Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, added to the growing controversy over the federal campaign finance fraud charges against him by appearing to blame his wife for cooking the books.
"I didn't do it," Hunter, a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, said on Fox News Thursday night of the 60 counts of misuse of campaign donor money for personal expenses in the 48-page federal indictment that was filed against him and his wife, Margaret, on Tuesday.
Hunter said that his wife handled the family finances and had since he went off to war and gave her the power of attorney.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum asked: "Are you saying it's more her fault than your fault?"
"I'm saying," Hunter replied, "that when I went to Iraq in 2003, the first time, I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got into Congress. Because I'm gone five days a week, I'm home for two."
Hunters wife was also his campaign manager in the five terms he has served from a district in the San Diego area, her said.
"Whatever she did, that will be looked at too, I'm sure. But I didn't do it. I didn't spend any money illegally. I did not use campaign money, especially for wounded warriors stuff, there's no way."
Hunter referred to a count in the indictment which described an occasion when he was broke and wanted money to buy golf items. Margaret Hunter allegedly advised him to use campaign funds and write it off as "golf balls for wounded warriors," according to the document
Hunter acknowledged that accounting for campaign money by his office was a mess, but denied personal responsibility.
"My campaign did make mistakes," Hunter said. "There was money spent on things not by me but by the campaign, and I paid that back before."
He referred to an outside audit that he said he commissioned last year and resulted in his paying back more than $60,000.
The mounting friction between the Hunters seemed evident Thursday at their joint arraignment at a federal courthouse in San Diego. They arrived and left separately, each with their own legal teams. In the courtroom, they sat about four seats apart and never looked at each other, according to local news reports.
Both pleaded not guilty to the charges. Duncan Hunter was released on $15,000 bail and Margaret Turner on $10,000 bail. A court hearing in the case was set for Sept. 4.
The indictment charged that the Hunters illegally dipped into campaign money for a total of about $250,000 between 2009-2016 to fund a lavish lifestyle that on the high end included vacations in Italy, London and Hawaii, and also included grocery and dentists' bills, bar tabs and fast-food takeouts.
The language of the indictment also contradicted Duncan Hunter's contention that he was unaware of what his wife was doing.
"Duncan Hunter facilitated the theft of campaign funds by directing his Treasurer to obtain a campaign credit card for Margaret at a time when she had no official role with the Campaign and received no official salary, knowing that she would spend campaign funds for the Hunters' personal benefit," the indictment said.
The indictment added that Hunter had hired on his wife as campaign manager "despite the protests of his treasurer and with full knowledge of her long history of misuse of campaign funds in part because, as they discussed, the Hunters 'needed the extra money' that would come from her salary."
Hunter and his lawyer, Gregory Vega, have charged that the indictment was "politically motivated" by prosecutors who had been supporters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign against then-candidate Donald Trump.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.