Baseline grifting and calling accusations of improper behavior a “witch hunt” have clearly worked well for the president, but they appear to be harder to pull off for rank-and-file members of his party. After spending the past year denying the illegal misuse of campaign funds, Republican representative Duncan Hunter announced on Monday that he would plead guilty to one of the 60 criminal charges he is facing, ahead of his trial scheduled in January.
“The plea I accepted is misuse of my own campaign funds, of which I pled guilty to only one count,” Hunter told KUSI in San Diego, which is close to his vast district in inland southern California. “I justify my plea with the understanding that I am responsible for my own campaign and my own campaign money.”
That justification probably means a great deal to his wife and former campaign manager, Margaret Hunter. Last year, the congressman blamed his spouse for any and all irregularities in his campaign coffers. (Prior to blaming his wife, he first blamed his son for the charges, claiming that the child had grabbed the wrong credit card to pay for stuff online.) “She handled my finances throughout my entire military career, and that continued on when I got to Congress,” Hunter told Fox News in 2018. “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.” In his announcement of his guilty plea on Monday, Hunter did not mention whether or not his wife’s decision to flip and cooperate with prosecutors in June played a role in his decision. Pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, Margaret Hunter admitted that the pair had used campaign funds as “their personal bank account.”
Though the blame game surely was a strain on their relationship, at least they had fun while the scam lasted. In the August 2018 indictment, Hunter was accused of illegally using $250,000 in campaign money from 2009 to 2016 on fun couple’s activities like a $10,000 trip to Italy, surf shop purchases, Hawaiian shorts, oral surgery, and plane tickets for their pet rabbit, Eggburt. While Hunter could face 8 to 14 months in prison for his guilty plea, his lawyers will push for substantially less time, citing his service in Congress and in the military.
Though Hunter won reelection in 2018 by just under four points, California’s 50th District is likely to remain red in the coming election. Prior to the indictment, he had won by at least 25 points in all his House bids. With Hunter out, retired GOP congressman Darrell Issa’s expected run in the 50th is all the more likely come November.