Politics & Policy

Duncan Hunter Will Switch to Guilty Plea in Campaign Finance Scandal

Congressman Duncan Hunter (R., Ca.) arrives for a motions hearing in his upcoming campaign financing trial at federal court in San Diego, Calif., July 8, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

After maintaining his innocence for more than a year, California Republican Duncan Hunter will plead guilty on Tuesday to allocating campaign funds for personal use, nearly six months after his wife and former campaign treasurer admitted to illegally misusing thousands of dollars in donations.

“The plea I accepted is misuse of my own campaign funds, of which I pled guilty to only one count,” Hunter told KUSI in an interview that aired shortly after the court notice of the change on Monday. “I think it’s important that people know that I did make mistakes. I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money. I justify my plea with the understanding that I am responsible for my own campaign and my own campaign money.”

Hunter said he wanted to avoid a trial “for my kids. I think it would be really tough for them.” While he did not confirm his resignation from Congress, the former Marine officer appeared to signal the end of his service, saying “It’s been a privilege to serve in Congress” and adding that he is “confident the transition will be a good one.”

Despite being indicted in August 2018 for 60 criminal counts of campaign finance violations amounting to nearly $250,000, Hunter narrowly won reelection last November after repeatedly arguing that he was the subject of a political witch hunt. But Hunter’s wife Margaret pleaded guilty in June to knowingly diverting campaign funds to cover personal expenses, and filing false records to conceal facts.

“I am saddened for the hurt that I have caused my family and others,” Margaret Hunter said in a statement at the time. “I understand there will be more consequences stemming from my actions, but as demonstrated this morning in entering the plea, I have taken the first step to face those consequences.”

Over the course of the trial, prosecutors showed how the Hunters repeatedly used funds to pay for routine family expenses and extravagant vacations. It also showed that Hunter had engaged in extramarital affairs with at least five women, paying for dates with women with campaign funds.

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