Politics

Duncan Hunter Calls in Backup to Accuse Opponent of Being National Security Risk

Three retired generals who are lobbyists back up Hunter’s allegations against Campa-Najjar

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., arrives for the House Republican Conference meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, imperiled by an indictment over campaign finance law allegations, has circulated a letter in the final weeks of his re-election campaign — signed by three retired generals — asserting his opponent presents a national security risk.

Critics say the letter doubles down on a racist line of attack based on Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar’s Arab heritage.

The words “Security Alert” appear three times at the top of the letter in bright red type.

“If Democrat candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar should get elected and sees secret information on U.S. military operations that would endanger members of his Najjar family in the Middle East, would he compromise U.S. operations to protect his relatives, the Najjars?” the generals write. “We would not bet the lives of our troops on the gamble. We hope you wouldn’t either.”

All three of the retired generals who signed onto the letter have lobbied the House Armed Services Committee, on which Hunter is a member, according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report.

The letter ties Campa-Najjar, who is a Palestinian-Mexican American Christian, to his paternal grandfather Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar, a leading member of Fatah, the political party founded by Palestinian political leader Yasser Arafat. Some Fatah members formed the Black September organization, which killed 11 people at the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich.

“Pull up Munich Olympic Massacre — Najjar on the internet,” the letter advises.

The candidate has renounced the actions of Yusuf al-Najjar, who died 16 years before the he was born. The campaign also pointed out that Campa-Najjar underwent an FBI background check when he worked for the U.S. Department of Labor under President Barack Obama.

“Rep. Hunter’s personal hatred and animosity know no bounds,” said Campa-Najjar spokesman Nick Singer in a statement. “We call upon responsible members of the Republican leadership to condemn and reprimand Rep. Hunter for this race-baiting, hate-filled piece of propaganda.”

All three signatories have ties to defense contractors through Washington, D.C., lobbying firms: Terry Paul lobbies for Cassidy & Associates, whose clients include Bae Systems, according to the Lobbying Disclosure Act Database and OpenSecrets. Randall L. West lobbies for Robison International, whose clients include aviation and aerospace companies, while T.L. Corwin lobbies for Blank Rome Government Relations, which represents the International Marine Contractors Association, the Union-Tribune reported.

The Justice Department indicted Hunter in August on charges of illegally misused campaign funds for personal expenses, including dental work and an Italian vacation, since 2009. That same week, Hunter spent $33,000 in campaign funds on legal expenses, according to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Hunter’s legal troubles have shaken up his race, but Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the 50th District race Likely Republican.

Watch: Democrats Breaking Fundraising Records 3 Weeks From Election Day

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.