FEC closes review of former Rep. Duncan Hunter’s finances with $16,000 in fines
Federal election regulators have announced $16,000 in fines against former Rep. Duncan Hunter, his estranged -wife and his campaign committee for improperly handling political contributions.
The Federal Election Commission this week released the results of an investigation that began in 2016 after a watchdog group filed a formal complaint against the disgraced Republican lawmaker from Alpine.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington complained to the FEC after reporting by the San Diego Union-Tribune identified more than $100,000 in unusual expenditures disclosed by the congressman.
Regulators fined Duncan and Margaret Hunter $12,000 for wrongly spending campaign donations for personal use, the FEC said. The couple was indicted in 2018 and both eventually pleaded guilty to a single felony.
The campaign committee received a $4,000 penalty for violations by its former treasurer Chris Marston, who misrepresented the purpose of personal expenditures made by the Hunters on financial disclosures.
The letter said Marston, who was not charged with any crimes, unintentionally filed false spending reports based on information that was provided to him.
He is not responsible for paying the fine. Instead, it was levied against the Hunter campaign committee. The penalty was smaller than it might have been because of the committee’s lack of resources, the FEC said.
“In ordinary circumstances, the commission would seek a substantially higher civil penalty of $133,000 based on the violations outlined in this agreement that remain within the statute of limitations,” regulators said.
Marston, reached by email on Friday, declined to comment.
The Hunters entered into the agreement with the FEC voluntarily, although they did not admit willingly violating campaign spending rules, the letter said.
Rather, they entered the agreement “solely” to resolve the inquiry. The FEC said the campaign provided records showing some of the questioned expenses were dinners with donors, “indicating they were valid campaign expenses.”
Former Rep. Duncan Lee Hunter, the ex-congressman’s father who represented his son in the FEC proceeding, said the outcome shows his son should not have been charged with a crime.
“This FEC decision clearly reflects that the criminal prosecution of Duncan was a political hit job,” the elder Hunter said Friday.
Duncan and Margaret Hunter were charged with 60 criminal counts related to misuse of campaign funds in August 2018. They initially denied all the allegations.
Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to a single criminal count in June 2019 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. She was sentenced to eight months of home confinement and three years’ probation. She filed for divorce last year.
Hunter pleaded guilty in December 2019 and resigned his 50th District seat a month later. He was scheduled to report to federal prison in early 2021, but received a pardon from former President Trump weeks before he was due to surrender.
Margaret Hunter, who could not be reached for comment Friday, also was pardoned during Trump’s final weeks in office.
The FEC fines are required to be paid within 90 days.
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