Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) used campaign funds to pay for “intimate” encounters with several women, including one skiing rendezvous with a lobbyist in Lake Tahoe, the Justice Department alleged in new court filings.
Hunter, 42, and his wife were indicted last August on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and falsification of records after allegedly spending $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses and falsifying Federal Election Commission reports to cover their tracks. After previously denying any wrongdoing with her husband, Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty in federal court last week, admitting the pair stole a quarter-of-a-million dollars in campaign funds to pay for vacations and credit-card payments.
According to a new dismissal motion filed Monday by Hunter’s defense attorney, however, the congressman has also requested the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California recuse themselves from the investigation, arguing “deep state” prosecutors are politically biased.
“It is every American’s constitutional right to have equal protection under the law. It is clear by the prosecutor's actions that they have a political bias that merits the court's attention and consideration,” Hunter said in a statement provided to The Daily Beast. “Political agendas have no place in our courtrooms, and when lies and their cover-up are exposed, accountable action should be taken.”
Federal prosecutors fired back by requesting a judge’s permission to tell jurors about several instances in which the congressman used campaign funds to woo five D.C. women into “intimate” relationships with Ubers, bar tabs, and expensive getaways. Some of these women, prosecutors allege, include three lobbyists and one aide to a member of the GOP leadership team.
“All of the women with whom Hunter pursued these relationships were involved in politics in some manner, and Hunter sometimes met or socialized with them in professional settings,” the motion states. “Evidence of the intimate, entirely personal quality of Hunter’s specific encounters with these women is essential to demonstrate that his spending to facilitate those encounters was improper.”
In over a dozen response motions filed Monday, the DOJ detailed one long-term relationship the Republican lawmaker had with a lobbyist. After meeting in 2009, the pair’s relationship “blossomed beyond a mere friendship,” while the pair allegedly kept “their romance under wraps” by finding “excuses for occasional outings or getaways together.” In Jan. 2010, Hunter flew to Lake Tahoe under the guise of attending an annual convention for a non-profit but with the alleged intention of a planned “ski vacation as one of [the pair’s] first solo getaways.”
“Hunter’s flight landed at 2:10 p.m., and he rented a car from the airport Alamo, using $350 in campaign funds,” the DOJ’s motion said. “By 11:39 p.m. he had checked into their room at the Hyatt and visited the hotel’s Cutthroat’s Saloon for a Sam Adams (which he paid for with $7 in campaign funds).”
By the time the two checked out three days later, Hunter had spent $1,008 “skiing, ordering room service, and enjoying the amenities of the full-service resort” using campaign funds. Three months later, Hunter allegedly took another unidentified lobbyist to Virginia Beach for “double date road trip” with another congressman. Prosecutors alleged that Hunter used hundreds in campaign funds to pay for a hotel bar tab and room.
In 2012, the Republican congressman allegedly “used campaign funds to facilitate his intimate personal relationship” with an aide to a member of the GOP leadership team, often taking Ubers “paid using campaign funds” to spend the night at her house.
Even after their relationship ended, prosecutors alleged, the two “continued to see each other on and off,” including one date where Hunter paid $93 for “cocktails at a quiet speakeasy-style bar near her home” and “$21 in campaign funds on an Uber back to the office at 1:40 a.m. that night.”
In another encounter in 2015, Hunter used campaign funds to engage “in intimate personal activities” with a lobbyist he knew professionally after the two met up at a political event at the Hamilton Hotel. “That night, however, was not about business,” prosecutors alleged, adding that the congressman left the woman’s house that night using a campaign-funded Uber.
In addition to “intimate personal relationships,” federal prosecutors argued in the Monday motion that Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pursue other clearly non-work related activity with close friends, including some “sensitive conduct.” The majority of the campaign fund misuse, however, was on the alleged trysts the Republican lawmaker had during his six-year tenure in Washington.
“Carrying out all these affairs did not come cheap—Hunter spent thousands of dollars treating women to meals, drinks, and vacations, and traveling to and from their homes,” prosecutors alleged. “Given the pronounced financial difficulties the Hunters were facing, his use of campaign funds to pursue these relationships was necessary for Hunter to satisfy his desire for intimacy.”
Hunter first came to the attention of investigators in 2016 when the Federal Election Commission questioned over $1,300 spent by his campaign committee on Steam, an online video game portal. Hunter blamed the spending on his son, but in February 2017, federal agents executed a search warrant on the Alexandria, Virginia office of his campaign treasurer. According to the warrant, law enforcement officials searched the office in pursuit of evidence that Hunter had defrauded a bank by “making false statements related to video game charges.”
President Trump referenced Hunter’s case in a tweet prior to the 2018 midterms, complaining that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ agency investigated “two very popular Republican Congressmen” and put “two easy wins now in doubt.” Despite Trump’s concerns, Hunter won re-election over a Democratic challenger with 51 percent of the vote.
Hunter’s attorney did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.