April 28, 2016 — Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) campaign committee has acknowledged spending thousands of dollars not related to campaign activity and appears to have spent thousands more not previously identified or reimbursed in its latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure report, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington with the Office of Congressional Ethics and a request for an audit filed with the FEC.
In the most recent report, the campaign committee disclosed payments to hotels and restaurants in Rome, Florence and Positano on what appears to be a family vacation to Italy, as well as train tickets and other travel costs. One particularly questionable purchase was for hundreds of dollars marked as “food/beverages,”but the payment was made at a jewelry store in Florence.
The campaign committee has admitted to improperly spending funds on video games, an oral surgeon, travel to Hawaii, a garage door repair for the Hunters’ house, Hunter’s children’s school tuition and thousands of dollars in reimbursements to Hunter’s wife—who also serves as his campaign manager—that were not for campaign purposes.
“The Hunter campaign appears to have a pattern of spending campaign funds on personal expenses, a pattern the campaign has acknowledged,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This pattern of apparently improper spending, which seems to grow with each new review, demands thorough examination by the FEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics.”
The Hunter campaign originally admitted to a mistake on payments to Steam Games, a video game website, totaling at least 68 charges for more than $1,300. It has since noted that the campaign also spent money on video games at Blizzard.com, makers of the World of Warcraft game, and Origin.com. Other “mistaken”transactions include $360 paid to a surf and skate shop and more than $160 at Barnes & Noble.
Photographs shared on social media by Rep. Hunter show him with his family vacationing in Italy over Thanksgiving 2015. The campaign has yet to acknowledge the Italy spending, including the hundreds of dollars spent at a jewelry store, was not for campaign purposes.
“Campaign finance rules are in place to prevent self-enrichment and improper influence,” Bookbinder said. “You simply cannot use your campaign for your own personal benefit.”
Read the OCE request for investigation here.
Read the FEC request for audit here.