By Miriam Raftery
Hear our interview by clicking the audio link and scroll down to read highlights.
June 25, 2017 (San Diego) – East County Magazine sat down for an interview with Morgan, the San Diego Union-Tribune reporter who has been named “Journalist of the Year” by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in San Diego.
In our exclusive interview, aired earlier this month on KNSJ radio, we asked what led her to investigate Congressman Duncan D. Hunter’s campaign finances, how his office responded, and what challenges she faced in her investigation. Cook’s findings helped lead to an ongoing U.S. Justice Department criminal probe of allegations that Hunter spent lavish sums on personal expenditures and charged them to his campaign, including a family vacation to Italy , expensive jewelry, resort visits, money paid to his children’s school, first-class airfare for his son’s pet rabbit, and more.
Hunter has denied wrongdoing but did repay approximately $61,000 to his campaign for personal, mistaken or undocumented expenses. His 50th Congressional district includes portions of San Diego and large swaths of East County.
Cook had published 21 articles on Hunter’s finances as of May 15th, when the San Diego Union-Tribune published an article on the honor she received.
SPJ’s announcement of her award states, "Our board believes no local journalist did better work than Cook in her relentless accountability reporting on Congressman Duncan Hunter’s use of campaign funds for personal expenses.”
Investigations against other members of Congress recently on similar allegations of using campaign funds for personal use have led to arrests and criminal convictions, though it remains to be seen what the Justice Department findings will be in Hunter's case. The news is having an impact on the 2018 campaign, with members of the "Indivisible" group recently putting up a billboard on State Route 67 alerting motorists in East County that the Republican Congressman is under criminal investigation.
Cook will be presented with her award at SPJ’s annual awards banquet on July 19 at the Kona Kai resort in San Diego.
Four East County Magazine journalists are also winners in this year's SPJ awards competition: Jonathan Goetz, Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson, Miriam Raftery and Rachel Williams.