Indictment of Rep. Hunter is surreal

Published on Friday, 24 August 2018 14:27
Written by Amber Phillips

The allegations against Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., one of President Donald Trump’s first congressional supporters and the second of Trump’s first supporters to be indicted this month, read like a caricature of a corrupt, greedy politician.

Federal prosecutors allege that he and his wife stole $250,000 in campaign funds to do things like take their family to Italy (and buy a three-piece luggage set for it), buy their kids’ school lunches, treat family and friends to hotel rooms and wine and golf, and fly a family member’s pet to Washington, D.C., for vacation.

All the while, the 47-page indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges, their own personal family accounts were either very low or overdrawn. The extremely detailed allegations paint the picture of a member of Congress raising money from donors and boldly using it for himself and his family to live outside their means. At one point, prosecutors allege Hunter told his campaign treasurer that the rules preventing exactly such a scenario were “silly.”

“The Hunters knew that many of their desired purchases could be paid by using campaign funds,” the indictment reads. Hunter did not respond to a request by The Washington Post for comment.

What’s perhaps most galling in the indictment is how the Hunters are alleged to have covered up their purchases: often, by claiming they were for charities, such as veterans’ organizations. Hunter is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here are 10 of the most stunning allegations from the indictment that give politicians a bad name:

1. When Hunter and his wife chatted with each other about how they were able to get cash from the campaign to spend on daily life, they allegedly said “it was great.”

2. Margaret Hunter allegedly spent $200 on tennis shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods, which she then claimed as being for an annual dove hunting event for wounded warriors.

3. When Hunter told his wife he needed to “buy my Hawaii shorts,” but he was out of money, she allegedly told him to buy them from a golf pro shop so he could claim they were actually golf balls for wounded warriors.

4. When the water utility company threatened to turn off their water, Margaret Hunter allegedly spent $300 in campaign funds to pay the bill.

5. Margaret Hunter allegedly spent $152 on makeup at Nordstrom and told the campaign it was “gift basket items for the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego.”

6. Another $394 from Macy’s was listed as “gift baskets for local organizations.”

7. In an attempt to justify spending campaign funds on a family trip to Italy, Hunter asked a naval base there for a tour. When officials said they couldn’t do it then, Hunter said, “Tell the Navy to go (expletive) themselves.”

8. They allegedly described the payment of their family dental bills as a charitable contribution to “Smiles for Life.”

9. Margaret Hunter allegedly bought plane tickets for her mother and her mother’s boyfriend to go to Warsaw. She told the campaign it was for events in New Orleans and Kentucky.

10. Hunter allegedly used campaign funds to go on a personal ski trip to Lake Tahoe when his family bank account had a negative balance and his personal bank account had $35. (He withdrew $20 from his personal bank account while there, the indictment alleges.)

Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix. She was previously the one-woman D.C. bureau for the Las Vegas Sun and has reported from Boston and Taiwan.



Posted in New Britain Herald, Columns on Friday, 24 August 2018 14:27. Updated: Friday, 24 August 2018 14:29.