'If travelling was free you'd never see me again': Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife allegedly played the military card to score freebies using campaign funds

Getty ImagesRep. Duncan Hunter of California.
  • Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a Republican lawmaker who was one of President Donald Trump’s earliest backers, was indicted on accusations of misusing $US250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.
  • In the indictment, Hunter and his wife appeared to denigrate the military and masked their spending under the guise of gifts for wounded veterans.
  • During a trip to Hawaii in 2015, Hunter allegedly told his wife he planned “to buy … Hawaii shorts” but had run out of money – his wife advised him to buy the shorts at a golf pro shop so they could later describe the sale as “some [golf] balls for the wounded warriors.”
  • Hunter also attempted to justify a family trip to Italy by setting up a tour of a US Navy facility in the country.

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a Republican lawmaker who was one of President Donald Trump’s earliest backers, has deep roots in the military.

Hunter, who sits on two subcommittees on the House Armed Services Committee, served in the US Marine Corps as a field artillery officer. He eventually became the first Marine to have served in combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan to become elected into Congress.

But in a federal indictment on Tuesday, he and his wife faced allegations that they misused $US250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses and filed misleading campaign finance records. The allegations also include denigrating the military and masking their personal spending under the guise of gifts for wounded veterans.

Justice Department prosecutors alleged Hunter and his wife, Margaret, “knowingly conspired with each other” to convert campaign funds “for their own personal benefit and enjoyment.”

During a trip to Hawaii in 2015, Hunter allegedly told Margaret he planned “to buy my Hawaii shorts” but had run out of money. Margaret then advised him to buy the shorts at a golf pro shop so they could later describe the sale as “some [golf] balls for the wounded warriors,” the indictment said.

That same year, Hunter attempted to justify using campaign money to fund a family trip to Italy by setting up a tour of a US Navy facility in the country. Navy officials said they could not accommodate a tour on his date, to which he responded by telling his chief of staff, “tell the navy to go f— themselves,” the indictment said.

Margaret allegedly tried to disguise the trip to Italy by claiming it was “mostly military/defence meet related,” despite having emailed a friend that the trip “was amazing.”

“Truly our best family trip so far,” Margaret wrote in an email. “Like that saying ‘if travelling was free you’d never see me again’!”

According to prosecutors, campaign funds were also used to pay for groceries, video games, expensive meals, and their family dentist. He has since reimbursed his campaign around $US65,000 since the Federal Election Commission looked into his spending in 2016.

“Throughout the relevant period, the Hunters spent substantially more than they earned,” the indictment said. “By virtue of these delinquencies as well as notifications of outstanding debts … the Hunters knew that many of their desired purchases could only be made using campaign funds.”

Paul ryanWin McNamee/Getty ImagesHouse Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that the charges against Hunter were “deeply serious” and that he’d be removed from his assignments on the Armed Services Committee.

Hunter has been an outspoken critic on many military-related issues and has found himself butting heads with military leaders throughout his tenure in Congress.

In 2016, he raised eyebrows by claiming Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ support to allow women in the Marines to serve in combat roles was “a greater threat to the Marine Corps than ISIS.”

“The military is there to execute American policy overseas, protect our allies and kill our enemies,” Hunter wrote in an op-ed. “It’s not a corporation. We’re not all treated equal.”

Hunter is running for reelection against Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar in November.

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