A Republican congressman in California, who listed “preserving family values” on his official website, illegally used $250,000 campaign funds to finance romantic flings with lobbyists and congressional aides, according to federal prosecutors.
Duncan Hunter, who has represented the state’s 50th district since 2013, was accused of spending thousands of dollars from his campaign on meals, cocktails and vacations.
Details about the married congressman’s alleged affairs were outlined in a government court filing late in Monday connected to charges that Mr Hunter and his wife misspent the money in campaign money on trips and personal expenses.
His wife, Margaret Hunter, pleaded guilty this month to one corruption count and agreed to testify against her husband.
“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 Mr Hunter believed these were proper uses of campaign funds,” said the document.
Mr Hunter has said he is the target of politically motivated prosecutors. His lawyer, Gregory Vega, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the new court filing.
Prosecutors said evidence about the congressman’s affairs was necessary to “demonstrate Hunter’s...intent to break the law and to establish his motive to embezzle from his campaign”.
In the new motion, prosecutors reconstructed the congressman’s alleged clandestine lifestyle, providing times when he arrived and departed after liaisons, and listing a wide range of expenses he represented as campaign-related activity, such as paying for dates with a woman who had become his lover shortly after she started working for him
“Precisely because each of the women worked as lobbyists or congressional staffers, Hunter may suggest that he was justified in spending campaign funds on all of his “meetings” with these individuals,” the prosecutors wrote.
“Evidence of the intimate, entirely personal quality of Hunter’s specific encounters with these women is essential to demonstrate that his spending to facilitate those encounters was improper.”
In one case, prosecutors said Mr Hunter was romantically involved with a lobbyist and began staying at her home while occasionally spending campaign funds for food and beverages.
Mr Hunter flew to Reno, Nevada, in January 2010 ostensibly to attend a convention for a nonprofit group. After a brief stop at the convention, Mr Hunter and the lobbyist headed for a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, where they spent the weekend skiing and ordering room service, according to the filing.
Prosecutors said Mr Hunter used campaign funds to rent the car, pay the hotel tab and fly back to Washington. “The intimate nature of these relationships is...an essential element of the crimes charged in the indictment,” the document said.
The “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,” prosecutors added.
Mr Hunter was re-elected by Southern California’s most Republican congressional district last year despite facing a federal indictment.
Mr Hunter faces around 60 criminal charges including conspiracy, theft of campaign money and wire fraud. The Washington Post on Tuesday reported Mr Hunter as saying: “This is all going to trial, so you have criminally political prosecutors in this case. This is a personal smear campaign.”
He added: “I’m not going to talk about the allegations. We’re going to trial, and I look forward to battling this out in trial.”
Additional reporting by AP