U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California illegally used campaign funds to finance romantic flings with lobbyists and congressional aides, spending thousands of dollars on meals, cocktails and vacations, federal prosecutors say.
Details about the married Republican congressman’s alleged affairs were outlined in a government court filing late Monday connected to charges that Hunter and his wife misspent more than $200,000 in campaign money on trips and personal expenses.
Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty this month to one corruption count and agreed to testify against her husband.
The congressman has said he is the target of politically motivated prosecutors. His lawyer, Gregory Vega, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the new court filing.
Prosecutors said evidence about the congressman’s affairs is necessary to “demonstrate Hunter’s … intent to break the law and to establish his motive to embezzle from his campaign.”
In one case, prosecutors said Hunter was romantically involved with a lobbyist and began staying at her home while occasionally spending campaign funds for food and beverages.
Hunter flew to Reno, Nevada, in January 2010 ostensibly to attend a convention for a nonprofit group. After a brief stop at the convention, Hunter and the lobbyist headed for a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, where they spent the weekend skiing and ordering room service, according to the filing.
Prosecutors said Hunter used campaign funds to rent the car, pay the hotel tab and fly back to Washington.
“The intimate nature of these relationships is … an essential element of the crimes charged in the indictment,” the document said.
The “sequence of romantic liaisons is so far removed from any legitimate campaign or congressional activity as to rebut any argument that Hunter believed these were proper uses of campaign funds,” prosecutors added.
Hunter was re-elected by Southern California’s most Republican congressional district last year despite facing a federal indictment.
MICHAEL R. BLOOD Associated Press