Here's what US Rep. and Marine veteran Duncan Hunter did with all that campaign money
By ANDREW DYER | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: August 23, 2018
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — The 47-page federal indictment handed down to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and his wife, Margaret Hunter, lays out dozens of instances in which the couple, either individually or together, justified their spending to campaign treasurers and a chief-of-staff as legitimate campaign expenditures.
However, according to prosecutors, the Hunters’ explanations don’t justify the numerous charges the Department of Justice spells out across 200 “overt acts” listed in the indictment.
The Hunters frequently attribute expenses to items needed for gift baskets or meals with supporters. Often, they would claim purchases were for the benefit of charities, such as the Wounded Warriors Foundation. The following allegations in the indictment indicate the expenses were not as claimed:
Vacations and travel
August 6 to 10, 2011, in Las Vegas and elsewhere, the Hunters spent $2,448.27 on a personal vacation with individuals 3A and 3B. During the vacation, the Hunter’s bank account began to incur insufficient funds fees until a check from Duncan Hunter’s parents was deposited in the account. To conceal and disguise charges, Duncan Hunter told his treasurer they were “campaign related.” Margaret said the Las Vegas charges were for “couple meals.”
August 18, 2011, Hunters spent $1,419 on five round-trip tickets to Boise for a family vacation. Hunter told his treasurer the charges were “campaign related.”
October 28, 2011, in and around Washington, D.C. the Hunters spent $3,754.73 on a family vacation in which the Hunters ran the Marine Corps Marathon 10K course. Mr. Hunter told his treasurer that the charges were “all campaign” and Margaret said they were “during a trip to DC. Meals, mostly.”
On January 12, 2012, Margaret spent $918.60 to fly her sister and two family members to a funeral in Tucson. She claimed they were for a “flight to Baltimore for NRCC winter meeting.”
On January 22, 2012, Margaret spent $504.20 on round-trip tickets for her mother from San Diego to Chicago. She claimed they were for a “flight to Baltimore for NRCC winter meeting.”
March 18,2014, in La Quinta, California, the Hunters spent $1,386.48 for two rooms at the La Quinta Resort & Club for a personal vacation with two unnamed individuals. The Hunters told the campaign chief of staff they had they “had issue with one room and ended up switching.”
January 7, 2015 Margaret paid $800.33 in Hyatt Hotel charges, but told the campaign chief of staff they were paid with her personal card.
In November, 2015, in an attempt to justify the use of campaign funds for the family’s trip to Italy, the congressman attempted to set up a day tour of a U.S. Navy facility in Italy. After Navy officials responded that they could only provide a tour on a particular date, Duncan Hunter said he would discuss the proposed date with his wife, then subsequently told his chief of staff, “tell the Navy to go f*** themselves,” and no tour occurred. Margaret Hunter told the treasurer that various charges from the Italy trip “were mostly military/defense meet related.” In an email to a friend, she said “Italy was amazing. Truly our best family trip so far. Like that saying ‘if traveling was free you’d never see me again!’”
According to the indictment, Rep. Hunter twice spent campaign funds on outings to Pittsburgh Steelers games at Heinz Field.
On Nov. 21, 2010 the Hunters spent $1,912.66 in campaign funds as a birthday gift for a family member to attend Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders game at Heinz Field. The congressman did not inform his treasurer that the money was for a football game. When asked if it was, he confirmed, “Yessir.” Ben Roethlisberger threw for three touchdowns and the Steelers won 35-3.
December 13-16, 2013, the Hunters spent $2,217.34 on a family trip to Pittsburgh to see the Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals. The congressman arranged to have a business meeting while there and the Steelers won, 30-20.
Much of the Hunter’s expenditures were spent going out, either to events or for meals, according to the indictment.
In November 2016 Margaret spent $704 at the Old Globe theater for seven adult and five children’s tickets to “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Margaret Hunter later told the campaign treasurer these were “holiday gift certificates.”
In July 2015, Margaret spent $253.62 in campaign funds at SeaWorld Aquatica in Chula Vista with family members. She told the treasurer the charges should be classified as an “educational tour” and related to a “daylong entrance and educational meet on their issues and programs.”
In July, 2012, Margaret spent $105.28 at a La Mesa Olive Garden on one adult and two children’s meals. She told the treasurer it was a “meal with supporters.”
In April, 2013, the congressman described a friend as a “State Farm Insurance guy” to justify $219.93 in charges at an Island Prime personal dinner.
In October, 2014, the congressman spent $204.34 at the Rancho Bernardo Golf Resort on a personal golf outing with friends. He said this outing was “a Christian thing” with a supporter.
In March, 2015 Margaret requested and was reimbursed from the campaign $438.48 for a personal night out with friends at Island Prime, even though her friends had picked up the check.
In July, 2015, the congressman withdrew $300 from an ATM before heading to the Del Mar Racetrack. Margaret reported the funds as “cash was needed for various small projects & events involving volunteers.” Later, she said the cash “was used for hardware supplies.”
Also in July 2015, the Hunters spent $87.50 at Fandango to purchase tickets for a movie, telling the treasurer the charge was for gift tickets to a “local league football fundraiser.”
In January 2016, Margaret spent $835.50 on tickets for family to see Riverdance at the San Diego Civic Theater. She claimed the charge was for “San Diego Civic Center for Republican Women Federated/Fundraising.”
A March 2016 purchase of $38.20 in movie tickets was said by Margaret to be a “gift bundle basket for foothills Republican women spring fashion show.”
May 19, 2010, Maragaret spent $307.72 in campaign funds at Target to purchase a tablecloth, three square pillows, a three-piece brush set, a metal tray, four temporary shades, four window panels, a white duck, two Punky Brewster items, a ring pop and two five-packs of “animals.” She told the treasurer it was for “teacher/parent & supporter events.”
In September 2011, the congressman spent $399.06 at Best Buy for a Nikon CoolPix digital camera, plus battery and SD card, which he used to photograph his family vacation to Idaho. He told his treasurer the charge was for ink, paper and computer software.
In November 2011, Margaret spent $25 at a La Mesa Vons on medication. She told the treasurer she “bought a Target gift card donation to church family.” Later, she changed her story and said the charge was for “Applebee’s Restaurant — Republican Women.”
On January 2012, Margaret spent $98.05 at Costco — one of 29 different dates between 2010 and 2016 that the Hunters spent $11,375.46 at Costco for personal family items. In January, 2012, Margaret reported the Jan. 11 charge was for “gift basket items for basket donation — Temecula chamber gala auction.”
In December 2012, Margaret spent $155.66 at World Market, allegedly for “holiday basket gift items” and $359.57 at Barnes & Noble, allegedly for “items for multiple toy drives/childrens hospital book drive.”
In March 2015, the congressman told his wife he was planning “to buy my Hawaii shorts,” but had run out of money. She told him to buy the shorts at a golf pro shop so that they could describe the purchase later as “some golf balls for the wounded warriors.”
In August 2015 Margaret spent $216.50 at Dick’s Sporting Goods and claimed the purchase was for an annual dove hunting event involving wounded warriors.
An August 2015 online purchase of $152.25 in cosmetics was reported by Margaret as a charge for “gift basket items Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego.
On April 5, 2016, the day after the Federal Elections Commission inquired about 67 Steam game charges, Margaret falsely reported the transactions as fraudulent, and $1,302 was credited back to the campaign account.
The Hunters paid household debts and bills with campaign funds, prosecutors say.
$261.12 to pay a portion of an overdue balance on their home cable subscription. Margaret said the charge was a “one time set up” fee for an “internet printer and fax line.”
To justify an August 2015 $700 overdue dentist payment, Margaret told the treasurer the payment was a charitable contribution for “Smiles for Life.”
$3,500 in campaign funds went to pay tuition at Christian Unified Schools, part of a total of $6,150 paid out of the campaign for tuition. The Hunters provided “a number of conflicting explanations, including that the payments were charitable contributions.”
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