Last Feb. 19, the anti-LGBT hate group Family Research Council (FRC) Action honored California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr for scoring a perfect 100% on FRC’s annual scorecard for 2017. He was given FRC’s “True Blue” award for “displaying unwavering commitment and consistent support of faith, family, and freedom.”
“Rep. Hunter deserves praise for his unwavering commitment to stand for life, family, marriage, and religious liberty. Californians should be encouraged to know that they have a Member of Congress such as Rep. Hunter who has come alongside other members and our president to begin the work of rebuilding our nation, and protecting the very values that made America great,” said FRC President Tony Perkins.
Almost exactly one year earlier, on Feb. 23, 2017, the FBI raided the office of Hunter’s campaign treasurer as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into whether Hunter and his wife used tens of thousands of campaign finance dollars for personal expenses and other crimes. “The search warrant suggests the FBI’s investigation into Hunter has taken a serious turn,” Politico reported. “While the records do not include the arguments the FBI made to obtain the warrant, investigators must show probable cause to raid private property.”
Hunter denied any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, the House Ethics Committee decided to delay its own investigation into Hunter to not obstruct the federal probe. His alleged bad behavior was well-known, spelled out in an extensive Feb. 8 Politico report, eleven days before he was honored by FRC.
One issue under investigation was Hunter’s hiring of a young woman as an intern who was quickly promoted to a full-time job, despite rarely showing up at work, being hostile to co-workers and wearing inappropriate office attire. Additionally, she sometimes accompanied Hunter to the Capitol Hill Club, where he would sometimes drink during the day. She also showed up uninvited to events, including one in San Diego. Hunter refused to fire her.
“At the same time,” Politico reported, “Margaret Hunter started using the campaign credit card liberally, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation. In the spring of 2016, Hunter’s staffers began to take a closer look at their campaign finances after a series of news reports about questionable charges, such as $1,300 in video game charges that appeared on Hunter’s FEC report.”
On Aug. 21, Hunter and his wife Margaret were indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego alleging 200 counts of illegal behavior between 2009 and 2016, displaying a pattern of using more than $250,000 in campaign cash for personal purchases. The 48-page indictment included overdrawing their bank account more than 1,100 times resulting in about $37,761 in “overdraft” and “insufficient funds” bank fees and maxing out credit cards. With outstanding debt and delinquencies, “the HUNTERS knew that many of their desired purchases could only be made by using Campaign funds.” And then there was the $250 in Campaign funds to fly their pet rabbit on United Airlines to Washington, D.C. for a family vacation.
The Hunters pleaded not guilty two days later, claiming the charges are a politically-motivated witch hunt. “This is the new Department of Justice,” he told ABC News. “This is the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement. That’s what’s happening right now, and it’s happening with Trump and it’s happening with me.”
But Hunter went beyond blaming the DOJ—he blamed his wife in a Fox News interview.
“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,” Hunter said about wife Margaret in a true exhibition of the new Republican family values. “She was also the campaign manager so whatever she did, that’ll be looked at too, I’m sure. But I didn’t do it. I didn’t spend any money illegally.”
The indictment lists several allegations that are offensive to military servicemembers and veterans, a core constituency—such as allegedly buying personal items at Dick’s Sporting Goods that were masked as purchases for a wounded warriors organization.
“It’s disgusting. Disgusting and unbelievable,” wounded Marine Daniel Riley told the Los Angeles Times. “As a Marine, to use other people’s sacrifices to enrich himself — it’s unbelievable.”
“If we have a congressman who can’t follow the law, how can we expect him to enforce the law?” asked his Democrat opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar.
On Tuesday, Aug. 28, Hunter backtracked on blaming his wife. “Leave my wife out of it. Leave my family out of it,” Hunter told a reporter for 10News, an ABC affiliate in San Diego, as he headed into a meeting with Republican women. “It’s me they’re after anyway. They’re not after my wife. They want to take me down. That’s what they’re up to.”
And despite the disgust of some, a Survey USA poll for the San Diego Union-Tribune released Monday, Aug. 27 indicates Hunter still has an eight-point lead—47% to 39%, with 13% undecided—over Campa-Najjar. Among Republicans, 77% are sticking with Hunter, while 72% say the indictment either made no difference or actually increased their support for him; 64% say the charges are politically motivated, the Union-Tribune reported.
“An indictment is not a conviction, so his supporters are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt while Democrats won’t,” Carl Luna, a political science professor at San Diego Mesa College, told the Union-Tribune. “The mantra of the age is deny and castigate accusers. Hunter’s playing that game plan.”
And with anti-LGBT leaders like FRC’s Tony Perkins praising him, as he does scandal-ridden Donald Trump, Duncan Hunter may survive the corruption he has brought to the ideal of “family values.”