Though most of Tuesday’s news-making criminal activity was confined to the 250-mile radius between the New York and Virginia courtrooms where Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort officially became felons, an indictment was unsealed nearly 3,000 miles away that could mean the end of Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter’s political career. The 41-year-old congressman and his wife Margaret were charged with wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations and conspiracy, the result of a Justice Department investigation that began over a year ago. According to the filing, the couple allegedly “knowingly conspired” to cover up their habit of using Hunter’s campaign funds — over $250,000 in total — to pay for retail goods, vacations, dentist bills and more.
Improper use of campaign funds may sounds like garden-variety corruption for a congressional Republican, but the details of Hunter’s case are particularly appalling. The indictment lists several instances in which he and his wife allegedly lied about donating to nonprofit organizations in order to cover up their personal financial gain. In one case, Margaret reportedly spent $200 of campaign money on shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods while claiming the money was spent on a hunting event for “wounded warriors.” In another, she told her husband to make sure to buy a new pair of shorts at a golf pro shop “so that they could falsely describe the purchase later as ‘some [golf] balls for the wounded warriors.'” When Margaret allegedly spent $152 on makeup at Nordstrom’s, she told the campaign the money was used for “gift basket items for the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego.”
I am speechless, yet at the same time, deeply unsurprised pic.twitter.com/ot8YLI9jtm
— Alison Herman (@aherman2006) August 21, 2018
The Hunters also allegedly used campaign funds to pay for vacations to destinations like Hawaii, Las Vegas and Boise, Idaho. When allegedly using campaign funds to finance a family vacation to Italy in November 2015, they planned on justifying their expenses by taking a tour of a U.S. naval facility while abroad. When the Navy was unable to accommodate them, the congressman reportedly instructed his chief of staff to “tell the navy to go f*** themselves.”
oh. my. god. pic.twitter.com/DYtRbrPAXZ
— Matt Pearce 🦅 (@mattdpearce) August 21, 2018
The indictment alleges that the Hunters routinely overdrew their bank accounts, incurring nearly $40,000 in fees over a seven-year period. Short on cash to spend, they allegedly viewed campaign funds as their own personal piggy bank. Hunter even asked his treasurer to allow his wife to have a campaign credit card, despite her having no formal role on the operation. Despite warnings from his staff, Hunter and his wife refused to curtail their exorbitant spending, with Hunter allegedly telling his treasurer that the laws preventing his family using campaign funds for personal gain were “silly.”
“By virtue of these delinquencies — as well as notifications of outstanding debts and overdue payments from their children’s school, their family dentist, and other creditors — the Hunters knew that many of their desired purchases could only be made by using campaign funds,” the indictment reads.
Hunter, who is up for reelection this November, is a veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He hosts an annual golf tournament in San Diego for wounded Marines, and on Wednesday was scheduled to host a fishing tournament for wounded combat veterans. In 2013, he wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he argued that the Department of Veterans Affairs was not spending enough money to care for veterans. Hunter was also fiercely critical of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem. “I think you can combat what Kaepernick’s doing with a show of force on the other side,” he said in 2016. “That’s saying, ‘Hey, we respect the flag because it stands for something that’s constant, and that’s the sacrifices and what the American military has done for this country.’”
A congressman since 2009, Hunter was one of the first lawmakers to support Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency. The first, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), was indicted on a number of charges related to securities fraud earlier this month.
When reached for comment by Rolling Stone, Rivers of Recovery, the the organization sponsoring the fishing event Hunter was scheduled to host Wednesday, wrote that they were “saddened” by the allegations against Hunter. A representative for the Wounded Warrior Project wrote that the organization is “disappointing to see an elected official misusing donor dollars,” while iterating that they have no connection to the Hunters, nor were they able to find any records of donations from either Rep. Hunter or his wife.
This post has been updated.