Rep. Duncan Hunter illegally used campaign donations to finance extramarital romantic relationships with women he worked alongside, including one of his aides, federal prosecutors have alleged in a court filing.
The California Republican’s lawyers countered by accusing the prosecutors of targeting the congressman over his early support for Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy.
The government contends Hunter pursued five “intimate relationships” in total, and tapped donor funds to finance ski trips, nights out in Washington, D.C., and Uber rides between his office and the women’s homes. The Justice Department made the allegations Monday in a filing with the U.S. District Court in Southern California in connection with Hunter’s indictment on campaign finance charges.
Hunter faces trial in September on 60 charges including conspiracy, theft of campaign funds and wire fraud for allegedly using his campaign committee as a personal bank. Government attorneys want to use information about the relationships at trial and argued in the motion they are central to his case, not “prurient.” Hunter’s infidelities had been alluded to in public court documents before, but the affairs were only described as “personal relationships.”
According to the government, Hunter initiated a romantic relationship with an aide “not long after” the staffer joined his office in January 2015, and the aide sometimes stayed with Hunter overnight in his office. That June, for example, Hunter spent more than $200 from campaign funds for a night out of Mexican food and games at a D.C. bar, plus an Uber back home, the court filing said.
Hunter also pursued a long-term relationship with an aide to GOP congressional leadership after they met at the Republican National Convention in 2012, the government said.
Those relationships briefly overlapped, according to the timeline laid out by prosecutors.
Hunter did not answer reporters’ questions Tuesday about the allegations.
He has argued that he is the target of political bias. In a motion to have the charges dismissed Monday, his lawyers said two assistant U.S. attorneys on the case sought a photo opportunity with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2015.
“You have criminally political prosecutors, who violated the Hatch Act, on a personal smear campaign,” Hunter told reporters on his way to vote Tuesday.
“I’m going to trial on this, so I’m not going to give you a statement on their allegations except that they are politically criminal prosecutors,” he added.
Attorneys for the federal government cannot raise money for candidates under the Hatch Act, which prohibits most executive branch employees — except the president, vice president and a handful of others — from conducting political business while in their official capacity. But attending a fundraiser for a political candidate is permitted under Department of Justice guidelines.
The judge in Hunter’s case will determine whether appearing to support Clinton in her 2016 campaign constitutes an improper conflict of interest, and the extent to which the congressman’s personal relationships could be discussed at trial.
In Monday’s filing, the government also alleged that:
- Hunter for years had dated a lobbyist after they met in a professional capacity in 2009, used campaign funds to pay for airfare and lodging at a couples ski retreat, and for gas and lodging for a “double date” road trip to Virginia Beach. The other couple included a congressman.
- Hunter used campaign funds to pay for an early morning Uber ride in 2015 from the home of another lobbyist, a woman who had previously organized fundraisers for him.
- Hunter pursued a third lobbyist at a political event in Florida in 2016, and continued to see her when they both returned to Washington. He reached into campaign donations to pay for Ubers to shuttle from her residence to his office too.
Margaret Hunter, the congressman’s wife, former campaign manager and co-defendant, entered into a plea agreement earlier this month, a sign that she is cooperating with prosecutors to supply information as they build a case against the congressman.
Shortly after a 47-page indictment accusing him of misusing campaign funds was unsealed last year, Duncan Hunter appeared to place the blame for the misappropriated funds on his spouse, citing her role as his campaign manager.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is challenging Hunter again for his southern California seat, said the latest revelations represent “another sad example of the stain Congressman Hunter has left” on the 50th District.
“Hunter used the power of his office to initiate inappropriate relations in the workplace,” he tweeted.
Hunter defeated Campa-Najjar by 3 points last fall in a district that backed President Donald Trump by 15 points in 2016. At least two GOP challengers have already filed to run against him this cycle. Two other Republicans, former Rep. Darrell Issa and former San Diego city Councilmember Carl DeMaio, are reportedly considering bids in the 50th District if Hunter doesn’t seek re-election.