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FBI seized computers and documents in investigation of Rep. Duncan Hunter's campaign spending

FBI agents searched the office of Rep. Duncan Hunter's campaign treasurer in February, seizing computer equipment and documents for their investigation into whether the Alpine Republican misused campaign funds.

The search warrant for Election CFO — the agency Hunter hired to ensure his campaign complied with campaign finance rules — reveals new information about the federal investigation into Hunter’s campaign spending.

READ THE WARRANT

The warrant, which was unsealed in March, said agents were looking for evidence showing whether Hunter's campaign funds were used for personal reasons, whether there was a scheme to defraud a bank over video game purchases, and whether Hunter's campaign finance reports were falsified to "impede or influence" FBI and House Ethics Committee inquiries into his use of campaign funds.

It was the more than $1,300 in video game purchases by Hunter's campaign that first drew the attention of federal election officials and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Hunter blamed his son for the video game purchases, saying he had used the wrong credit card. Other unusual spending by Hunter’s campaign included a now-infamous airplane ride for the family rabbit and payments to nail salons, his children’s private school and a Phoenix resort.

In March, Hunter told Politico he did nothing wrong, but would not say who was responsible for the campaign expenses. 

"I was not involved in any criminal action," Hunter said. "Maybe I wasn't attentive enough to my campaign. That's not a crime."

The FBI warrant also sought communications between Hunter, his wife Margaret Hunter (who had acted as his campaign manager), chief of staff Joe Kasper, former chief of staff Victoria Middleton and former scheduler and office manager Caroline DeBeikes, as well as Election CFO founder Christopher Marston and sole employee Brenda Hankins.

Attorneys for Hunter and Kasper did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday morning after the unsealed warrant was discovered by Seamus Hughes of the George Washington University Program on Extremism and shared with The Times. A representative for Election CFO said Marston and Hankins are cooperating with the investigation.

Hunter has already reimbursed his campaign some $62,000 for payments of items such as oral surgery, a family trip to Italy and Disneyland gift shop purchases. And his most recent campaign finance reports show he has spent $336,664 with seven law firms this year, much of that since the House Ethics Committee announced it was stalling its investigation to avoid interfering with the FBI’s work.

Despite winning his suburban San Diego seat by nearly 27 percentage points in November, Hunter is one of nine California Republicans being targeted by Democrats in 2018, and he’s drawn more than half a dozen opponents so far, including two Republicans.

Several of them leapt to criticize Hunter on Wednesday, including Republican challenger Andrew Zelt who said on Twitter, "We need to bring Integrity back to the 50th District. We cannot stand for this!"

ALSO:
With FBI investigation looming, Rep. Duncan Hunter has spent $336,664 on lawyers

UPDATES

12:16 p.m.: This post was updated with comment from Hunter's challengers and to note that his attorney has not responded to a request for comment.

11:28 a.m.: This post was updated with additional information about the search warrant and the investigation.

This post was originally published at 10:41 a.m.

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