Rep. Duncan Hunter to abandon 'not guilty' plea in campaign finance scandal

Morgan Cook and Jeff McDonald, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Political News

Text messages included in court files show that at one point Margaret advised her husband to use the campaign credit card to buy a pair of Hawaiian shorts he wanted but could not afford -- and to tell his then-treasurer that the purchase was in order to assist veterans.

Since investigations into his campaign spending started in mid-2016, Hunter has spent more than $800,000 on attorneys, including several for his criminal defense, according to his campaign filings.

The criminal charges from August 2018 came two-plus years after the Federal Election Commission and The San Diego Union-Tribune first questioned campaign expenditures Hunter reported in April 2016 -- a series of video-game purchases and a payment to his children's private school.

Hunter initially blamed his son for grabbing the wrong credit card to pay the video-game charges, explaining that both of the cards were blue.

Later, the congressman appeared to blame his wife for improper charges, pointing out that she was in charge of the family finances and she was receiving $3,000 a month to serve as his campaign treasurer.

The Union-Tribune continued raise questions about Hunter's campaign spending over the months that followed. By the 2016 general election, Hunter had repaid about $60,000 to his campaign for expenditures he said were mistaken or insufficiently documented.


Neither the denials or repayment quelled the investigation. The lawmaker dismissed follow-up stories by the Union-Tribune as "fake news" and said the newspaper was out to get him.

But federal prosecutors were not so sure. They opened their criminal case in mid-2016, a probe thatHunter dismissed as being conducted by "deep state" partisans within the FBI and others in the U.S. government.

The investigation, and the cost of his legal defense, took its toll on Hunter and his family.

The congressman and his wife sold their Alpine home in 2017 to pay off family debts and moved into the nearby home of Hunter's father.


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