Former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) was sentenced on Tuesday to 11 months in prison and three years of parole for corruption charges, which resulted from his use of campaign funds for personal expenses, including several extramarital affairs.
“Unfortunately, in our country, too many people have come to embrace the notion that the individuals who write the laws feel they’re above the laws,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Phil Halpern, of the Southern District of California, told reporters after the sentence was handed down.
“Duncan Hunter came to embody the very notion that politicians thought they were above the law,” he added.
From the start, the then-congressman painted the prosecution of his campaign finance violations as a political witch hunt against him.
“This is the new Department of Justice. This is the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement,” he said after being charged. “It’s happening to Trump and it’s happening to me.”
He also essentially blamed his wife Margaret for the violations at first, saying “she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got to Congress since I’m gone five days and home for two.”
But as details of his conduct came out in court filings — showing the congressman billing his campaign for everything from drunken nights out to to a ski trip plane tickets for the family’s pet rabbit — Hunter began losing ground. For his efforts, a panel of judges awarded Hunter TPM’s 2019 Golden Duke award.
In June of last year, just before prosecutors publicly revealed evidence showing that Hunter had used campaign funds to carry out affairs, Margaret Hunter, who was also indicted for the violations, pleaded guilty and began working with prosecutors.
Hunter won re-election in 2018 despite the charges against him being announced in August of that year, in part by falsely casting his opponent, a Christian ex-Obama administration staffer of Mexican-Palestinian descent, as a “radical Muslim” who was “trying to infiltrate the government.”
“Ammar passed an FBI background check to work at the White House, and Duncan Hunter was indicted by the FBI,” a spokesperson for Hunter’s then-opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, told TPM at the time.
Campa-Najjar is running again in 2020, and after a successful primary campaign will face the former congressman Darrell Issa in November to fill Hunter’s seat. (Issa has spoken openly about how a presidential commutation of Hunter’s sentence would have “a certain ability to balance the public good.”)
In July, the Marine Corps directed Hunter, a former major who served in Afghanistan, to stop using its emblem on Islamophobic campaign mailers, which included images of Campa-Nahhar and Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
“These three radical Democrats want you to forget their Anti-Semitism or Terrorist Ties,” Hunter’s mailer read.