s attorneys wrote in a recent statement. “Congressman Hunter intends to cooperate fully with the government on this investigation, and maintains that to the extent any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional.”
According to an OCE summary report released on Thursday, the board had unanimously recommended that the House Ethics Committee “further review the above allegations concerning Rep. Hunter because there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Hunter converted campaign funds to personal use to pay expenses that were not legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes.”
In response to news reports concerning Hunter’s illicit activities, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics last year. CREW also filed a request asking the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to audit Hunter in order to determine if he violated federal campaign laws.
“Rep. Hunter has shown a blatant disregard for the rules, spending tens of thousands of dollars from his campaign for his personal benefit,” CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder wrote in a recent statement. “This is the most egregious Congressional spending scandal since Aaron Schock. We are glad to see the Office of Congressional Ethics voted unanimously for an investigation and will be closely following the FBI’s criminal investigation in Congressman Hunter.”
Representing San Diego County, Duncan has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2009. His father, Duncan Lee Hunter, served in Congress from 1981 to 2009.