The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it is deferring its investigation into Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), signaling that the Department of Justice may be conducting its own probe into alleged campaign finance violations.
“The Department of Justice has asked the Committee to defer consideration of this matter and the Committee, following precedent, unanimously voted on March 22, 2017, to defer consideration of this matter at this time,” the committee said in a statement.
That deferral signals that the Justice Department may be conducting its own investigation into the allegations.
The House Ethics Committee cited in its statement a referral it received from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) on Aug. 31, 2016, regarding Hunter.
On Aug. 26, 2016, the OCE ordered the transmission to the committee of a report on allegations that Hunter “converted funds from his congressional campaign committee for personal use.”
“There is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Hunter converted campaign funds to personal use to pay expenses that were not legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures,” the OCE said. “He may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
The Department of Justice declined to comment to TPM. Hunter’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.
His attorneys, Elliot S. Berke and Gregory A. Vega, told NBC 7 San Diego, however, that Hunter “maintains that to the extent any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional.”
“He took corrective action in consultation with the FEC and, ultimately, he and his wife personally repaid the campaign approximately $60,000,” they said in the statement. “Congressman Hunter intends to cooperate fully with the government on this investigation.”