Democracy 21 Files Complaint with Office of Congressional Ethics Against Rep. Duncan Hunter

Aug. 27, 2018 – In a complaint filed today with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer called on the OCE to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the conduct of Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA).

“Rep. Hunter and his wife were apparently ripping off their campaign donors by living off of their campaign contributions in gross violation of both federal campaign finance laws and House ethics rules,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer.

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“This kind of brazen abuse of public office for personal gain greatly damages the public’s confidence in the House and casts a dark shadow on all of its Members. OCE and the House Ethics Committee need to move swiftly to address these apparent abuses and to impose the strongest appropriate sanctions on Rep. Hunter,” Wertheimer said.

The complaint states:

On August 21, 2018, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and his wife were indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California on 60 counts of criminal violations of federal law, including conspiracy, wire fraud, falsification of campaign finance records and prohibited use of campaign contributions.

According to the complaint:

The indictment alleges that Rep. Hunter and his spouse illegally converted more than $250,000 in campaign funds “to purchase goods and services for their personal use and enjoyment.” Id. at ¶ 21. As alleged in the indictment, these funds were used to purchase vacations, clothes, video games, groceries, household and personal items, personal gifts, rental cars, hotel rooms and restaurant food and drink. Id.

The indictment alleges, for example, that Rep. Hunter and his wife spent $14,000 in campaign funds for a family vacation in Italy, $704 for theatre tickets, $168.89 to watch a family member compete at a dance competition, and even $250 in campaign funds to pay for an airline ticket to transport a family pet. Id. at ¶ 22.

The complaint states:

House Ethics Committee Rule 18(e)(2) shows that the House has its own institutional responsibility to pursue this matter, regardless of any criminal proceedings that may be taking place.

The OCE complaint was filed based on the Code of Official Conduct of the U.S. House of Representatives, which states in clause 6 of House Rule XXIII that Members of the House shall “keep the campaign funds of such individual separate from the personal funds of such individual” and “may not convert campaign funds to personal use in excess of an amount representing reimbursement for legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures.”

The complaint also cited as applicable Rule XXIII, cl. 1 which states, “A Member, Delegate, Resident Commission, officer or employee of the House shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”

According to the complaint:

The indictment of Rep. Hunter presents prima facie evidence that Rep. Hunter violated the prohibition in Rule XXIII, cl. 6 on converting campaign funds for personal use. The scale of the alleged conversion, if the allegations are shown to be true, also presents the question of whether Rep. Hunter acted in a manner that failed to “reflect creditably” on the House, in violation of Rule XXIII, cl. 1.

The complaint states:

Whatever the outcome of the federal criminal proceedings, the House has an independent obligation to act to enforce its ethics rules and to impose appropriate sanctions on Members who violate them.

The complaint concludes:

Accordingly, we call on OCE to undertake a preliminary ethics inquiry to determine if Rep. Duncan Hunter violated Rule XXIII cl. 6 and cl. 1 by converting campaign funds to personal use, as alleged in the federal criminal indictment.

If OCE concludes that there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Hunter has violated the applicable House ethics rules, OCE should recommend that the House Ethics Committee further review this matter and take appropriate disciplinary action.

Read the full complaint here.