SAN DIEGO — Former Congressman Duncan L. Hunter stopped by FOX 5 Tuesday to respond to the indictment of his son and daughter-in-law.
Watch his interview with FOX 5’s Phil Blauer:
Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., R-Alpine, and his wife Margaret are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on charges of using more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses, including family vacations, dental bills, theater tickets and international travel for relatives.
A 48-page indictment, filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego, accuses the couple of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, wire fraud, falsification of records and prohibited use of campaign contributions.
Federal prosecutors said they identified "scores of instances" between 2009 and 2016 in which the couple used campaign funds to pay for "personal expenses that they could not otherwise afford."
Among those personal expenses they allegedly funded with campaign cash were family vacations to locations such as Hawaii and Italy, along with school tuition and smaller purchases such as golf outings, movie tickets, video games, coffee and expensive meals. The indictment alleges that at one point, Hunter used campaign cash to fly his pet rabbit to a family vacation.
Duncan Hunter, 41, and Margaret Hunter, 43, allegedly mis-reported the expenses on Federal Election Commission filings, using false descriptions such as "campaign travel," "toy drives," "dinner with volunteers/contributors" and "gift cards," according to federal prosecutors.
Hunter's reelection campaign issued a statement condemning the indictment as politically motivated. Hunter -- like President Donald Trump -- has been critical this year of the Justice Department, calling it "corrupt, answerable to no one and (using) the law to extort the American people and effect political change."
His campaign blasted the timing of the indictment -- about two months before the November general election -- saying it "appears to be an effort to derail Congressman Hunter's re-election in the Nov. 6, 2018, election."
Hunter was first elected to Congress in 2008, when he won the seat his father held for 14 terms.
Democrats have been targeting Hunter as a potentially vulnerable candidate, thanks primarily to the federal investigation against him, even though the district has been a longtime Republican stronghold.
In November, Hunter will be facing Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Department of Labor spokesman during the Obama administration.
"I'm happy to see that justice is being dealt. Nobody's above the law, not even a sitting congressman," Campa-Najjar said. "The people of the district deserve better than a congressman who can't follow the law, much less pass and enforce laws."
Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party, urged against a rush to judgment.
"In our country, individuals are presumed innocent until a jury of their peers convict them," he said in a statement. "The congressman and his wife have a constitutional promise to their day in court and we will not prejudice the outcome."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, called the charges against Hunter "deeply serious" and removed him from his committee assignments "pending the resolution of this matter."
Hunter was a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and chairman of its Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, the House Armed Services Committee and Education and the Workforce Committee.