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FEC questions Duncan Hunter's video game charges

FEC questions Duncan Hunter's video game charges
Rep. Duncan Hunter (David Brooks / San Diego U-T)

The Federal Election Commission is questioning Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, for his use of campaign funds to pay for video games on 68 separate occasions — something the congressman is attributing to a mistake by his son, followed by several unauthorized charges.

Hunter listed the $1,302 of Steam Games expenses on his campaign finance disclosure for 2015 year-end, with the notation "personal expense — to be paid back."

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The expenses run from Oct. 13 through Dec. 16, and no payback is listed during the time period of the report.

Hunter's spokesman, Joe Kasper, said the congressman's teenage son used his father's credit card for one game, and then several unauthorized charges resulted after the father tried to close access to the website. Kasper said that Hunter is trying to have the unauthorized charges reversed before repaying his campaign account.

"There won't be any paying anything back there, pending the outcome of the fraud investigation, depending on how long that takes," Kasper said.

In a letter dated Monday, an analyst for the election commission asked Hunter's campaign treasurer to explain the expenses, amend the filing as necessary, and seek reimbursement for the personal expenses. The commission gave Hunter until May 9 to respond.

According to the House Ethics Committee website, "Campaign funds are to be used for bona fide campaign or political purposes only. Campaign funds are not to be used to enhance a member's lifestyle, or to pay a member's personal obligations... Members have no discretion whatsoever to convert campaign funds to personal use."

Hunter, who recently made news vaping in the House of Representatives, has defended violent video games in the aftermath of mass shootings. Hunter argued in an opinion piece in Politico that regulating video games is not the answer.

"The narrative that children and young adults today stare at television and computer screens, developing lethal skills through first-person gaming experiences, disingenuously portrays video games as having a corrosive influence," Hunter wrote. "The problem with this rationale is that it conveys an image that America's youth are incapable of discerning right from wrong, which simply is not true."

The FEC also questioned a Sept. 21 payment of $1,650 to Christian Unified Schools of El Cajon as a personal expense to be paid back. Hunter's spokesman said the donation — allowed under House rules — was mistakenly listed as a personal expense.

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