EVER SINCE 2016, when federal election officials questioned why the campaign of Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) had paid more than $1,300 to an online video game site and the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the campaign paid $600 for the family’s pet rabbit to fly, it was clear there were problems with the congressman’s use of his campaign dollars. That became even more apparent after the House Ethics Committee issued a report in March saying Mr. Hunter may have used campaign funds for personal use.
None of that, though, really prepared us — and we suspect, others — for the full extent of greed and grubbiness that was detailed by federal prosecutors as they charged Mr. Hunter and his wife, Margaret, with misuse of tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds.
The 47-page indictment released Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego spells out 60 criminal counts, ranging from illegal use of campaign funds to conspiracy, wire fraud and falsifying records. Page after page after page lays out how the couple, their personal bank accounts regularly overdrawn, allegedly spent more than $250,000 in campaign donations from 2009 to 2016 for the benefit of themselves and their children.
Expenditures ranged from the mundane ($32.31 for family groceries) to the mind-boggling ($14,261 for a family Thanksgiving vacation in Italy). To hide the personal payments, prosecutors said family dental bills were listed as charitable contributions to “Smiles for Life,” tickets to SeaWorld were called an “educational tour,” and clothing purchases at a golf course were camouflaged as golf “balls for wounded warriors.” And when the campaign treasurer warned the couple about their spending — suggesting Ms. Hunter give up a campaign credit card and threatening to resign — he was ignored and lied to. “Yessir- All good. ” was Mr. Hunter’s assurance to the treasurer that spending was campaign-related, the indictment said.
Mr. Hunter’s campaign released a statement calling the indictment politically motivated and linking it to his support for President Trump; he was one of the first sitting members of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump in 2016. Mr. Hunter’s campaign said he has no plans to drop out of his reelection race. It’s worth noting that the U.S. Attorney’s Office that brought the charges against Mr. Hunter is run by Adam L. Braverman, a Trump administration appointee. Also, Mr. Hunter’s willingness to point the finger at others was pretty well established when questions first arose about his campaign funds. He tried to pin the blame for the video game purchases on his son, claiming the boy had mixed up credit cards.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has removed Mr. Hunter from the three House committees he serves on. That’s not enough. The Republican leadership should make clear to Mr. Hunter that he needs to go. If not, it will be up to voters in his California district to make that happen.