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Duncan Hunter, who represents most of Temecula, indicted on campaign finance charges

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and his wife were indicted Tuesday, Aug. 21 on charges they used more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, from video games and groceries to a European vacation, private school tuition and dental work.
Hunter, 41, who represents two-thirds of Temecula, and wife Margaret “repeatedly dipped into campaign coffers as if they were personal bank accounts, and falsified (Federal Election Commission) campaign finance reports to cover their tracks,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said in a news release.
“Elected representatives should jealously guard the public’s trust, not abuse their positions for personal gain,” Braverman said. “Today’s indictment is a reminder that no one is above the law.”
Hunter campaign spokesman Steven Kane accused the U.S. Justice Department of “(weaponizing) the criminal justice system” and suggested the indictment is an attempt by prosecutors to thwart the will of voters.
“This is a political prosecution” launched by prosecutors who donated to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Kane said.
The CA 50th district that Hunter represents is considered to be safely Republican. But with the investigation hanging over Hunter’s head, nonpartisan political forecasters have said it might be in play; Hunter faces a well-funded challenge from Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in November.
The Campa-Najjar campaign could not be reached immediately for comment.
The Hunters, who have three children, are scheduled to be arraigned at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in federal court in San Diego. They faces charges of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States; wire fraud; falsification of records; prohibited use of campaign contributions and aiding and abetting.
Hunter has been under criminal investigation since June 2016, when The San Diego Union-Tribune started reporting a series of questionable expenses listed in the congressman’s campaign finance reports. Federal law forbids the use of campaign money for personal use.
The Hunters, prosecutors said, used campaign dollars for expenses they could not otherwise afford, including family vacations to Italy, Hawaii, Phoenix and Boise Idaho; dental work; theater tickets, and domestic and international travel for roughly a dozen relatives.
Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on video games, fast food, golf outings, movie tickets, coffee, groceries, home utilities and fine dining, federal prosecutors alleged in a 48-page indictment. Margaret Hunter, 43, worked on her husband’s campaign for a time.
In FEC filings, the couple mischaracterized their purchases as “campaign travel,” “dinner with volunteers/contributors,” “toy drives” and “teacher/parent and supporter events,” among other deceptions, prosecutors said. For example, family dental bills paid with campaign money were listed as a charitable donation to “Smiles for Life,” according to prosecutors.
The illicit spending continued “despite numerous warnings about the prohibition against using campaign funds for personal expenses and repeated inquiries from Duncan Hunter’s campaign treasurer about questionable purchases,” a U.S. Justice Department press release read.
Hunter repeatedly described the purchases as mistakes and oversights. After commissioning a campaign audit, he reimbursed his campaign almost $49,000 in November 2016.
“While the charges were primarily authorized by the campaign, the buck stops with me and I take full responsibility – including the responsibility to determine and implement other structural changes to ensure errors are not repeated,” Hunter said at the time.
Hunter is the son of longtime congressman Duncan Hunter. A Marine artillery officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hunter was first elected to Congress in 2008.
He established a reputation as an outspoken conservative and supporter of e-cigarettes. He once vaped during a congressional hearing on whether to ban e-cigarettes on airplanes. Hunter also was one of the first congressman to endorse then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Redistricting gave Hunter most of Temecula in 2011. The state’s 50th Congressional District also includes northern San Diego County.
Source: OC Register

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