Feds Say Congressman Charged Campaign For Trysts With Lobbyists

  • Justice Department alleges Hunter spent thousands on dates
  • Prosecutors want Hunter’s jury to hear about the relationships

The Justice Department is accusing indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter of using campaign cash to go on trysts with multiple women, including three lobbyists, a House leadership aide and a member of his own staff.

Prosecutors also are asking permission to air all that dirty laundry at Hunter’s trial. The California Republican, 42, has been charged with illegally using campaign donors’ money for personal expenses.

The expenditures itemized in a new court filing include a “double-date road trip” to Virginia Beach with another member of Congress, a ski trip with a lobbyist near Lake Tahoe, as well as late-night and early-morning Uber rides from the homes of women following “intimate personal activities unrelated to Hunter’s campaign or duties as a member of Congress.”

“It would be impossible to show the personal nature of the expenditures Hunter made pursuing those relationships without description of the relationships themselves,” the government said in a filing seeking to introduce the evidence in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) in a 2017 file photo.

Hunter’s wife, Margaret Hunter, was indicted alongside her husband and changed her plea earlier this month from not guilty to guilty. The Justice Department has said she may waive spousal privilege and testify against him.

Hunter told the court the case should be thrown out. He argued that the prosecution is political retaliation for supporting President Donald Trump during the campaign.

It’s illegal to use money donated for a campaign for reasons that aren’t connected to running for office or being an elected official.

The Justice Department’s 12-page filing is filled with details about “clearly non-work related activity during get-togethers with close personal friends” in addition to the alleged romantic getaways.

They date back to 2010, a year after Hunter entered Congress.

“Carrying out all these affairs did not come cheap—Hunter spent thousands of dollars treating women to meals, drinks, and vacations, and traveling to and from their homes. Given the pronounced financial difficulties the Hunters were facing, his use of campaign funds to pursue these relationships was necessary for Hunter to satisfy his desire for intimacy,” the Justice Department wrote.

READ MORE: Indicted Congressman’s Campaign Already Paid $614,000 to Lawyers

The filing also mentions “additional potentially sensitive conduct” that prosecutors could introduce at trial, though negotiations with Hunter are underway and there could be a “factual stipulation” that would preclude mentioning it in front of a jury. The Justice Department provided no additional details about that in its filing.

The Allegations

Highlights of the Justice Department’s contentions in the new court filing:

With unnamed lobbyist No. 1: Identified only as Individual 14, the lobbyist and Hunter met “through her work,” the filing said. “Their relationship soon blossomed beyond a mere friendship.”

  • A ski vacation near Lake Tahoe in 2010: $1,546
  • A “double date” to Virginia Beach with another congressman in March 2010: $1,162
  • Another “double date” in March 2010 with the same couple at The Birchmere music hall in Alexandria, Va., to see Jack Ingram in concert: $121
  • Hotel room for three nights in June 2011: $455
  • Playing golf at Old Hickory Golf Club in Virginia in June 2011: $253

With unnamed staffer No. 1: Described only as Individual 15, an aide to a member of House leadership began a relationship with Hunter during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

  • Ubers to or from her home: $200
  • Date at a “quiet, speakeasy-style bar” near her home: $93

With unnamed staffer No. 2: Identified as individual 16 in the filing, the woman began work in Hunter’s office in January 2015. The two “began a romantic relationship not long afterword” and “occasionally spent nights together at his office.”

  • Dates with the staffer, including a “triple date” at a bar called H Street Country Club in June 2015: $222
  • Dinner with the staffer, friends and a relative of Hunter’s who was in town at Matchbox Pizza in June 2015: $352

With unnamed lobbyist No. 2: Individual 17 was a lobbyist who had thrown fundraisers for Hunter and her employer had supported his campaigns.

  • Night out at Hamilton Hotel in October 2015: $42

With unnamed Lobbyist No. 3: Individual 18 had “professional and social ties to Hunter,” and struck up a relationship following a political weekend in Florida in 2016.

  • Uber from the lobbyist’s home: More than $32

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan R. Wilson in Washington at mwilson@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Heather Rothman at hrothman@bgov.com