The federal indictment filed against Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and his wife, Margaret, paints them as petty and persistent grifters who never let being broke crimp a lifestyle illegally funded by dipping into campaign donor money for more than $250,000.
The couple allegedly used campaign funds to pay for groceries, bar tabs, vacations in Italy and London, dentist bills, golf shorts and even school tuition for their children to keep up appearances while they skirted insolvency, the indictment charged Tuesday.
Possibly one of the worst charges against Hunter, a Marine artillery officer who served in Iraq and left the Reserve as a major, was that he tried to pass off the use of campaign funds as a contribution to wounded veterans.
Hunter wanted to buy a pair of shorts for a golf outing in Hawaii but was out of money, the indictment charged.
Margaret Hunter "counseled him to buy the shorts at a golf pro shop so that they could falsely describe the purchase later as 'some [golf] balls for the wounded warriors,' " the indictment said.
Hunter also allegedly sought to use the military as an excuse to write off the family's $14,000 vacation in Italy in 2015, the indictment charged.
Hunter attempted to arrange a tour of a Navy facility to justify the expense, but the service responded that it could not accommodate him on the date he wanted. Hunter then told his chief of staff to "tell the Navy to go ---- themselves," the indictment said.
In response to the indictment, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said Hunter is being stripped of his assignments to the House Armed Services, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Education and the Workforce committees.
"The charges against Rep. Hunter are deeply serious," Ryan said in a statement. "Now that he has been indicted, Rep. Hunter will be removed from his committee assignments pending the resolution of this matter."
Ryan noted that the House Ethics Committee had begun an investigation of Hunter but backed off at the request of the Justice Department. Hunter has since reimbursed his campaign for about $60,000, according to his lawyers.
Under federal law, the use of campaign funds is "restricted to supporting the candidate's election [or-re-election] efforts and cannot be used for their own or their family's use or enjoyment," the indictment said.
In addition, members of Congress "are expressly prohibited from spending campaign funds on clothing, vacations, household food items, school tuition, utilities, payments to recreational activities and entertainment not associated with the election campaign."
However, the Hunters "spent substantially more than they earned," the indictment said. "They overdrew their bank accounts more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period, resulting in approximately $37,761 in 'overdraft' and 'insufficient funds' bank fees."
The Hunters used campaign funds to cover $11,300 in charges at Costco, $5,700 at Walmart, $2,500 at Barnes & Noble, and $3,300 at Target, the indictment said.
One of their favorite stores was Albertsons and Haggen Food and Pharmacy. They went there 45 times between 2010 and 2016 and paid for $6,312.81 in groceries and household items with campaign funds, the indictment said.
Some of the examples cited in the indictment offered a vivid contrast between the amounts the Hunters were spending and their own personal worth.
In January 2010, Duncan Hunter spent $1,008.72 on a three-day ski weekend at a Nevada resort, the indictment said. During the weekend, Hunter also withdrew $20 from his personal bank account. That left him with a balance of $15.02, the indictment said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.