SPONSORED:

House ethics watchdog finds 'substantial' evidence of financial misuse by Hunter

House ethics watchdog finds 'substantial' evidence of financial misuse by Hunter
© Greg Nash

The Office of Congressional Ethics concluded in a report made public Monday that there was “substantial” evidence that Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan HunterIssa defeats Campa-Najjar in California House race DOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump DCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program MORE (R-Calif.) illegally used campaign funds for personal use, including family vacations and airfare for his pet rabbit.

The announcement comes after Hunter announced on Friday that he will resign from his seat at the end of the year following his decision to plead guilty to campaign finance violations.

The full report by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent watchdog, was unveiled for the first time Monday by the House Ethics Committee.

ADVERTISEMENT

The report mirrors the federal indictment against Hunter that alleged he had used campaign funds to pay for trips to Europe and Hawaii, his family’s dental work, airfare for his family’s pet rabbit and home utilities.

The OCE investigation found that Hunter used campaign funds for personal travel, including a $9,213.58 family trip to Italy in November 2015; $7,066.33 for family trips to Hawaii; $2,891.75 for family trips to an Arizona resort and $1,083.63 for a family wedding in Boise, Idaho, in July 2015.

The OCE report also found that Hunter used $625 in campaign funds to pay for fees associated with air travel for his family’s pet rabbit on five separate occasions.

According to the report, Hunter’s use of campaign funds for personal use didn’t stop there.

The OCE report details how Hunter’s campaign committee paid for utility and maintenance costs for his home in California, including $300 for a water bill, $3,166.06 for cable TV and internet service, and $1,200 for a new garage door and window.

The report also documents $1,137 in spending on dental work for Hunter’s son and $6,150 in payments to the school that Hunter’s children attended.

ADVERTISEMENT

In addition, the OCE report states that it “found a pattern of campaign committee outlays for everyday and household expenses such as meals, groceries, gas, and other retail items purchased by Rep. Hunter and Mrs. Hunter.”

The OCE noted that Hunter and his wife refunded the campaign committee more than $17,300 in “mistaken” or “personal” expenses, nearly $11,900 of which was paid following media coverage of his misuse of campaign funds.

“Based on the foregoing information, the Board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Hunter converted campaign funds to personal use to pay expenses that were not legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes,” the OCE report concluded.

The OCE’s board originally voted to refer the allegations against Hunter to the House Ethics Committee in August 2016 for further review.

The Ethics Committee later announced that it was deferring its review of the allegations at the request of the Justice Department. It is releasing the OCE’s findings now that Hunter has pleaded guilty and the deferral is no longer requested.

Hunter was indicted in August 2018 on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, falsifying campaign finance records and improperly using campaign contributions.

Hunter reversed course from his not guilty plea earlier this month, deciding to plead guilty. His wife and former campaign treasurer, Margaret Hunter, had opted to plead guilty earlier this year.

However, Duncan Hunter only pleaded guilty to one of the counts against him.

"No. 1, not a single dime of taxpayer money is involved in this. The plea that I accepted was misuse of my own campaign funds, of which I pled guilty to only one count. I think it's important that people know that I did make mistakes,” Hunter said in an interview with KUSI News last week.

Following the indictment last year, Hunter was removed from his committee assignments in accordance with House rules.

Before he announced his pending resignation, the House Ethics Committee last Thursday warned Hunter that he cannot vote on the House floor due to a rule that prohibits lawmakers from casting votes if they face a potential prison sentence of two or more years.

Hunter last voted the day prior.