Saturday, March 25, 2017

Will Duncan Hunter Be Defeated In 2018 If He's Forced To Campaign From A Prison Cell?


Duncan Hunter has been repeatedly implicated in the scandal that sent his close associate Randy "Duke" Cunningham to federal prison for several years. We started covering his role in 2005. A powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, many of whose members were on a years-long gravy train of bribery from defense contractors-- although only Cunningham was charged in the end-- Hunter attempted to evade the noose tightening around his fat neck by-- of all things-- running for president. On March 20, 2007 he announced he would not seek reelection to the House and-- too late for anyone else to mount a credible campaign just over 32 months away-- his alcoholic son, also named Duncan Hunter won the seat without campaigning from voters who overwhelmingly thought they were voting for his father who had been their congressman since 1981.

CA-50 is a massive red hellhole, the inland-- mostly desert-- parts of San Diego County. It heads east past El Cajon, from Santee to Lakeside, Ramona, Escondido, up to Temecula and then out into the wilderness. The PVI is R+14 and Obama lost the district badly to McCain (40%) and Romney (38%). Hillary was crushed by Trump 54.6% to 39.6% in this district time has forgotten. This week the scandal surrounding Duncan-the-Younger, which we've been covering all year, finally broke out into the national mainstream. Eric Lichtblau's NY Times headline this week: Duncan Hunter Under Criminal Investigation for Ethics Violations.

Hunter is a hapless backbencher who's best known in Congress as someone who likes to vape-- and get drunk. When the Office of Congressional Ethics started getting serious about his criminal activities he tried to have the Office abolished-- and failed. And now the Justice Department has officially opened a criminal investigation into Hunter, who routinely sells legislation to companies willing to write his campaign checks, for spending tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on personal expenses. He already paid back over $60,000 in stolen funds for a wide range of purchases, from oral surgery, a garage door, video games, resort stays and a jewelry he bought in Italy. The defense and transportation companies who have financed his slimy career and whose business is affected by committees upon which he serves, certainly don't care that he uses their contributions to fly his pet rabbit around the country, pay his bills in a nail salon, buy surf boards and groceries and keep his family car topped off with gas. But using campaign funds for personal benefit is prohibited by federal law, since it gives contributors lots of influence over corrupt members like Hunter, who also pays his unqualified wife $3,000 a month from the funds to "run" his home campaign office.

Predictably, Hunter was an early and ardent Trump supporter and there were rumors swirling in DC that Trump might give him one of several top national security posts, an idea that was killed when Trump was told that Hunter is an alcoholic who has trouble controlling himself. Trump loved the idea that Hunter told the local media that if Trump appointed him to something, he wanted to restore "a warrior culture, a warrior mentality" to the government.
The House Ethics Committee, which has been examining Mr. Hunter’s possible misuse of campaign funds, said in a statement on Thursday that it would put its review on hold at the request of the Justice Department.

Typically, the Justice Department asks the ethics committee to hold off on a review because it has opened a criminal investigation of its own. A person with knowledge of the case said prosecutors have notified Mr. Hunter of their criminal investigation.

...A confidential referral to the ethics committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which was made public on Thursday, detailed the wide scope of his possible campaign violations.

Mr. 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, health care, school uniforms and tuition, jewelry, groceries, and other goods, services, and expenses,” said the ethics office, an independent body that House Republicans tried to shut down in January.

A watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, brought a complaint with the ethics office last April charging that Mr. Hunter’s campaign spending included family trips to Italy and Hawaii, consulting fees to his wife, payments to his children’s parochial school and $1,300 for video games that he said his teenage son mistakenly charged to a credit card.

...Hunter’s Democratic opponent in last year’s election tried to make the mounting reports of the congressman’s legal problems a campaign issue. But Mr. Hunter easily won re-election.
His opponent, Patrick Malloy, had no support from the DCCC, of course, and only raised $27,016 in his race against Hunter, who raised $1,194,881, most of it from special interests (67%) and only 3% from small donors. Hunter won with 63.9% of the vote. Two years earlier he had won with 71%, and two years before that with 68%. Going all the way back to the 2000 election cycle, there hasn't been one donation or even an in-kind contribution for any Democrat who's run against Hunter. The district's voters may not even be aware that there's a Democratic Party in their district, at least on the congressional level. Because of that-- even with Hunter the subject of a criminal investigation-- the Democrat challenging him this cycle, either Malloy again or Gloria Chadwick, will be starting from scratch with nothing to build on. Well, not nothing-- they have Duncan Hunter himself, who many of his constituents are starting to realize is an A-Class asshole after a series of nasty and contentious town hall meetings this month.
“My original plan was to play ‘We are the champions’ by Queen whenever you guys start doing that,” Hunter told more than 300 at Ramona Mainstage. “But they told me not to.”

