Report: Hunter’s Campaign Has a Six-Figure Bar Tab

Since running for office in 2008, California rep has spent lavishly at bars, cigar lounges, and bar-dominant restaurants

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., was indicted last month for misuse of campaign funds. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., was indicted last month for misuse of campaign funds. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 27, 2018 at 9:43am

Rep. Duncan Hunter has used campaign funds for 301 visits to bars, cigar lounges and bar-dominated restaurants since he first ran for federal office in 2008.

Federal Elections Commission documents indicate he has spent $138,666 at such establishments, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The California Republican is under criminal investigation for allegedly using campaign money for personal expenses. A grand jury is reviewing evidence against Hunter that goes as far back as 2009.

The Union-Tribune scrutinized Hunter’s FEC files and found dozens of small-tab visits to Washington, D.C., and San Diego watering holes.

The filings show he has spent $100 or less — likely too small a sum for a fundraising event — 72 times at bars or alcohol-centric establishments in Washington since his 2008 campaign.

Of those 72 visits, nearly half were to Bullfeathers, a popular bar near the Capitol South Metro stop where lobbyists and Hill staffers often head for a drink after work.

Hunter’s campaign spent more than three-quarters of its $138,666 tab at the Capitol Hill Club, a few blocks south from the House side of the Capitol.

The campaign tallied $105,352 there from 2008 to October 2017.

That is not an abnormal amount for a congressman at the club, where members pay dues in addition to in-house catering and drink fees, Jason Roe, a San Diego political consultant who has a lifetime membership at the club and previously served on its board, told the Union-Tribune.

“It’s kind of the off-campus hangout for everyone on Capitol Hill. It’s just a couple blocks from the Democratic club, which is pretty similar,” Roe said.

“When I was a staffer, my tab there was $400 a month, on average, and I was a staffer. So if he’s doing fundraisers and dinners and hosting meetings, [what Hunter spent] doesn’t sound unreasonable at all to me,” Roe said.

A spokesman for Hunter defended the congressman’s penchant for spending campaign dollars at the Capitol Hill Club in a statement to Politico for a story that examined Hunter’s turn of fortune, including his drinking habits.

“Any time you walk in [to the Capitol Hill Club], it’s work. That’s why we go there,” he said.

Hunter has never been drunk during work hours at Congress, the spokesman told Politico, after rumors of such behavior circulated.

Hunter first ran into trouble stemming from his campaign spending in April 2016 when the Union-Tribune and the FEC began looking into expenses for family vacations to Italy and video games.

Hunter reimbursed his campaign more than $60,000 after reviewing his files.

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