Rep. Hunter Pleads Guilty to Campaign Finance Charge
More than a year after his indictment was first announced, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has opted to plead guilty to one count of misusing campaign funds. His wife, Margaret Hunter, has already reached a plea agreement conditioned on testifying against her husband.
"I did make mistakes. I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money," Rep. Hunter told local KUSI News. "I am responsible for my campaign and what happens to my campaign money."
According to federal prosecutors, the Hunters appropriated more than $250,000 in tax-free campaign donations in order to pay for family vacations, alcohol, private school tuition, dental work and other personal expenses. Prosecutors also accused Rep. Hunter of using campaign funds to underwrite the costs of alleged romantic dalliances while in Washington.
The indictment asserted that the Hunters needed the extra money in order to stave off financial problems, including 1,100 instances of bank overdrafts and $38,000 in overdraft fees. In addition to misuse of campaign funds, the federal charges included wire fraud, falsifying records and conspiracy.
Rep. Hunter - once chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime and a recognized advocate for shipping interests - has lost the endorsement of San Diego's local branch of the Republican Party. He is expected to depart Congress before facing a primary challenge from former Rep. Darrell Issa, who retired from his own seat in San Diego's 49th District before the wave of Democratic wins in California last year. Rep. Hunter won in the same election despite the federal charges against him, and his seat in the 50th District is seen as relatively safe for a Republican incumbent.