Minutes later, though, when boos greeted his refusal to oppose bills to “dismantle the EPA” and remove “environmental protection acts,” the East County Republican quietly crooned: “We are the champions, my friends.”

...Except for one knock on Trump-- for picking a Veterans Affairs insider as new secretary-- Hunter was unapologetic about the new commander in chief-- brushing off critical questions on Obamacare repeal and immigration.

He even defended Trump’s tweets-without-evidence that President Obama “tapped his wires” at Trump Tower.

“Here’s what’s pretty funny,” Hunter said. “Trump used the term wiretap. When Trump tweeted out wiretap, well guess what? We haven’t wiretapped since we had cell phones.”

That meant the intelligence community, FBI and Justice Department could rightfully say: “We have never wiretapped Trump’s phones,” Hunter said. “Here’s what they call it now... intercepting. If Trump would have tweeted out: ‘My phone calls [have] been intercepted,’ they would not be able to deny it. They’re all lawyers.”

...Other highlights of the Town Hall:

Hunter alleged that over the past eight years, undocumented immigrants could easily enter the country at the San Diego border: “You simply walk up to an ICE agent and say: ‘I’d like to come into America,’ and the ICE agent says ‘Come on in.’ That was the Obama policy. You didn’t even have to jump the fence.”

Hunter said the Office of Congressional Ethics, which survived an early GOP effort to kill it, “was created by Nancy Pelosi” as a “fairly liberal group that puts things way out of perspective” and fed details of his spending issues to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “which is owned by the LA Times.”

“We have a congressional ethics committee-- made up of Democrats and Republicans. They go through stuff all the time,” Hunter said. “You shouldn’t have a Nancy Pelosi group being able to air grievances on just one side without having looked at it objectively by the guys who are actually elected to do this in Congress.”

Eighty-year-old Dante Cosentino, a 41-year Ramona resident, challenged Hunter’s stance against the Affordable Care Act-- which the congressman blasted as leading to higher costs for his own local office staff, which he said was on the District of Columbia Obamacare network.

“I have access to a first-class seat on the airplane, but if I can’t afford it, it doesn’t make a bit of difference, right?” Cosentino said. “What about health care being for everyone?”

Said Hunter: “I don’t believe in guaranteed health care. I believe in guaranteed access to health care that anybody can afford. If you’re not able to afford it, and you’re very sick, we’re going to be giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the states... If you take government out of it, it will be less expensive. It will be affordable, and you’ll have competition.”

Hunter was asked if he would vote for an independent investigation to “root out all aspects of” Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, “no matter where it may lead.” The retired Marine doubted the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee affected the election, but acknowledged that Russians “hack us all the time,” including the government, military and defense contractors.

“What I’m not going to do is vote for a witch hunt that we’ve been infiltrated by seditious Obama folks that want to go after this president. I’m not going to do it.”

Then Hunter asked: “You guys have heard the term ‘deep state’? You have thousands of Obama appointees, and people who worked under that administration, who hate Donald Trump as much as you do. They’re trying to take him down from the inside. I do think Donald Trump did have his phone conversations and emails intercepted.”

“And those of you who believe in Democracy and free elections have told me that a sitting president whose party is running for the presidency can wiretap and intercept another candidate’s phone-- I think you would be for freedom and liberty. Not for an Orwellian government that controls us, which is what we have right now.”

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At 4:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very informative report on the behavior of our rep. Duncan Hunter. I don't think many of our fellow constituents know the facts presented here, nor do I think most of the knee-jerk reactionary Trumpets care --- they're just too stupid.If we look at the demographics of the 50th District, (elderly, low income residents, Hispanics and other minorities) one can see that the interests of our populations are not well represented by Mr. Hunter and his motley crew. Since I, my family and many, many friends in this District, are being deprived of adequate attention to our needs (not his friends), we need to "throw the bums out"---as soon as possible. We need to support a new and "qualified" replacement to Mr. Hunter. John Erickson


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