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Rep. Duncan Hunter used campaign money to fund extramarital affairs, prosecutors allege

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), leaves federal court in San Diego in September. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Federal prosecutors alleged in a new court filing this week that Rep. Duncan D. Hunter used campaign funds to help facilitate extramarital affairs, and they want to show jurors evidence of the relationships at his upcoming trial.

The filing Monday alleges Hunter (R-Calif.) used campaign money to fund trips, dinners and drinks with women with whom he was romantically involved — three lobbyists, a woman who worked in his congressional office and another who worked for a member of House leadership.

Read the filing: United States of America v. Duncan D. Hunter

In the new filing, prosecutors allege Hunter’s romantic entanglements blossomed as he used campaign money for large expenses — such as a ski trip near Lake Tahoe — and small ones, such as Uber rides to and from the women’s homes.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and his wife, Margaret, were charged Aug. 21 with misusing $250,000 in campaign funds and falsifying financial records. (Video: Drea Cornejo, Juca Favela/The Washington Post)

Hunter said Tuesday: “This is all going to trial, so you have criminally political prosecutors in this case. . . . This is a personal smear campaign.” He declined to address the allegations of affairs.

“I’m not going to talk about the allegations,” he said. “We’re going to trial, and I look forward to battling this out in trial.”

Hunter’s defense attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were charged last year with using more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for family vacations, theater tickets and other personal expenses. Prosecutors say he used his campaign account as his “personal piggy bank” to live well beyond his means.

Hunter has previously accused prosecutors of pursuing him for political reasons, and he referred Tuesday to a motion his attorneys made asking for the case to be dismissed — or for the prosecutors office that brought the case be forced to recuse — because two involved in the investigation had attended a political fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.

Hunter was one of the first lawmakers to endorse Donald Trump’s run for office. Prosecutors have sought to preclude the congressman’s defense from alleging political bias at his trial.

Hunter’s wife, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in the case this month and agreed to “tell everything,” according to a copy of her agreement with prosecutors. Prosecutors revealed in another court filing they have texts between Margaret and her husband, who have three children, in which they discussed using campaign funds on personal expenses.

Hunter, wife charged with spending campaign money on personal expenses

The latest filings came as prosecutors and Hunter’s defense attorneys traded motions about what evidence they hoped would and would not be admitted at his trial, which is scheduled to begin in September.

Hunter has continued serving in Congress and won reelection last year despite being charged. Then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) forced Hunter to resign his seats on the Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, leaving current House leaders with few options to respond to the latest revelations.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at the time of Hunter’s indictment that he ought to resign, calling the charges “further evidence of the rampant culture of corruption among Republicans in Washington today.”

Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat who is challenging Hunter in the next election, tweeted that Hunter was “literally in bed with lobbyists.”

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), former chair of the House Ethics Committee, said Tuesday she had just heard about latest Hunter allegations and declined to comment. Asked whether it was concerning he had been accused of intimate relationships with a staffer and lobbyists, she said, “Absolutely that is a concern.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he had not yet seen the new allegations against Hunter, because he had been in meetings. “I know Duncan Hunter is going to have his day in court,” he said.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said that Hunter has a right to have his day in court and that he will not call for his resignation. “Look, there have been rumors going around for a while,” Scalise said. “I mean, we saw even during the campaign, there were charges. But ultimately, it’s going to get resolved in the courts. I don’t know about the latest details of what happened. But I do know it’s going to get resolved in the courts.

A Republican lawmaker close to party leaders said that because Hunter had already been removed from committees, there were few other options to take. Asked whether leadership would nudge him to resign, the lawmaker said, “He’s not someone you can nudge.” The lawmaker spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe private conversations.

Prosecutors say evidence of the affairs shows Hunter was using campaign money for purely personal purposes.

“Precisely because each of the women worked as lobbyists or congressional staffers, Hunter may suggest that he was justified in spending campaign funds on all of his ‘meetings’ with these individuals,” they wrote. “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.”

The filing does not name the women with whom Hunter was said to be involved, but it spares few other details — tracing chronologically how Hunter met and embarked on a relationship with each.

The first alleged affair prosecutors described began in 2009 — the year Hunter took office. Hunter, prosecutors alleged, befriended a lobbyist he met through work, and their relationship “soon blossomed beyond a mere friendship.”

Prosecutors said Hunter began living with the woman in her Washington-area home and used campaign funds to pay for food and drinks. The pair also took trips together, prosecutors alleged, including an early-2010 ski vacation to a resort near Lake Tahoe and a weekend “double date” road trip to Virginia Beach.

In both instances, prosecutors alleged, Hunter paid with campaign funds, which amounted to more than $1,000 in each case, including the hotel tabs and transportation costs.

Prosecutors said that relationship ended in April 2012 and that by August of that year, Hunter was involved with a woman who worked in the office of a member of House leadership. As their relationship developed, prosecutors alleged, Hunter began staying at the woman’s house every night — and paying for his Uber rides there with campaign funds.

In 2015, prosecutors said, Hunter started another romantic relationship with a woman hired to work in his office — and used campaign funds to pay for their and others’ tab at H Street Country Club and Matchbox Pizza in the District.

Later that year, prosecutors said, he used campaign funds in what prosecutors described as a more fleeting encounter. At an event at the Hamilton Hotel, prosecutors said, Hunter met up with a lobbyist he knew because she had organized events and fundraisers for him.

“That night, however, was not about business,” prosecutors wrote. They said Hunter and the woman went to the woman’s home “where they engaged in intimate personal activities unrelated to Hunter’s congressional campaign or duties as a member of Congress,” and Hunter used campaign funds to pay for $42 in Uber fares.

Prosecutors said the congressman similarly used campaign funds to pay for Uber rides back to his office in 2016 after an affair with a different lobbyist.

Hunter’s trial is likely to result in a messy airing of his personal life, especially if prosecutors are allowed to admit all of the evidence they want to. In addition to revealing details of the alleged affairs, prosecutors described in a filing Monday how the Hunters were financially stretched from the moment the congressman took office.

They alleged that the couple overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in seven years — incurring more than $37,000 in overdraft fees. Yet, because of campaign money, they still were able to travel overseas, eat well and play “seemingly endless rounds of golf,” prosecutors alleged.

“To finance this lifestyle,” prosecutors wrote, “they treated Hunter’s campaign treasury as their personal piggy bank, regularly embezzling funds to make personal purchases that their own finances could not support.”

Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this report referred to Brooks as vice chair of the House Ethics Committee. She is a former chair.