Rep. Dun­can Hunter

Calif.’s Hunter to ad­mit to cam­paign fund mis­use

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY FELI­CIA SON­MEZ feli­cia.son­[email protected]­post.com

(R-calif.), who was in­dicted on cam­paign fi­nance charges in Au­gust 2018, said he will plead guilty to one count of mis­us­ing cam­paign funds.

Rep. Dun­can D. Hunter (RCalif.), who was in­dicted on cam­paign fi­nance charges last year, said Mon­day that he will plead guilty to one count of mis­us­ing cam­paign funds.

“As most folks know, my trial was set for Jan­uary 22,” Hunter, who pre­vi­ously pleaded not guilty, said in an in­ter­view with San Diego-based TV station KUSI. “That’s not go­ing to hap­pen now. To­mor­row, on Tues­day, I’m go­ing to change my plea to guilty. I think it’s im­por­tant not to have a public trial for three rea­sons. And those three rea­sons are my kids.”

A plea hear­ing is set for 10 a.m. Pa­cific time Tues­day in Cal­i­for­nia, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. District Court fil­ing.

Hunter and his wife were charged in 2018 with us­ing more than $250,000 in cam­paign funds to pay for per­sonal ex­penses in­clud­ing fam­ily va­ca­tions, the­ater tick­ets and school tuition.

In the Mon­day TV in­ter­view, Hunter said he would plead guilty to only one of four counts.

“What­ever my time in cus­tody is, I will take that hit,” he said. “My only hope is that the judge does not sen­tence my wife to jail. I think my kids need a mom in the home.”

Hunter has con­tin­ued serv­ing in Congress and won re­elec­tion last year de­spite be­ing charged, although he was stripped of his com­mit­tee as­sign­ments. It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether he would re­sign his seat af­ter plead­ing guilty.

On Mon­day, the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can said only that he be­lieves it’s im­por­tant to keep the seat in GOP hands be­cause Pres­i­dent Trump “right now needs more sup­port than ever.”

“I’m con­fi­dent that the tran­si­tion will be a good one,” Hunter said. “My of­fice is go­ing to re­main open. I’ve got a great staff. We’re go­ing to han­dle peo­ple’s cases, and we’re go­ing to pass it off to who­ever takes this seat next.”

Ear­lier this year, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) re­signed from Congress af­ter plead­ing guilty to in­sider trad­ing charges.

News of Hunter’s plea change comes as the law­maker is fac­ing in­creas­ingly tough po­lit­i­cal odds. For­mer con­gress­man Dar­rell Issa (R-calif.) and for­mer San Diego city coun­cil­man Carl De­maio re­cently launched pri­mary chal­lenges against Hunter, and Demo­crat Ammar Campa-na­j­jar, who lost nar­rowly to Hunter last year, is also pur­su­ing a bid for the seat.

Hunter’s le­gal sit­u­a­tion has also be­come more pre­car­i­ous in re­cent months. In June, his wife, Mar­garet Hunter, pleaded guilty to one count of con­spir­ing with her hus­band to spend $25,000 in cam­paign funds for per­sonal use. As part of the deal, Mar­garet Hunter agreed to co­op­er­ate with pros­e­cu­tors and tes­tify against her hus­band.

Later that month, fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors al­leged that Dun­can D. Hunter had also used cam­paign money to fund trips, din­ners and drinks with women with whom he was ro­man­ti­cally in­volved — three lob­by­ists, a woman who worked in his con­gres­sional of­fice and an­other who worked for a mem­ber of House lead­er­ship.

Hunter told KUSI on Mon­day that he wants the public to know he “did make mis­takes” but that “not a sin­gle dime of tax­payer money is in­volved in this.”

“I did not prop­erly mon­i­tor or ac­count for my cam­paign’s money,” he said.

The seat was pre­vi­ously held by Hunter’s fa­ther, Dun­can L. Hunter, also a Repub­li­can.

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