Story and photo by Miriam Raftery
Photo: Rep. Duncan D. Hunter and his wife, Margaret, in 2014
June 12, 2019 (San Diego) — Congressman Duncan D. Hunter’s wife, Margaret, is scheduled in court Thursday morning before Judge Thomas Whelan to change her plea to guilty in a federal corruption case, according to the court calendar. The Hunters are charged with 60 counts of stealing campaign funds for personal use and falsifying campaign finance reports to hide the thefts.
It is not yet known whether Margaret Hunter, who served as campaign manager, may become a witness for the prosecution against her husband in exchange for a more lenient sentence as part of a plea deal.
The pair pleaded not guilty last August but have since appeared separately at the courthouse, not making eye contact and sitting apart after Hunter told media “I didn’t do it” and blamed his wife. He repaid a portion of the disputed expenditures to his campaign and has claimed some expenditures were mistakes, such as using the wrong credit card for video game purchases.
Their trial is slated to begin in September.
The U.S. Attorney’s office alleges that the Hunters’ crimes began in 2009 and continued through 2016, with more than $250,000 looted from campaign coffers for family vacations to Italy and Hawaii, high-end jewelry, children’s school tuition, golf, tequila, video games and airfare for their son’s pet rabbit.
The indictment also alleges that Hunter spent campaign money on affairs including with a female staffer, including hotel rooms--expenses his wife likely was not aware of nor responsible for.
Rep. Hunter has been stripped of his committee assignments in Congress pending the outcome of his trial. If convicted, while there is no requirement for him to be ejected from Congress, with Democrats controlling the House it is likely he would be ousted.
Ammar-Campa Najjar, a Democrat who came within a few percentage points of beating Hunter in November 2018, is running again for the seat. So are three Republicans: El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, retired Navy Seal Larry Wilske, and Temecula Councilman Matt Rahn.