It’s not a good sign for one’s career longevity if the basic execution of one’s job is considered an ethics violation. But that’s where California Republican Duncan Hunter has found himself after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds earlier this week. In a letter published on Thursday, the House Ethics Committee urged the California congressman to stop voting on legislation, after he did so on the floor on Wednesday.
Congressional rules state that any member who pleads guilty to a crime with a sentence of two or more years “should refrain from voting on any question at a meeting of the House.” Hunter’s misuse of campaign funds — including a $10,000 trip to Italy and plane tickets for a rabbit — could net him up to five years in prison, though the prosecutor in the case is seeking a 14-month sentence.
The letter handed to Hunter clarified for the reason for the rule: “To preserve public confidence in the legislative process when a sitting Member of Congress has been convicted of a serious crime.” Though the ban is not mandatory, it does threaten further action if Hunter continues to vote: “We emphasize in the strongest possible terms that if you violate the clear principles of this provision – that is, for example, by voting in the House — you risk subjecting yourself to action by this Committee, and by the House, in addition to any other disciplinary action that may be initiated in connection with your criminal conviction.” Hunter has already been stripped of his committee assignments, and he did not vote in four roll calls taken on Thursday. His sentencing is scheduled for March 17.
On Thursday, Hunter also met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to mull over a plan, fitting in the vote-less, committee-less representative into his busy schedule of managing the president’s pending impeachment and censuring Republican candidates issuing death threats to House members across the aisle.