Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, has filed paperwork to establish a legal expense fund amid an ongoing federal criminal investigation into whether he misused campaign cash.
Hunter has already spent more than $600,000 of campaign money on lawyers. The new fund would allow donors to give money above the limits imposed on campaign contributions.
Such funds are administered by an independent trustee. Hunter's defense fund filing was submitted to the Legislative Resource Center. An official stamp says it was "hand delivered" March 27 of this year, although the document indicated it was signed by Hunter, dated and notarized on June 8, 2017.
The House Ethics Committee considers requests to create such a fund, and it does not appear that the committee has weighed Hunter's request yet. Only a handful of members have been permitted legal defense funds in the past decade.
Hunter's chief of staff, Michael Harrison, did not immediately return calls and emails seeking clarification about the status of the fund or how much money had been raised.
Spending of campaign money for personal benefit is prohibited to guard against undue influence by donors. The Federal Election Commission first questioned charges for video games and Hunter's children's private school tuition in April 2016.
Subsequent investigation by The San Diego Union-Tribune found a host of other potentially improper expenses such as oral surgery, groceries, garage door repair, surfing equipment, dance recital trips, school lunches and uniforms and airfare for the family rabbit to fly across the country.
The FBI has investigated Hunter's campaign spending for more than a year, and Hunter has reimbursed his campaign for more than $60,000 in expenses that he deemed personal, mistaken or insufficiently documented.
Hunter denies involvement in any "criminal action," and while his attorneys have said he is cooperating with the FBI investigation, Hunter has been publicly impatient with the drawn out investigation.
"I think that the Department of Justice is somewhat biased," he told KUSI in January. "There are individuals there, they like to make big cases, they like to do big things, it makes a name for them. I think that the longer they drag this out, the worse it is for me, and they know that. So let's just get it over with."
The document establishing the fund appeared in Hunter's file at the Legislative Resource Center late last week. The file does not contain other records that are typically included, such as a letter from the Ethics Committee approving the trust, and quarterly financial disclosures showing its fundraising and spending — or the lack thereof. House regulations for establishing trusts state that the member must obtain written permission of the House Ethics Committee before raising any money.
The document names a trustee to oversee the fund, identified as Daryl C. Idler Jr., a lawyer in El Cajon.
Business records filed with the California Secretary of State in 2002 list Idler as executive vice president of Premier Golf Properties, which does business as Cottonwood Golf Club in Rancho San Diego.
Idler contributed $500 to Hunter's campaign in March 2008 and $250 in June of that year, according to FEC records.
Between July 2007 and March 2016, Hunter's campaign reported paying the golf course $10,714, according to FEC records. The 11 payments ranged from $15 in March 2016 to $3,956 in February 2012, for purposes reported as "food/beverages," "event expense," "golf with supporters" and "meals with supporters."
Reached by phone Tuesday, Idler declined to comment or answer questions, saying the trust is private.