Rep. Hunter’s trea­surer raided by FBI in probe

Com­puter equip­ment and doc­u­ments were seized by agents in the Fe­bru­ary search.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Sarah D. Wire

WASH­ING­TON — FBI agents searched the of­fice of Rep. Duncan Hunter’s cam­paign trea­surer in Fe­bru­ary, seiz­ing com­puter equip­ment and doc­u­ments for their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether the Alpine, Calif., Repub­li­can mis­used cam­paign funds.

The search war­rant for Elec­tion CFO — the agency Hunter hired to en­sure his cam­paign com­plied with cam­paign fi­nance rules — re­veals new in­for­ma­tion about the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the San Diego County con­gress­man’s cam­paign spend­ing.

The war­rant, un­sealed in March, said agents were look­ing for ev­i­dence show­ing whether Hunter’s cam­paign funds were used for per­sonal rea­sons, whether there was a scheme to de­fraud a bank over video game pur­chases and whether Hunter’s cam­paign fi­nance re­ports were fal­si­fied to “im­pede or in­flu­ence” FBI and House Ethics Com­mit­tee in­quiries into his use of cam­paign funds.

It was the more than $1,300 in video game pur­chases by Hunter’s cam­paign that first drew the at­ten­tion of fed­eral elec­tion of­fi­cials and the San Diego Union-Tri­bune. Hunter blamed his son for the video game pur­chases, say­ing he had used the wrong credit card. Other un­usual spend­ing by Hunter’s cam­paign in­cluded a now-in­fa­mous air­plane ride for the fam­ily rab­bit and pay­ments to nail sa­lons, his chil­dren’s pri­vate school and a Phoenix re­sort.

In March, Hunter told Politico he did noth­ing wrong but would not say who was re­spon­si­ble for the cam­paign ex­penses.

“I was not in­volved in any crim­i­nal ac­tion,” Hunter said. “Maybe I wasn’t at­ten­tive enough to my cam­paign. That’s not a crime.”

The FBI war­rant also

sought com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Hunter and his wife, Mar­garet (who acted as his cam­paign man­ager), chief of staff Joe Kasper, for­mer chief of staff Vic­to­ria Mid­dle­ton and for­mer sched­uler and of­fice man­ager Caro­line DeBeikes, as well as Elec­tion CFO founder Christo­pher Marston and sole em­ployee Brenda Hank­ins.

At­tor­neys for Hunter and Kasper did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment af­ter the un­sealed war­rant was dis­cov­ered by Sea­mus Hughes of the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity Pro­gram on Ex­trem­ism and shared with The Times. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Elec­tion CFO said Marston and Hank­ins were co­op­er­at­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Hunter has al­ready re­im­bursed his cam­paign some $62,000 for pay­ments of items such as oral surgery, a fam­ily trip to Italy and Dis­ney­land gift shop pur­chases. His most re­cent cam­paign fi­nance re­ports show he has spent $336,664 with seven law firms this year, much of that since the House Ethics Com­mit­tee an­nounced it was stalling its in­ves­ti­ga­tion to avoid in­ter­fer­ing with the FBI’s work.

De­spite win­ning his sub­ur­ban San Diego seat by nearly 27 per­cent­age points in Novem­ber, Hunter is one of nine Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­cans be­ing tar­geted by Democrats in 2018, and he’s drawn more than half a dozen op­po­nents so far, in­clud­ing two Repub­li­cans.

Sev­eral of them leapt to crit­i­cize Hunter on Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing Repub­li­can chal­lenger An­drew Zelt, who said on Twit­ter, “We need to bring In­tegrity back to the 50th District. We can­not stand for this!”

sarah.wire@la­times.com

Joe Rae­dle Getty Im­ages

THE FBI is in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) mis­used cam­paign funds.

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