After years of emphatically denying that he and his wife stole campaign funds, a California congressman pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds. In addition to family vacations to Hawaii and Italy, U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter and his wife also spent campaign funds on school tuition, dental work, golf outings, and video games.
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.
Between 2010 and 2016, Rep. Hunter and his wife Margaret stole campaign funds in order to pay for personal items and expenses. During the course of the conspiracy, the Hunters overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period resulting in $37,761 in “overdraft” and “insufficient funds” bank fees.
During a November 2015 family vacation to Italy, in which the Hunters improperly used more than $14,000 in campaign funds, Rep. Hunter justified the trip by attempting to set up a one-day tour of a U.S. Navy facility in Italy (which never occurred). During a 2010 winter ski trip to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino, Hunter used more than $1,000 in campaign funds to take one of his girlfriends with him.
On June 13, Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. According to her plea agreement, she agreed to provide “substantial assistance to the United States in the investigation and prosecution of others” and to “tell everything (she) knows about every person involved” in the crime.
On Tuesday, Rep. Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal campaign funds.
“Congressman Duncan D. Hunter violated the trust of his supporters by diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars they donated in good faith to his reelection campaign for personal expenditures,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Leshner. “This was not an accounting mistake by his campaign. This was a deliberate, years-long violation of the law. Congressman Hunter used the power of his position to fund a lifestyle out of his reach, unwittingly financed by those who put him there.”
“Our campaign finance laws are designed to promote transparency in our electoral process by, among other things, prohibiting the diversion of campaign contributions for personal use,” stated Scott Brunner, Special Agent in Charge of the San Diego Division of the FBI. “The FBI will fully investigate any person who blatantly disregards these laws and abuses the trust of constituents and contributors by turning campaign coffers into a personal slush fund.”
“This is not a case about mismanagement, or sloppy accounting, or ‘mistakes,’” asserted Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Allen. “Duncan Hunter intentionally took money that did not belong to him and used it for his own benefit.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern noted, “The foundation of our legal system is based upon the proposition that no one individual is above the law, regardless of the heights they’ve reached, how much they’ve contributed, or what office they occupy.”
U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan set Rep. Hunter’s sentencing for March 17, 2020. The corrupt congressman faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
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