By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A California congressman accused of misusing campaign funds spent some of the money on extramarital affairs, prosecutors said in court papers that indicated his wife could testify against him at trial.
A grand jury in August 2018 indicted U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter, a Republican, on charges of prohibited use of campaign contributions, falsification of records, wire fraud and other criminal counts.
Hunter, who represents an inland area of San Diego County, and his wife, Margaret, are accused of spending beyond their means and taking more than $200,000 in campaign funds to pay for such expenses as private school tuition for their children, a holiday in Italy and restaurant meals that often cost hundreds of dollars.
The six-term congressman, who won re-election in November despite being under indictment, has pleaded not guilty and said prosecutors are politically biased against him.
A court filing on Monday night from prosecutors details a series of five “intimate personal relationships” they said Hunter had between 2009 and 2016, in which he spent campaign funds on social occasions.
Those expenditures included hotel and bar fees for a 2010 “double date” to Virginia Beach with a female lobbyist during which another congressman came along, a 2011 golfing trip with the lobbyist, and Uber fares, prosecutors said in the filing.
Prosecutors did not name the individuals they accused Hunter of having romantic liaisons with, but they said three were lobbyists and two were congressional staff members.
“Simply put, carrying out a sequence of romantic liaisons is so far removed from any legitimate campaign or congressional activity as to rebut any argument that Hunter believed these were proper uses of campaign funds,” the prosecutors wrote.
Hunter and an attorney for the congressman could not be reached for comment.
His attorneys also filed court papers Monday that sought to have the charges dismissed or move the case to another venue.
They accused prosecutors of being biased against him because they had attended a 2015 campaign event for then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
On June 13, Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty to conspiring to misuse campaign funds. She has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Spouses have a right to decline to testify against a partner but she may waive that right.
Duncan Hunter, however, does not have a right to bar her testimony, prosecutors argued in their latest court filings.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Bill Tarrant and Tom Brown)