After months of questions about personal use of campaign funds, Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign committee has hired a law firm that specializes in political law, according to financial reports released Friday.
Hunter (R-Alpine) has already reimbursed his campaign account for $12,000 of expenses he identified as personal or mistaken on campaign finance reports, including video games, oral surgery, private school tuition, a garage door and unspecified items at a Coronado surf shop.
Federal law does not allow use of campaign funds for personal expenses, to protect against contributors such as defense contractors from having undue influence on someone like Hunter, who is on the House Armed Services Committee.
The San Diego Union-Tribune first reported on the expenditures in April, when the Federal Election Commission sent the campaign a letter questioning payments to Hunter’s children’s private school and a video game website.
Other campaigns that have reported paying fees to the firm include that of former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.). Schock resigned from office last year amid questions about spending from his campaign and official accounts.
Hunter’s spokesman, Joe Kasper, did not respond to questions about the newly filed report.
Kasper has said Hunter is conducting an outside audit of his campaign spending and was working with the FEC to amend past disclosure reports. He said Hunter was waiting for the results of the audit to repay any other inappropriate expenses.
Hunter’s campaign manager has been his wife, Margaret. She was paid $3,000 per month for campaign consulting for all of 2015 and most of 2014.
When questions began to arise about campaign spending in April, Hunter suggested her responsibility has been reduced. Hunter told The San Diego Union-Tribune at that time that two people had the campaign credit card — himself and his wife. Going forward, he said, it would only be him.
Monthly payments to Margaret Hunter apparently stopped at that time, the new reports show, as she was not paid in April or May.
On June 2, she was paid $3,000.
A political watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has filed complaints with the FEC and the Office of Congressional Ethics asking the agencies to look into Hunter’s spending. Kasper has called the group a left-leaning political attack group that targets Republicans. The group has denied such allegations.
Federal oversight and law enforcement agencies typically keep investigations confidential early in the process.
It’s not clear where Hunter obtained the nearly $12,000 with which he repaid his campaign for personal and mistaken expenditures in early April.
All of the personal financial disclosure forms Hunter has filed since taking office in 2009 report that neither he, his spouse or dependent children had more than $1,000 in “reportable assets” at the close of each year, including 2015.
Reportable assets include bank accounts, private retirement accounts, collectibles, insurance policies, college savings accounts, brokerage accounts, trusts, debts owed to the filer, and 13 other types of financial holdings, according to the instructions for filling out 2015 disclosure forms.
Kasper would say only that Hunter’s office would ask the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives whether and how to disclose the source of the funds in the 2016 report, due next spring. He said the office would amend older forms if necessary.
The new report, which covers April 1 through June 30, shows Hunter raised $101,000 through 67 contributions. None of the donors had addresses in the 50th Congressional District in eastern San Diego County, which Hunter represents. All but six of Hunter’s contributors listed addresses outside of California.
Many of the donors were corporations and political action committees or PACs with interests in armed services and infrastructure and transportation, two of the committees on which Hunter serves.
For instance, American Commercial Lines PAC, representing the interests of an Indiana-based marine transportation services company, gave $2,500 during the period, bringing donations for the election cycle to $5,500.
The PAC for employees of Virginia-based defense contractor Northrop Grumman contributed $2,500 during the period, bringing its contributions for the election cycle to $10,000.
Morgan Cook writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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