Updated on August 21 at 4:02 p.m. ET
The congressman and his wife looted his campaign account for tens of thousands of dollars to take their family on vacations to Italy, Lake Tahoe, and Las Vegas. He illegally used funds raised from donors to buy video games and then tried to cover it up by claiming he was the victim of credit-card fraud. When the congressman wanted to buy himself Hawaiian shorts, his wife suggested he get them at a local pro shop so they could falsely label the purchase as golf “balls for the wounded warriors.”
These are but a few of the many allegations of fraud leveled against Republican Representative Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, in a 47-page federal indictment brought against them on Tuesday evening by prosecutors in Southern California. For years, the couple was stretched for cash—they overdrew their personal accounts some 1,100 times over eight years—and so they essentially lived off Hunter’s campaign coffer, the government charged. All told, the Hunters allegedly stole more than $250,000 in campaign funds to use for personal expenses and masked their spending by filing false financial records with the Federal Election Commission.
It was the second indictment of a sitting Republican congressman in the past three weeks and the latest blow in an onslaught of recent damaging developments for the GOP in the run-up to the November midterm elections. It’s not just that both lawmakers were early and enthusiastic supporters of President Trump; Hunter and Representative Chris Collins of New York, who was indicted earlier this month, were the first two House members to publicly endorse the president’s 2016 campaign. But Hunter’s indictment in particular presents an unexpected threat to the House GOP majority, putting what is usually a safe Republican seat in play just two and a half months before the election.
Coming when it did on Tuesday, the Hunter indictment added insult to the injury of an already perilous day that saw Trump’s personal attorney plead guilty and his former campaign chairman convicted for an array of campaign-finance and tax-related felonies. While the legal woes of Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort pose a long-term threat to the president’s standing, the charges against Hunter could have more immediate political repercussions for his party. After Collins was arrested and charged with insider trading, he quit his reelection campaign. That allowed Republicans to replace him with a candidate who should be favored in an upstate district that strongly supported the president two years ago.