Congress

Duncan Hunter to plead guilty to one count in campaign finance case

California Republican said he will plead guilty to misuse of campaign funds

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has a change of plea hearing Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who was set to go to trial in January for campaign finance violations, said he will change his not-guilty plea Tuesday to guilty on one count of misuse of campaign funds.

The change of plea hearing, first reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Thomas Whelan in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

In a video interview with San Diego’s KUSI News, Hunter indicated his time in Congress would soon be over.

“It’s been a privilege to serve in Congress for 11 years,” Hunter said, adding he’s confident the transition of his 50th Congressional District seat will be seamless.

“It’s important to keep the seat a Republican seat,” he said. 

Hunter said his office will continue to handle cases, which will eventually be passed off to his successor. 

Hunter maintained he did not misuse taxpayer dollars but said he made mistakes.

“Not a single dime of taxpayer money is involved in this,” he told KUSI. “The plea that I accepted was misuse of my own campaign funds of which I plead guilty to only one count.”

“I did make mistakes,” Hunter said. “I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money.”

Appearing emotional in the KUSI interview, Hunter grappled with the notion of serving jail time.

“Whatever my time in custody is, I will take that hit,” he said. 

[Duncan Hunter has almost depleted legal expense fund]

Hunter faces a 60-count indictment from August 2018, which alleges he — and his wife, Margaret — used over $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenditures, including bar tabs, golf outings, international travel, video games and designer face cream. Margaret Hunter has already pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds.

“My only hope is that the judge does not sentence my wife to jail. I think my kids need a mom in the home,” he told KUSI.

Since the indictment was filed, Hunter had adamantly denied using campaign money for personal use and described the allegations levied by the Department of Justice as a partisan attack.

The change of plea revelation could mirror the actions of former New York Republican Chris Collins, who had been facing a federal criminal trial on insider trading charges until he changed his not guilty plea to a guilty one. Collins resigned from Congress the day before his change of plea hearing on Oct. 1.

Neither Hunter’s office nor his attorney immediately responded to a request for comment. Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, had no comment.

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