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Duncan Hunter campaign repeats unfounded claim that Latino Arab American opponent is 'a national security risk'

Duncan Hunter campaign repeats unfounded claim that Latino Arab American opponent is 'a national security risk'
U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) leaves a San Diego federal courthouse last month after a hearing. He and his wife face federal charges of misspending political donations on personal items. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Rep. Duncan Hunter, the indicted Republican from Alpine, has doubled down on unfounded attacks on his opponent with a letter signed by three retired Marine Corps generals who accused the Democrat of being “a national security risk.”

Hunter, who has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges of misusing campaign contributions, has labeled Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar a security risk in a widely condemned ad and has sought to tie Campa-Najjar to radical Islam. The ad said Campa-Najjar — whose Mexican American mother raised him after his Palestinian father left the family — was trying to “infiltrate Congress.”

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Campa-Najjar, 29, is Christian and held a security clearance while working in the Obama administration. Campa-Najjar responded to the letter, calling Hunter’s attacks on him “pathological.”

Roger White, Hunter’s campaign manager, said the three retired generals wrote the letter independent of the campaign, but that the campaign paid to reprint and distribute it. A picture of the letter was posted online Sunday evening.

In the letter, the three signatories — Terry Paul, who retired as a brigadier general, and Randall L. West and T.L. Corwin, both of whom retired as major generals — identify themselves as military officers who often served in San Diego.

Hunter is also a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two of the signatories did not return calls for comment and another couldn’t be reached.

The three men are all registered lobbyists, according to both Senate and House lobbying databases. Terry Paul is listed as an executive vice president at the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates; Randall West is listed as the president of lobbying firm Robison International Inc.; Tony Corwin is listed as a senior consultant at Blank Rome Government Relations LLC.

Addressed to San Diego and Riverside County voters in the 50th Congressional District, the letter alleges that Campa-Najjar is too closely related to individuals connected to terrorist activities and begs recipients to not vote for him. It references Campa-Najjar’s grandfather, who was involved in the 1972 terrorist attack that killed 12 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympics.

It also claims his father was a “senior leader” of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and implies that his father’s departure from the PLO was timed to Campa-Najjar’s primary election.

Since congressmen would have access to classified information, like the location and movement of troops in the Middle East, the letter warns that Campa-Najjar could compromise U.S. operations to protect his relatives.

Campa-Najjar never met his grandfather, who was killed by Israeli commandos 16 years before Campa-Najjar was born. He has denounced his grandfather’s actions, and has said his father — who served as a PLO ambassador to three European countries — left the family when he was a boy.

"Mr. Hunter’s ongoing attacks on me, his wife, and the Justice Department aren’t just political; they’re pathological. While Hunter has no human sense of personal accountability, voters understand his family is not responsible for his actions, and I’m not responsible for my family’s actions," Campa-Najjar said in a statement.

Campa-Najjar’s campaign also called for the Republican Party to distance itself from Hunter.

The liberal advocacy PAC VoteVets, which works to elect veterans to office and advances progressive issues that intersect with the needs of the military, tweeted the letter out to its 148,000 followers and encouraged them to report the letter to the Marine Corps. Another tweet chastised the retired generals.

The Marine Corps said the letter did not appear to violate any rules about political activity.

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“The policies governing political activities by active duty members of the armed forces do not apply to retirees or former Marines,” said Capt. Karoline Foote, communication strategy and operations officer. “As private citizens, they have the same rights as every other citizen. The Marine Corps does not take political positions.”

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