campaigns

Duncan Hunter and the case of rabbit flights, NFL Red Zone, HBO and more
Office of Congressional Ethics details soon-to-be-former member’s use of campaign money

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., left, spent campaign money on a wide range of personal endeavors. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

An Office of Congressional Ethics report released Monday shows in detail how Duncan Hunter’s campaign committee spent money on a range of personal expenses, including flights for a pet bunny rabbit, NFL Red Zone, Jack in the Box, Starbucks and family trips to Italy and Hawaii.

The OCE report was released by the House Ethics Committee, a panel that will lose its jurisdiction over Hunter when the California Republican resigns after the holidays. Hunter, who represents the 50th Congressional District of California, pleaded guilty last week to campaign finance fraud and subsequently announced his impending resignation.

Duncan Hunter pleads guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds
Hunter faced 60 counts, most of which will be dismissed

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiring to use campaign funds for personal expenses. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiring with his wife, Margaret, to knowingly and willfully convert his campaign funds for personal expenditures.

He faces a maximum of five years in prison; a maximum $250,000 fine; and a maximum of three years supervised release. 

Democratic lawmakers slowly take sides in 2020 primary
30 percent of congressional Democrats have endorsed, with most backing Joe Biden

From left, Massachusetts Reps. Lori Trahan, Ayanna S. Pressley, and Katherine M. Clark have all endorsed their home-state senior senator, Elizabeth Warren. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

More than two-thirds of Democratic lawmakers have yet to take sides in the presidential primary, a sign that the race remains in flux. But the campaigns that have nabbed congressional endorsements so far could benefit from shows of support, particularly from high-profile freshmen.  

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s decision to back Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley’s endorsement of her home-state senator, Elizabeth Warren, grabbed national headlines. But support from lawmakers with lower profiles can still help presidential campaigns generate local media attention, demonstrate support from key constituencies and provide a team of surrogates who can be deployed across the country. 

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.

Uncertain times could bring new lobbying strategies
Workarounds include deeper outreach to think tanks, academia and other institutions

Even as more lawmakers have shrugged off donations from PACs and as the Trump era has disrupted the nation’s politics, K Street has not suffered a noticeable hit to its bottom line. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — It’s hard to imagine a more bonkers, unpredictable and politically toxic backdrop for K Street operators than the current one. But just wait until 2020 actually arrives. 

The presidential election year will hit lobbyists with potential risks all around. Candidates up and down the ballot will press proposals to remake the influence industry and to overhaul the nation’s campaign finance system. More candidates will reject K Street and business donations. The approaching elections, along with an expected impeachment trial early on, will turn Capitol Hill into an even bigger political mess.

Justice Department requests Ethics Committee deferral on Rep. Spano case
Tlaib and Huizenga cases still under consideration; details emerge in newly released documents

The Justice Department requested that the House Ethics Committee defer action on a case involving Rep. Ross Spano, R-Fla.(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Ethics Committee released on Thursday the Office of Congressional Ethics referral documents for cases regarding Reps. Bill Huizenga, Ross Spano and Rashida Tlaib, deferring consideration of the Spano case at the request of the Justice Department.

The Office of Congressional Ethics first referred the three cases to the House Ethics panel on Aug. 16. The OCE is a nonpartisan entity that reviews allegations of misconduct involving House staff and lawmakers and refers cases to the House Ethics Committee with recommendations for further review or dismissal.

Some Democrats see political system overhaul as winning 2020 issue
Bill to revamp campaign finance and voting passed House early, then stalled in Senate

Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., talks with the media after votes on Capitol Hill in September. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If Rep. Max Rose’s voters expected the freshman lawmaker from Staten Island, New York, to quiet down this election cycle about a major overhaul of the nation’s political system, they were mistaken.

It was a centerpiece of the Democrat’s campaign-trail mantra in 2018. And now, as one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress, he’s not stopping. Neither are many of his similarly situated colleagues.

Amid troubles, Trump has huge cash advantage for 2020
But Democrats have already raised $700 million from small-dollar donors giving $200 or less

President Donald Trump may have many barriers in the way of a smooth campaign, but fundraising will not be one. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For all the drama surrounding President Donald Trump — an unfolding House impeachment probe, former aides in prison and his personal consigliere reportedly under federal investigation — there’s one worry he doesn’t face: money for his 2020 campaign.

The White House incumbent, who took the unprecedented step of opening his reelection coffers the same day he took the oath of office in 2017, recently reported holding more than $83 million for his next race. Trump has raised a total of $165 million so far. Plus, he’s helped haul in millions more for the Republican National Committee, which will help all GOP candidates get the vote out, while outside organizations allied with the president have amassed their own big bundles of political money.

House Ethics needs more time on Rep. Lori Trahan case
Office of Congressional Ethics referred Massachusetts freshman's case in September

The Office of Congressional Ethics referred the case involving Rep. Lori Trahan to the House Ethics Committee, which is extending its evaluation of the issue. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Ethics Committee is extending its inquiry into Rep. Lori Trahan, the panel said Monday. The committee first received the referral of the Massachusetts freshman's case, which is focused on campaign finance issues, from the Office of Congressional Ethics on Sept. 18.

The ethics panel, lead by Democratic Chairman Ted Deutch of California and ranking member Kenny Marchant, a Texas Republican, has to publicly acknowledge the receipt of an OCE referral to further review a case after 45 days. The OCE can recommend dismissal of a case instead of further review.

The 10 most vulnerable House members in 2020: Democrats dominate
Majority on defense after significant gains in last year’s midterms

Oklahoma Democrat Kendra Horn, who won her seat in a surprising upset last fall, is the most vulnerable House member running in 2020. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

One year out from the 2020 elections, the most vulnerable member of the House is the Oklahoma Democrat whose upset win surprised even astute politicos last fall. She is joined by a California Republican who is under indictment and numerous Democrats running in districts President Donald Trump easily won in 2016.

Republicans need a net gain of 19 seats to win control of the House, and they see their path back to the majority running through so-called Trump districts that slipped from the party’s grasp in the midterms. Whether they succeed depends on next year’s political climate and the strength of their candidates. In some districts, the GOP has worked hard to recruit more diverse challengers, especially after Democrats’ success electing women last year.