LOS ANGELES — U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California illegally used campaign money to finance romantic flings with lobbyists and congressional aides, spending thousands of dollars on meals, cocktails and vacations, federal prosecutors say.
Margaret Hunter, who served as the six-term congressman’s campaign chairwoman, pleaded guilty this month to one count of corruption and agreed to testify against her husband.
In the new motion, prosecutors reconstructed Rep. Hunter’s alleged clandestine lifestyle, providing times when he arrived for and left liaisons and listing a range of expenses he represented as campaign-related activity, such as paying for dates with a woman who had become his lover shortly after she started working in his office.
He used his campaign treasury for even seemingly incidental purchases — a $7 beer at a hotel bar while on a ski trip with one of the women, and an Uber ride after a liaison with another lobbyist in October 2015.
Hunter has said he is the target of politically motivated prosecutors. His lawyer, Gregory Vega, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the filing.
Hunter Tapped Campaign Funds Because He Had No Other Money
It came the same day Vega filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the search and seizure of Hunter’s congressional records was unconstitutional.
Vega wrote that the Constitution does not put members of Congress above the law but does “protect them from prosecution for their legislative activities and from having to disclose legislative records, absent their consent.”
Prosecutors said the “sequence of romantic liaisons is so far removed from any legitimate campaign or congressional activity as to rebut any argument that Hunter believed these were proper uses of campaign funds.”
“It’s a very solid case that got much stronger” once his wife pleaded guilty and agreed to testify, said former federal prosecutor Jason A. Forge, who prosecuted California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who served more than seven years in prison in a bribery scandal.
In an interview with Fox News last year, Hunter said his campaign made mistakes, that he gave his wife power of attorney when he deployed as a Marine to Iraq in 2003 and that she handled his finances during his last five terms in office.
The government’s filing suggested that Hunter tapped into campaign funds because he had no other money to finance his romantic relationships. During a weekend ski trip with a lobbyist, his personal bank account had a negative balance and he had been hit with $33 fees six times for overdrawing the account, prosecutors said.