‘I didn’t do it’: Indicted congressman points finger at wife for lavish spending

Republican congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who has been indicted on corruption charges related to campaign fund abuses, appeared to blame his wife for improper spending, after he said his wife handled his finances in an interview on Fox News Thursday night.

“She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did, that’ll be looked at too, I'm sure,” the congressman from San Diego told Fox News host Martha MacCallum. “But I didn't do it ... I didn’t spend any money illegally.”

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Hunter and his wife, Margaret Hunter, who has also been indicted, both pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday. They both face 60 charges related to allegedly spending $250,000 in campaign money on personal expenses -- from lavish trips to household items.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter leaves an arraignment hearing Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, in San Diego. Hunter and his wife Margaret pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges they illegally used his campaign account for personal expenses.
Photo: Denis Poroy/AP

A point of contention in Hunter’s spending is a pair of Hawaiian shorts. Hunter allegedly called his wife and asked her to buy them, and she advised him to purchase the shorts at a pro golf club, so they could be listed as golf balls for the Wounded Warriors Project, a charity supporting veterans. 

Hunter, a former Marine, denied that accusation. 

Hunter has said that he gave his wife power of attorney when he was stationed overseas in Iraq in 2003 and said she has handled his finances since -- throughout his military career and time in Congress, according to the Washington Post.

MacCallum asked Hunter, “Are you saying it’s more her fault than your fault?” 

Hunter replied, “I’m saying when I went to Iraq in 2003, the first time, I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got into Congress. Because I’m gone five days a week, I’m home for two.”

Prosecutors said the couple used campaign finance money to illegally pay for their lifestyle. The Hunters are accused of using the money for a $14,000 trip to Italy, private school tuition for their children, theater tickets, dental work for their dog and a plane ticket for their pet rabbit, according to the Washington Post.

Hunter did admit that he told his chief of staff “tell the Navy to go f--- themselves” after his request for a tour of a naval base in Italy was turned down, according to the New York Times. The proposed tour was allegedly intended to be used as a cover story for the family vacation.

The couple also allegedly spent thousands of dollars on everyday items, including video games, liquor, football game tickets, groceries and home utilities. 

Hunter is paid $174,000 a year as a member of Congress, while Margaret Hunter receives $3,000 a month as her husband’s campaign manager, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

He represents the 50th congressional district of California, a region that includes the East County and portions of the North County, into Temecula.

In this Jan. 5, 2011, file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, administers the House oath to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., as his wife, Margaret, looks on during a mock swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

Hunter called the charges “pure politics” in the Fox News interview Thursday. 

He is running for re-election in November.

“They’ve had a year and a half to do this. There’s no way for me now to go out and be able to talk to my people or get this done in court before my election,” Hunter said. “They’ve had this for a long time. This is a late hit.”

A U.S. magistrate judge allowed the couple to remain free while the investigation continues. 

Both Duncan Hunter and Margaret Hunter were released on bond. They had to be fingerprinted, give DNA samples and are required to remain in the country, according to the Union-Tribune.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Halpern told the judge that while the allegations are “extremely serious,” the couple does not appear to be a flight risk. Halpern said the couple does not have substantial assets, and were living “paycheck to paycheck.”

The Hunters are set to return to court on Sept. 4.

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