(Bloomberg) -- Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter blamed his wife after he was charged with misusing federal campaign funds for personal use. On Thursday, she struck back.
Margaret Hunter, 44, pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court to conspiracy and agreed to “provide substantial assistance” to prosecutors in the investigation of her husband. She’s due to be sentenced Sept. 16.
Congressman Hunter will continue to fight the charges, his lawyer said Wednesday. He is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 10. Hunter’s congressional press office didn’t respond to a request for comment on his wife’s plea deal.
Margaret Hunter’s plea agreement includes a six-page list of personal expenses totaling more than $200,000 that she and her husband are alleged to have illegally charged to his campaign, from school lunches for their children to a more than $10,000 family vacation in Italy, sometimes creating false campaign-related pretexts to justify the expenses.
To justify the improper use of campaign funds for family travel, the congressman “attempted to set up a one-day tour of a U.S. naval facility in Italy,” according to the plea deal. “After Navy officials responded that they could only provide a tour on a particular date, Hunter said he would discuss the proposed date with defendant and then subsequently told his chief of staff, ‘tell the navy to go f*** themselves''' and no tour occurred. According to the filing, the asterisks were in the original.
Prosecutors agreed to ask a judge to reduce Margaret Hunter’s sentence as long as she provides a “truthful and accurate recounting of all relevant events.” She faces a maximum of five years for conspiracy.
“I have fully accepted responsibility for my conduct,” Margaret Hunter said in a statement provided by her lawyer after the hearing. “I am saddened for the hurt that I have caused my family and others. I understand that there will be more consequences stemming from my actions, but as demonstrated this morning with the entry of the plea, I’ve taken the first step to face those consequences.”
Duncan Hunter had blamed his wife for the corruption charges, telling Fox News in an interview after they were indicted that she handled the couple’s finances. He also blamed a “deep state” conspiracy.
Hunter was one of Donald Trump’s first backers in Congress in 2016. He represents California’s 50th congressional district, covering the southern part of the state, notably parts of San Diego and Riverside counties. While under indictment last year, he was re-elected.
California GOP Lawmaker Hunter Indicted for Corruption
According to the indictment, Hunter and his wife lived paycheck to paycheck and used his campaign funds to pay for personal expenditures they couldn’t otherwise afford. These included dentist bills, their children’s school tuition and thousands of dollars in groceries and meals. Meanwhile, they overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period, according to court documents.
While Margaret Hunter hid from her husband that she paid for their kids’ school lunches with campaign funds, Duncan Hunter hid from his wife his use of campaign money to “facilitate certain personal relationships with others,” according to the filing.
The case is U.S. v. Hunter, 18-cr-3677, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (San Diego).
(Updates with request for comment to Hunter’s press office in third paragraph.)
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