Republican House representative Duncan Hunter of California was indicted Tuesday on charges that he stole about $250,000 in campaign funds and used it for such personal expenses as vacations to Italy and Hawaii, as well as on private school tuition for his children, theater tickets, dental procedures, groceries, fast food, video games, and other unauthorized uses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California.
But on Thursday, Hunter attempted to explain himself in an interview with Fox News, denying any wrongdoing, and terming the indictment as “pure politics,” but appearing to blame any violations on his wife, Margaret Hunter, who handled his family and campaign expenses, he claimed.
Margaret Hunter was also indicted along with her husband on Tuesday. The pair entered not guilty pleas in a San Diego federal court on Thursday, the San Diego Union Tribune reported. The paper reported that, “the couple arrived separately with their attorneys and did not speak to one another in the courtroom.”
During the 2016 presidential election campaign, when many congressional Republicans still remained reluctant to publicly support Donald Trump, Hunter became the second to do so, following New York House Rep Chris Collins. About two weeks before Hunter’s indictment, Collins was indicted on charges of securities fraud and lying to federal investigators, according to Think Progress.
When he was asked about the charges against his wife by Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum on Thursday, Hunter declined to defend her, saying, “whatever she did, that’ll be looked at too, I’m sure, but I didn’t do it. I didn’t spend any money illegally.”
In the 47-page indictment against them, prosecutors say that the Hunters tapped the House rep’s campaign funds liberally, because they lived a lifestyle far more expensive than their personal finances could support. The indictment notes that in the last seven years, the Hunters had racked up $37,761 in bank overdraft and “insufficient funds” fees due to the more than 1,100 times they had overdrawn their personal bank accounts.
“By virtue of these delinquencies — as well as notifications of outstanding debts and overdue payments from their children’s school, their family dentist, and other creditors — the Hunters knew that many of their desired purchases could only be made by using campaign funds,” according to the federal indictment.
On August 7 at a constituent town hall meeting, Hunter, 41, proposed raising the minimum retirement age to 72, meaning that no American currently under the age of 45 would be able to collect Social Security or qualify for Medicare until that age, according to a report by the Huffington Post. The current age of eligibility for those benefits is 65, though for Americans born after 1960, the age is set to rise to 67.