The House Ethics Committee investigation of Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., was deferred Thursday at the request of the Department of Justice, which has begun its own probe of Hunter's use of congressional campaign funds. Photo courtesy the U.S. Congress
March 24 (UPI) -- The Department of Justice is investigating Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., for allegedly misusing campaign funds, the House Ethics Committee announced.
The committee said in a statement on Thursday it voted unanimously to defer consideration, indicating it will suspend its probe of Hunter while the Justice Department conducts its own. An August 2016 report by the Office of Congressional Ethics said Hunter may have violated House rules, standards of conduct and federal law by using money from his congressional campaign committee for personal use.
Hunter "may have converted tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds from his congressional campaign committee to personal use to pay for family travel, flights, utilities, healthcare, school uniforms and tuition, jewelry, groceries, and other goods, services and expenses," a previously confidential report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, released Thursday by the committee, said.
The Justice Department typically asks government entities with lesser authority to defer their investigations when conducting its own.
A federal law enforcement official familiar with the situation confirmed Thursday that the FBI is investigating Hunter for campaign finance violations, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Thursday.
Although the Justice Department has not publicly detailed what crimes it suspects Hunter of committing, probes of his spending habits were conducted by the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Federal Election Commission. They came in 2016 after a complaint by the organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The newspaper said the investigation revealed spending on oral surgery, a family trip to Italy, purchases from a Disneyland gift shop, and about $600 in fees associated with in-cabin transportation for a rabbit, a pet of one of Hunter's children.
Hunter said at the time the spending resulted from mix-ups regarding credit cards. Since the report, Hunter has repaid the campaign "approximately $60,000" for charges identified as questionable, Hunter's lawyers said in a statement Thursday. The statement added that Hunter "intends to cooperate fully with the government on this investigation, and maintains that to the extent any mistakes were made, they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional."